13 June 2008

13June-Lengthy, self-indulgent post about a pushy salesman
On Tuesday, my first day back to work, Alex and I were finishing lunch (Jimmy John's - 2 gargantuans & 2 BBQ chips) when we see two people approach the door. Now, this is nothing new during the lunch hour and the encounter is usually amicably concluded by telling them we're closed. From time to time this information will be met with incredulity, but that's an entirely different post. So these two stride in with purpose: a young man and woman - she in a plainish white cotton shirt and long pants, he (despite the mid-day heat) in a dark blue pinstripe suit and a black and silver tie with diagonal stripes over a black shirt with vertical stripes. So I'm judging all kinds of books before he walks in and right up to me. I don't care for that body language.
From here on out this post should ideally go to the upcoming generation of cold-calling, door to door salespeople as an illustration of how training and real-life differ.

Don't get me wrong; I like a confident person. Also, I have a degree in advertising so I'm fairly familiar with the basic tenets of salesmanship and marketing (at least circa 2003.) Foot-in-the-door and all that.
But I don't like it when a person is clearly trying to make you bodily step back, thereby establishing dominance. So as I walk up to the door, establishing with my body how far I'm comfortable with a stranger coming into my clearly closed restaurant, he doesn't stop walking until he's a tad too close to me. He smiles, leans forward (if he were taller I'm sure he would've tried towering imposingly) and introduces his friend and himself. He still doesn't give me anymore space - and it's my place so I'll be damned if I back up - so we end up talking for more than a few seconds close enough to each other so that if we were slow dancing in middle school, we'd have been separated by a chaperone. I finally learn they work for AT&T. I turn to Alex (from the waist so this guy doesn't slip around me) and ask if we're AT&T. Alex says we're Bellsouth. I twist back to this guy (who'll hereafter be referred to as This Guy) and he says, "Same thing, right?" with the kind of smirk that made me feel like he wanted me to high five him, as though AT&T was a friend of ours who'd been hitting on Bellsouth the previous night at a bar.

This Guy asks to use our phone and I consider the options for a second before I decide to see where this is going. So I break the stand-off and fetch him the phone. There's his foot in the door. With the benefit of hindsight, I should've crossed my arms and said "Phone's broke. Maybe y'oughta try next door." Live and learn.

First she goes off with our phone and sits in a corner while he sits at the bar and makes small talk. Weather. He's just moved to Charlotte. He's originally from Louisiana. Oh really, says I, I was just there. Where? Here, there. He mentions taking friends to Mardi Gras. Lived in Tampa. His best friend from Louisiana moved there, too. After maybe five minutes of, let's say, suspense he leans in a little and tells me in a conspiratorial whisper (since we're buddies now) that his companion is in training and she's going to come over and make a pitch. And he shoots me another smile that seems to say "You and I know the score but let's let the newbie play a little." I suppose if I felt the persistent need to be liked I'd feel included now, approved of and ready to help This Guy out. Unfortunately for your average salesman, being liked is gravy to me since I'd rather be respected and I don't feel respected when someone's trying to manipulate me. But I flatly say, "Sure." and he goes off to his corner and I continue to work. Perhaps another five minutes pass before I realize that nothing is being pitched to me and that maybe they're just tarrying in my restaurant to avoid going back out into the heat.

Finally they both come up to the bar but it's This Guy who's doing all the talking. He says we've got one line with no discount but he can give me two lines with a discount and we'll only pay a little more than what we're paying now. And he tries his first "So, let's go ahead and sign you up for that." I explain that we've gotten along quite well for 8 years without a second line. He suggests we're losing customers if we miss a call while we're running a credit card. I suggest that if a potential customer is too impatient to call back or listen to our message then they might be too impatient to eat here. Meanwhile, Alex, who'd gone into the kitchen but came back out, was leaning against the wall and exuding some impatience of his own. But he holds back, waiting for me to tag him if I get too tired of this.

This Guy tries another pitch with another deal and another "So I'm going to get you started with that, I just need your blah blah blah." Clumsy thrust. Parry. At one point he says "You're Thai food here, right?" I nod. "And I bet you're the best Thai food in town, am I right?" He gives me another one of those smiles and nods like he wants to fist bump over how delicious our food is. He goes on to say that he works with a lot of restaurants. Thai. Chinese. And he guarantees that what he's selling is going to give me all kinds of business orgasms. Again, not in so many words but it's all in his nods, smiles, suit, and five o'clock shadow.

I now desperately want to do business with him, slap my signature on all his papers, and take him and his trainee out for some JaegerBombs and booger sugar but aloud I tell him that we're doing pretty well with what we've got and we don't have the volume right now to take advantage of what he's offering. I suggest he leave some literature and a card and I'll call him if and when I think I can use his services. My smiles are still there but I've stopped trying to sell them.

Now it seems like This Guy's pride is on the line. I've got the feeling that during his pow-wow in the corner he told his trainee "All right, check this out. I'll do the talking, you watch and learn and I'll knock this out of the park, yadidimean." He brings out long distance. I tell him we've got it blocked and he responds smugly, "Yeah. We know. She got that information." I think his answer was designed to make himself feel better more than impress me. He goes on to say that he can give us long distance, bundle it with our package and...fake math in his head...we can save X amount of money. He starts writing on his sheet of paper. "So we're going to do that. Let me just get your name." As slick as that approach was I manage to resist and tell him that we don't need it. "Bundle bundle bundle save save bundle bundle." he says, or something along those lines. I tell him our cell phone plans are pretty good where long distance is concerned. "Bundle!" Pen stabbing at all that money I could be saving.

So now I'm done with this. I look at him and his trainee and say "Listen. Neither of you are going to make a move unless everyone is on board, right?" and I give him a This Guy smile and nod back. "Well," I point to Alex and myself. "This isn't everyone. I'm not going to make a decision without discussing this with all the principals. So. I'm going to hold on to this." Referring to the paper on which he's written all his deals."And if we decide we'd like to take advantage of your offer, we'll call you." He tells me those fabulous offers may not be around later. So I tell him, " Thank you very much for your time and this opportunity and we'll call you if we change our mind."

Civil to the end, despite all the opportunities he gave me to be an ass. They get up, shake my hand and he tells me it was good talking with me.

And they leave. And Alex and I shake our heads and go on with our day.

*Originally I'd accidentally written that his shirt had horizontal stripes. They were, in fact, vertical. I'd hate for that mistake to have given the wrong impression. His look was less comical and more freakin' awesome, as he'd have us believe.

1 comment:

Annie said...

I laughed, I cried, I cringed. This post is excellent. I need to stop or I'll start quoting my favorite lines.