The S Word

We’re happy to present a guest post today from frequent commenter and longtime DDDT friend Troy.

Hi, my name is Troy and I’m a Professional Salesman. I love what I do, and I think I’m pretty good at it, but I stop short at saying I’m really proud to be a salesman. I think my reluctance is grounded in the fact that I suffer from an identity crisis. You see, the fact is, I hate most salespeople. They totally ruin it for the rest of us who take it seriously, do it right, and improve people’s lives. I just wish some categories existed that could separate me and what I do from what you think of when I say “salesman.” In reality, these categorical differences do exist, it’s just that most people aren’t aware of them. The sales spectrum really is the broadest and deepest of all the professions if you think about it. Unfortunately for me, I share that spectrum with some of the most annoying and detestable people on earth.

The lowest form of life in sales is the Timeshare Salesperson. Making a commission is an honest living, but I think Timeshare Salespeople are compensated on a sliding scale of how much life force they are able to suck out of you in 90 minutes.

Timeshare Boss: “Jenkins! Great work, that last couple just went out to their car, stuck a rag in their exhaust pipe, and asphyxiated themselves…here’s $500.”

Jenkins: (Sneer, slither, snort) “Boss, asphyxiation is worth $750 and you know it!” (Point and wink.)

Boss: “You’re an animal! Can’t sneak anything past you, Jenkins!”

sales guy

You know what I really enjoy? Telling people I’m in sales and having their mental image of me morph into this guy.

It all starts when you’re on vacation and a bubbly teenage recruiter in a street kiosk convinces you that a “simple presentation” is worth 2 free tickets to the Sea Aquarium. Before you realize it, you’re sitting in an air conditioned room with several other co-victims. You are offered a bottled water, the lights are lowered, and a video begins. The video shows lavish vacation destinations and tons of relaxed couples. Smiles, laughter, beaches, romance. The irony sinks in that you are actually on vacation right now, and should be outside doing what the people in the video are doing.

Instead, you are sitting in a dark room with strangers watching a really long commercial. “Just here for that voucher,” you remind your spouse – and yourself – in a whisper. Your spouse already has that weary-yet-determined “We can get through this,” face. The lights come up and you are led into Room #2. Hmm, this room has a different feel. The soft steel drum music and the scattered tables with eager salespeople manning each post give it a “We’re gonna get down to business—a business PARTY!” vibe. Your escort leads you to a table. The machine is now fully in motion, and you’re nothing but a helpless cog.

Ever present are the vivid photos of every vacation you could imagine. Gotta have the photos. They ensure that the decision-making process remains an emotional one. Posters on the wall, framed pictures on desks, huge three-ring binders at each battle station. The salesperson talks to you, maintaining that all-important yet increasingly creepy eye contact, while periodically refreshing the photo binder on the table by flipping through with their peripheral vision. They ask some simple questions. They take some notes. Did he just write down the ages of our children? The paper comes out, the calculator, too. Diagrams are drawn, with lots of dramatic underlining for emphasis. Back to the pictures for a moment. OK, then some calculations are made, plans are drawn up, and words like “equity” and “investment” are thrown around carelessly. Everything starts to sound the same and just when you’re about to tune out completely, you hear something like “…and for the neglible sum of $8,000, payable in check right now, you can go on vacation for the rest of your life!”

Don’t even bother with the objections. You can be an unemployed student, leveraged to the hilt, and yet they will show you, on paper, using real arithmetic, how you can afford it. And the word “NO”? Somehow in the time it takes to travel from your lips to the salesperson’s ears it morphs into, “I don’t understand…tell me more…and please keep underlining stuff.” It’s here that you need to be ready for the rough stuff. You’ll be accused of hating vacations. You’ll be labeled as someone who obviously loathes sunshine and steel drums.

hostage_2005_img_07

Seriously, you can totally afford it. You get $300 in food stamps, right? That more than covers the maintenance fee.

