By RICHARD A. PLINKE
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in a 10-part series of excerpts from Richard A. Plinke’s upcoming book, “How to Sell the Plague (Without Being a Rat and Other Cheeky Musings of an Unrepentant Salesman).” The series humorously explores how Plinke ended up in sales, the last place he ever thought he’d be and what he learned during those early days that carried over through his 35-year sales career. Subsequent installments will be posted each Monday. If you missed the first parts, you can go back to the beginning here: http://www.salesandmarketing.com/article/dancing-jaws-dragon
Perspective being a funny thing, the sales puke has now, almost instantly, become much more hip and cool and infinitely more interesting as we explore this $14,000 and upwards to $30,000 thing. Like an old-time Fourth of July, fireworks explode in my head, bands play gay, snappy Sousa marches and young girls in body-tight, sparkling singlets pass by, throwing batons high over their heads, and here I sit in the open Cadillac convertible, smiling and waving to the happy, smiling denizen of the brave new world that was just opened up to me by my new best friend; brand new, freshly minted, here for your inspection, capitalist extraordinaire, clean-shaven, bang beat, bell ringing, big haul, great go, neck or nothing, rip roaring, everytime a bull's eye salesman-to-be, Professor Harold Hill incarnate, future purveyor of all things money can buy, reborn spirit of American consumerism, betrayer of principles, fallen keeper of the flame.
Damn glad to meet you.
During the long and onerous process I went through on my road to eternal damnation, I interviewed for four other jobs. Two were sales positions the sales puke set up, and two I got on my own through clipping and pasting ads in my “Job Hunting” notebook. The two sales jobs weren’t as interesting as the Yellow Pages, and neither promised as much money, and the two I had found on my own didn’t offer near the earning potential as the sales jobs. One of mine was an entry-level management position with a large, national warehousing and distribution company. I had a hard time staying awake during the interview, and had almost no interest in it, but kept it in my quiver as a back-up, back-up plan. The other job I found was managing a beef and beer restaurant in an upscale neighborhood, and although the money was not close to the Yellow Pages job, there was a bonus plan and I knew the business. And, in my yet to be galvanized fall from grace, there was the beer and the girls to consider.
I was learning that job hunting was an extremely slow, snails-pace type of stressful progression, and I was starting to feel anxious to get this phase of my life going and move on. Accordingly, I decided I would take either the Yellow Pages job (which I really wanted for the money but was still reluctant to completely abandon all hope as I entered the Gates of Hell) or the restaurant job (where I pretty much knew what to expect, even though that prospect seemed almost irresponsible and negligent from my new perspective of promised prosperity), whichever made me a firm offer first.
The interviewing process for the beef and beer was a breeze and I knew almost from the start that I would get a job offer, even though it would end up taking forever, as the Prince of Darkness sits on the sideline smiling at the prospect of another carnivore-recruit joining the flock. The interviewing process for the Yellow Pages, on the other hand, was, apparently, designed by ex-Nazis, as the interviewer carves out your heart and eats it while you sit there watching, smiling that smile because you know what comes next, your eternal soul, served up on a polished, silver platter as you continue your journey down the bottomless pit, bending over, hands on knees, the inquisitor's paddle of avarice whacking all thoughts of false gods out of your misguided and heretofore injudicious, naive psyche.
Thank you sir, may I have another.
My first interview with the Yellow Pages was with a screener, as the sales puke explained it. His job was to weed out the obviously inappropriate candidates and collect information for the real interviewers to use against me, which is not exactly how the sales puke put it. He said they corroborated information on my resume and application and organized it for the interviewers to help determine my compatibility with the position.
The interview was painful. The screener went over every detail on my resume and application, which I had filled out a couple of days earlier in the sales puke's office with him hovering over me like a hot-day Los Angles smog, instructing and guiding me to make sure I didn't actually put anything in the app that would actually indicate who I actually was.
I had to remember every exaggeration and embellishment and stay confident, cheery and engaged, like the sales puke told me, because, after all, if I wasn't confident, cherry and engaged, what was I? He also told me to smile and be myself.
Which freaking way do you want it?
We opted for the cheery, smiling knucklehead.
Which evidently worked because I got called back for a second interview, and this one was when they brought out the foaming-at-the-mouth, junkyard dogs (although they were disguised in three-piece suits with mild and affable personas, relatively speaking). So I’m sitting across the desk from junk yarddog number one, Mac McGlinn, who has yet to look up from my resume and application as he jots down notes in a three-ring binder lying open across his desk. After our handshake and how-do-you-do greeting, he hasn’t said a word, just sits there reading and making notes and ignoring me.
The sales puke, in his infinite wisdom, had warned me about this technique. He told me that interviewers will sometimes not say a work for long periods of time to make the applicant nervous and to see how he or she reacts. He told me to just sit there and relax.
Like the director of a college play I was in, when the pressure was building and we were behind in our preparation and everybody was getting crazy and losing focus, he would scream at the top of his longs, Relax!
Gee, it never worked. Go figure.
Next Week: Let the Good Times Roll, Part 2
The sales puke told me that most people will start what he called “nervous talking” when confronted with periods of silence, and interviewers would use all kinds of methods like that to try and make me nervous so that it would be easier to remove my vital organs without a great deal of fuss on my part, although he said they did it to see how I would react under pressure.
Learn more about Richard Plinke and read his blog here: http://www.howtoselltheplague.com/Home.aspx.