Part One: Knowing when to shut up
Fresh out of college, I land my dream job in the Synanon pre-school working with toddlers. Yes, THAT Synanon, the one known for helping people in trouble with drugs and alcohol, the Synanon that then expanded into a communal lifestyle like a big giant Kibbutz!
I am not a drug addict or alcoholic, just a top-notch face painter, mentor of macaroni necklaces, and maestra of “If You’re Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands.”
BUT…. no sooner have I settled into making Oobleck and carob-peanut butter balls than I am rudely drafted out of the school and onto the sales team of Synanon’s adjunct business called ADGAP. It sells imprinted mugs, hats, pens, and other promotional items to companies.
I’m not happy and I know it.
I don’t want to sell stuff! I want to blow giant bubbles, play duck duck goose, paint llamas in pajamas, and wipe three-year-olds’ ever-present runny noses.
I’ll go straight to Management and tell them: There must be some mistake! I’m not a natural salesperson like Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins or or…….Jesus!
Turns out it’s not a mistake….that I’m drafted.
But it is a mistake to think that I’d be any good at convincing businesses who probably don’t want to buy something, to buy something.
I hang up my peanut butter smeared apron and my finger-paint-stained overalls, parking my muddy Earth Shoes in the vestibule next to assorted pairs of small rubber galoshes.
Shopping for proper professional attire for my new job in Adgap, I outfit myself with a stylish business suit, pantyhose, heels, and, admittedly, a fabulous purse.
Now, instead of crackerjack toddler teacher, I am tailored Nanette….polished, poised, but peeved.
My sales training is to go on appointments with Cordelia, a “senior” salesperson. My purpose? Listen and learn…. Period.
We’re calling on the owner of a large trucking company. Cordelia plans to show him samples of promotional gifts he can give to his customers.
She coaches me to let her do all the talking. I nod. Inside I’m thinking: Sure, be my guest….do all the talking….I’ll just sit there like a lump instead of doing really important work tutoring Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs.
Upon arrival at our appointment, we chit chat with the owner. Soon it’s time for Cordelia to determine what the owner wants to purchase.
He decides he’d like to buy two thousand high-end embroidered logo ball caps for his drivers and customers.
I do a quick calculation in my head: Two-thousand embroidered caps times how many dollars??? That’s big….REALLY big!
Cory begins to write up the order. The customer hands her a copy of his logo that’ll be on the front of the hats. Soon, out comes his wide company checkbook.
But then, suddenly, he pauses. “You don’t by any chance have those new puff printed caps, do you?”
Cordelia doesn’t have a sample of one of those with her. Seamlessly, she replies: “Everybody and his brother has those novelty caps. You’ll really stand out with your quality hats…which color would be better for you, the red or the blue?”
He nods in full agreement as he prefers to stand out amongst his competitors as a class act. He’ll take half red and half blue. In his hand, a pen, which slowly lowers to a dot of ink on the checkbook, when, out of the silence, I pipe up: “We could send you a puff-printed hat sample!”
The owner’s face brightens. I do too. I think Cordelia’s really going to give me kudos once we leave the appointment.
“OK!” he agrees. Now that the arrival of a sample puff-printed hat is settled, he stops the almost writing of the check, rests his pen, and it is I, after all, who has helped the customer!
Cordelia’s eyes don’t bore into me until we get into the car, an expression she maintains all the way back to the ADGAP office.
To my surprise, my trainee appointments with Cordelia come to an in-elegant end.
The following Monday I am dropped off on a street corner in Los Angeles…