You’ll start to get a little more desperate, so you try the keep-it-real approach: “Hey man,” you lean in sheepishly, so the boss can’t hear, “We just wanted to go to the Sea Aquarium and thought we’d score a freebie. No hard feelings, right?” All that your salesperson hears, though, is, “OK, amateur hour is over. You disgust me. Go get me a closer.” There’s a changing of the guard. Your guy tags out and the next guy steps in. Your file—at this point they have a file on you—gets handed over, and The Closer debriefs himself.

After a moment, the file snaps shut.

“I have just one question for you. Bobby, age 8; Danny, 6; and little Anna, 2; do you love them?”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s a simple question: Do. You. Love. Your. Children? On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you love them?”

“Look…dude…”

Your conversation gets interrupted by a microphone screech. “We’d like to congratulate Phil and Sheryl Buchannan from Green Bay Wisconsin on their NEW VACATION OWNERSHIP!!!” Wait, why am I clapping? A few tables over, you spot the Buchanans. They look harried, defeated. But they also look . . . free. You regard them with a strange mixture of pity and envy. They just bought a 1-week-a-year condo for eight grand and $230 a month in maintenance fees. But they get to leave. They get to leave.

Hawaii 06 (109)

4. We on a scale of 1 to 10 we love our kids a 4.

You know, once you’ve endured something that was easily the worst experience of your life, you would think you’d be successful in steering clear of…the exact same experience. But, as fate would have it, I’m a total sucker for $25 gift certificates to Tony Roma’s and a night’s stay in Park City. As a result, I have had multiple opportunities to witness sales malpractice of the highest order, and it’s made me a little insecure about how my chosen profession is perceived. Forgive me if I’m a little defensive. It’s just that I’ve seen too often what people have done to the S-Word. They’ve irredeemably ruined it. “Sales” just doesn’t describe what I do. What I do is noble, practically philanthropic. Let’s just say I’m a Professional, and leave it at that.

Troy works in the dental supply industry in which his reputation for being un-salesy proceeds him and is a huge part of his enormous success. He and his wife, a Professional Photographer, are now in a position to buy, like, at least 3 timeshares, but instead choose to donate the money to children’s hospitals and battered women shelters. In his spare time, Troy stalks, kills, skins, and stuffs Timeshare Salesmen one by one. He has 3 children.

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19 Responses to The S Word

  1. Ryan says:

    Man, it must take a salesman to note those details that accurately, because you set the scene perfectly. The ‘business PARTY” vibe is exactly what these people excel in. That’s why they took me and Macy through a snack bar and popcorn stand before sitting us down to torture us. The closer, the underlining, and yes, the consistent upping the stakes from veiled accusations that you don’t love your kids to just out and out accusing you straight up. And you know none of these people tell their friends and family that they’re salespeople either. They are part of the exciting travel and tourism industry.

    Thing is, I’d probably do it all again for my free night’s stay. Because honestly, I love my kids.

  2. Gina says:

    My husband has been a true salesman for years, and always hates that he gets lumped in with sleazeballs, too. MOST salesmen are knowledgeable and want to sell you only the stuff you really need. It’s the few sharks that ruin it for the rest of them.

    Here’s the punchline, though, my husband left sales to go to law school. Be a lawyer. How’s that for jumping from the frying pan to the fire?

  3. “Business PARTY”

    lololol. There is nothing I love more than people who know how to make a party of business. How many billions of dollars have been made off gullible people because some genius invented the business PARTY centuries ago.

    Great post, Troy. From one salesperson to another (I’m actually called a “development manager” though, not a salesperson.)

  4. Layne says:

    ABC = Always Be Closing!

  5. Ben Pratt says:

    One summer I went to a meeting to learn about opportunities selling this magical vacuum cleaner door to door. Part of the demo was to show that it had so much suction it could vacuum up bullets or something (you know, for when you spill bullets all over the floor). The presentation had all the touches you describe, Troy, like fluorescent lighting and a snazzy video, plus the appeal to our own greed (“They’ll sell themselves!”). I ran out of there screaming, but I still kinda wanted one of the vacuums.

