Archive for January, 2012
I was reading about the Walter Isaacson biography on Steve Jobs, who among other things is a master salesman. In that Isaacson highlights several times that Jobs really didn’t care too much about getting rich, but he cared about making great things.
In the coming year, I am going to have to do a lot of salesmanship, which makes me uneasy. This blog entry however is not a work of salesmanship, it hews much closer to the earlier days of my blog where I wrote just for me.
I’ve never considered myself a salesman. The very word makes me edgy, nervous, and disgusted.
That being said I can be a damned good salesman. I had a friend who first brought this to my attention, I didn’t want to believe him, but he narrowed it down and said I could be a good salesman if I believed in the product.
There are several times when I was a superb salesman. The first real time that I recognized that I was being a salesman was when I was a credit card collector for Citigroup. I was at times enthused and at times weary about this job, but once I got into it I was consistently the first or second performer on my team. I never was the browbeating threatening debt collector. I’d go through an initial script that was simply establishing the status of the account, then I’d end with something along the lines of “What happened that you fell behind on this?” If it was them losing their job, I’d ask how the search to find a new one was going. If they had another issue I’d similarly ask what happened. I’d also inquire how they’d want to handle the debt. I always saw debt collection as problem solving. I had a handful of tools that I could use to help the customer out, and I’d work with them to apply the best one I could.
I remember once this older woman, who was well on the road to being senile. I had looked at the notes on the account and several people had not been able to work with her. I kept pushing through, working to find a common ground and spot to start at and work from. In the end, I ended up crediting much of the balance, and arranging a payment for a small bit of the balance. (Something along the lines of $17 or so.) I also strongly suggested that she find a family member or someone she trusted in her church to help her with her finances. I can see many people saying that this is a bit harsh and outside of my purview as a collector, but it was clear after the ninety plus minute phone call that she wasn’t completely in control of her faculties, and her finances were something that was causing her more grief than it should.
I also remember a time when I was at Speakeasy when I had a customer transferred to me who was livid. She was the office manager of a dental office, and had just gotten our voice and internet service. Sadly we had really screwed her install up from the beginning. The solution that was sold to her didn’t really fit their needs, was technically not the best one to fit their needs, and to top it off she had fallen through actually getting helped by us for almost three months. I asked her if I could spend some time reading over the notes on her account and give her a call back, simply because this was the first time I had ran into the account. There were a huge number of notes, and it took me around forty-five minutes to get through all of them. I called her back, she wasn’t available and I left a message. Later that day she called and accused me of never calling back.
We had destroyed a lot of trust and respect over those two months, and I remember calling consistently and working with her to both further understand what had happened, her perspective, and to find a way to fix things up. This is a long story, which quite simply I don’t know all the details of anymore. But there was a long period where I had to convince her of my good intentions, by making promises, perfectly keeping them, and continually keeping a dialog open.
I sucked at it.
I kept pretty closely to the script that was provided to me and quite frankly didn’t really give a shit about the opera. I’d spend a few hours Monday through Thursday calling folks who had seen the Phantom of the Opera the season before trying to get them to buy tickets to what really is quite a different art form. In the end, I wasn’t able to make enough headway at it to feel that I was successful at it, and I gave up since it took too much attention from my full time job.
In thinking through these, its really interesting to me what I’m good at, and what I sucked at. I’ve got to have some options to work to build rapport and engage with the person where they’re at. I still don’t like the salesman word, or even the idea of selling. Beyond an amount that I need to live, it isn’t about making money, its about adapting and developing a solution that works for everyone.
I have two cats. One of them is quite talkative and always wants to come visit me in the restroom as I do my business after I come home.
If I leave the door closed he’ll meow to no end and annoy me while I’m in the restroom.
If I leave the door open he’ll go in and out and annoy me even more while I’m in the restroom.
If I let him in then close the door behind him, he’ll usually continue to meow and annoy me.
So I’ve discovered the best way to use the restroom in peace is to pet him a few times, and put him on the other side of the shower curtain until I’m done. This has worked for a long time, he’ll sit there quietly and mind his own business for the most part until I’m done.
However, now his brother wants to visit me in the restroom as well. So I do the same thing and put him on the other side of the shower curtain. In the past they’ve just both sat there quietly…
Until tonight! When I had this feline racket to contend with!