  6. Andrea W. says:

    This was hilarious, Troy, but painful because it caused me to flashback on all too many of these exact scenes. My husband is also in sales, but will never let me call him a “salesman” he prefers “sales rep.” It makes him feel less sleezy.

  7. Peter says:

    My wife and I got sucked into the offer of 200 bucks cash plus cab fare to and from the airport in Cabo. I would gladly pay 400 bucks just to remove the memory of that salesman’s cigarette stained smile and gold chain from my memory.

  8. Wade says:

    Not having had the great fortune of experiencing one before, I’ve never wanted to sit through a time-share presentation more than I do right now. I’d almost do it for a slice of pizza and some popcorn. Thanks, Troy, for distracting some of the attention from my sleazy profession.

  9. Jeff says:

    I’ve never sat through one either Wade. But I am tempted to do it now. You must be a good Troy, you just sold me. When I do sit through one I’m going to act like a tough nut to crack then finally give in only to change my mind back and forth 10 times just to tease them. The danger there is, I have a hard time saying no to people sometimes so it could really backfire on me.

  10. Benjamin says:

    Roll with it.

    “Isn’t family time important to you?”
    “No. It’s not. We’re fighting a lot lately, you know, and I’m really looking to get away from them. Divorce is likely.”

    “Do you like to vacation???”
    “No. I’m a homebody. I’m only here because I have to be. Give me the freaking voucher.”

    “What are your kids names?”
    “My kids are none of your business. I don’t have custody now, anyway….you know, after…the incident. I’m not allowed near them- but I would like to meet your kids- do you live nearby?”

    Make a game out of it with your friends. See who can get out first. The last few presentations I’ve been to haven’t been bad at all, and we’ve left rolling with laughter because we went with friends and made fake personas and played them up the whole time. And hey, free stuff. Make up your infos, make up your answers, and have fun.

  11. Braden says:

    Great post, Troy. Where did you get that picture of the salesman pointing at us with a cheesy smile and both fingers? Wow. That picture said it all.

  12. Ryan says:

    I love Ben’s approach. In fact, it’s one I’ve used a few times myself. When the Kirby vacuum sales team (there were three in our house by the time I arrived home) suggested that our kids are very likely to get very sick if we don’t remove the allergens in our house with a new Kirby vacuum, I sincerely told them in a whisper that “These kids are just the first ones. If they end up being sickly, we’ll have other ones and treat them better.” They were genuinely taken aback by this comment, but it was the one thing I could come up with that would make them get out of my house.

  13. Jaron says:

    Hey DDDT folks! Long time reader, first time commenter. My job involves doing the purchasing for a large law firm in Salt Lake City. As a result, sales people are an every day part of my life. I am confident that there are a lot of reputable professionals in the sales world who offer something of value and are genuinely interested in helping you increase the quality of your life with their product or service. However, I don’t deal with these people.

    It seems like all the salesmen I work with are basically Andy Bernard. Cheesy, annoying, one liner types who think they can “close the deal” with a pat on the back, calling me “bro”, and inviting me to go golfing. I stink at golf, and the last thing I would EVER want to do is spend an afternoon in a foursome of strangers being bad at golf in front of them. This experience will not motivate me to buy anything!!!! They also want to know what the “magic number” is that they need to hit to get our account (subsequently explaining their pricing models to you as if you are a child who doesn’t understand any principle of economics). When the conversation starts going poorly for them, some will even stoop to the point of tying to get on better terms with you by telling you that “you would be great in sales”… What the heck does that mean? Either you think I’m like you guys, which is a real slam, or you recognize that you’re not great at sales and that I’m different than you, which isn’t really convincing me to go with you for our account…

    What they don’t realize is that our account is already much lower than they can go. We’ve done our research, called the people we WANT to work with, and come to an understanding that is beneficial for both sides and that we would like to keep for a long time. What the world needs is less Andy Bernard and more Dwight Schrute. Sure, Dwight is a weirdo, but there is a reason he was Dunder Mifflin’s #1 sales rep for 13 of the past 12 months. No nonsense, no fluff, just selling paper to people who print stuff on it at a price and service level that they are happy with.

    Keep up the great posts!

  14. Ryan says:

    Ha, I love that analogy, Jaron. And the fact that anyone who deals with salesmen thinks we need more Dwight Schrutes is seriously awesome. I can also tell you from personal experience that yes, being a horrible golfer playing with good golfers that you don’t know nor particularly like is definitely no ‘perk.’

  15. Serene says:

    “…and please, keep underlining stuff”. LOL! Sorry, but that one just totally made me laugh. I’m afraid whenever I think of the “s” word, I think of something being underlined as if I couldn’t read without the it.

    Is it bad to admit I’ve secretly rolled my eyes at some sale pitches?

    Great post!

  16. Christian says:

    “Seriously, you can totally afford it. You get $300 in food stamps, right? That more than covers the maintenance fee.”

    So funny because it’s so true.

    And concerning the underlining, I’m one person who’s kind of impressed when they write or chart something quickly and then do some underlines. I’m being serious. I could never do it that fast and have it be legible or symmetrical the way the good ones do it. And some of them are doing it upside down, with you on the other side of the desk! I really to like to watch it. Kind of mesmerizing.

  17. Troy says:

    Ryan: There are other, less painful ways of getting a night’s stay. If you donate an organ I hear they let you stay the night to recover. Your kids can visit. Free soda and juice. Adjustable bed.

    Gina: The reason there are more lawyer jokes than salesman jokes is most people aren’t ready to laugh at the sales jokes yet. Too soon.

    Kook: Oooh, Development Manager. “Manager” is always good to throw in your title. And no one seems to mind when you want to “Develop” stuff. That’s a good title. I’ve heavily contemplated switching my title to something with more mystique like that.

    Ben: I was really close to writing about our Kirby experience. What started as a “free carpet cleaning!!!” turned into 3 1/2 hours and me eventually lying about turning every inch of the house into Pergo. Kirby guys are easily as detestable as the timeshare dudes.

    Andrea: Tell your husband to take a good hard look at Kook’s title.

    Peter: You should have just bought it, actually.

    Wade: I will buy you a whole pizza, a bucket of popcorn and I’ll open-hand slap you in the face for 90 minutes. Es lo mismo.

    Jeff: You’re playing with fire. You’ll go down early–they’ll have you at Wolf Creek Village. You’ll be putty in their hands.

    Ben: I know you have masochistic leanings, so I’m just nodding and smiling.

    Braden: Davis found that photo on google. I think he typed in “salesman” without any accompanying adjectives. So, case in point.

    Jaron: You’re a Buyer and you don’t golf? Bro!?!?! Please tell me you at least like Café Rio powerpoint lunches.

    Serene: We can hear you secretly rolling your eyes. You’re not fooling us.

    Kook: You made Development Manager, and you didn’t pass the Underlining Test? Whoa.

  18. Norm says:

    Going to a time share presentation is a right of passage of sorts. My wife and I got suckered in by the free breakfast. “Breakfast” was two slices of cantaloupe and a stale roll.

    I learned that Mormons aren’t the only ones who bear their testimonies because our presenter literally broke down in tears about the importance of owning a timeshare. I also learned not to pull out your cell phone. When I did, the presenter came over to me without saying a word took the phone I was reading a text from out of my hand and turned it over in my lap for me.

  19. Dick Burnett says:

    Wow. And to think of all the flogging it took to get you to write a paper in school. Now you write just for the fun of it. I’ll give you an “A” for this one. Although I’m still stinging a bit from all the disparaging comments on my profession. I thought Business Development Manager was a promotion over my Sales Rep position. I feel like I just found out that my timeshare is only good for the 5th week of every month starting with “F”. Maybe I can apply to HR for a title change to something like Requisition Fulfillment Coordinator or Director of Revenue Generation.
    Our CEO leads a $6B company and 40k employees and refers to himself as the Head Salesman. But I think that’s open to too many interpretations.

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