Part #2 Cold Canvassing
The following Monday, chic and well put-together, my sample products in tow, I am dropped off on a street corner in Los Angeles.
Since I’m no longer “shadowing” Cordelia, I figure I’m either highly regarded as a natural salesperson with great promise ready to launch out on my own, or, I screwed up big-time.
My assignment? Cold canvas greasy machine shops door to door and sell them something.
I am one of a dozen manicured but anxious Synanon ADGAP sale’s trainees heading out in a jitney driven by our manager. It is our first morning of the sale’s trip, all of us having, the night before, checked into a Best Western for our two weeks of training.
We arrive at a vast industrial park lined with machine shops, intermittent factory chimneys, and a sprinkling of oversized cranes as far as the eye can see. As I exit the jitney, I wave “bye-bye” and give a “good luck” thumbs up to my eleven fellow sale’s trainees, each about to be dropped off a mile or two down the road. The manager gives me one last pep talk through the open window: “Remember, Nanette” he says, “Positive Mental Attitude!” I nod and give him an “A-okay.”
Pick-up time is five p.m….same corner.
I stand watching our jitney drive off until it is a mere matchbox toy on the industrial horizon. Suddenly, a massive downpour ensues. My turned-up trench coat collar doesn’t help. Soon, I feel like a drenched cocker spaniel with a nervous condition, stomach tied in a knot. I gather my little courage, lock in, stand tall, and I boldly walk straight across the street into the first machine shop.
There’s no receptionist at the front desk, or really anyone there, but then I can hear things mechanical in the back, also two guys trying to hear each other above gears grinding, cogs clunking, and chains clanging. From a side table, I gingerly take a business card from its plastic holder and I scurry out before I have to talk to a person.
Next door is an identical machine shop except that, here, a woman sits at a melamine desk. Her name plate says “Barbra-Receptionist.” She holds a phone between cheek and shoulder, smokes, types, drinks coffee, files a nail, paints it, eats a donut, licks stamps, addresses letters and says “Uh hmmmm” into the phone.
Seeing me standing there, she holds the phone receiver away from her ear, rolls her eyes, and makes a quacking movement with her hand. Sounds coming from the phone are like a cartoon in a tin can.
I smile and pluck a business card from a little plastic holder like I did next door.
When she hangs up the phone, she shakes her head. “Relentless, you know what I mean?”
In response, I alternate nodding my head and shaking my head.
Since I’m guessing Barbra the receptionist doesn’t place orders, that she isn’t the person who gives the stamp of approval on buying, the person who signs the checks (which would probably bounce anyway,) I think better of trying to sell her stuff.
It’s just that I came in to try to get an order and I wasn’t trained on how to leave if I don’t want one.
She says, “We’re not buying anything.” I say, “Oh, no problem, I’m just stepping in out of the rain for a sec to,” I pause, “to ask for directions.” She looks unburdened.
“Sure, honey…. directions to where?” Now I’m in trouble. “To…. to…. uh….coffee!”
We’re best friends now that I’m just here to ask directions to coffee. I say, “As long as I’m here, I wonder if it would be too much trouble if I used this phone next to me to make a quick call…it’s local?”
“Sure, sweetie, be my guest.”
I hold the business card I picked up from next door. Now I have two business cards! I’m on a roll!
Barbra’s phone rings: She says, “machine shop.”
I ask, “Is the owner available?” Barbra gives me a look from across the room. “Oh, sorry,” I say.
I try the number on the other card, and kind of hope no one answers. But then I hear, “Yeah?” I say, “Hello, sir, I wonder if I might speak to”, I look down at the business card in my hand, “Mr. Philip P. Rawlings, President and CEO, Rawlings Tooling…for all your machining needs?”
The voice says, “I’m him, what’s this about?” I say, “My name is Nanette from Synanon ADGAP, are you having a nice day?” He says, “Yeah.” I continue, “I’m right near your shop just today and I’d like to stop by for a couple of minutes to show you some hats.”
Then I remember closing questions, “Or would mugs be better?”
He says, “Say what now?” I try again. “Would half an hour be better with some pens?” “He answers, “Huh?”
I give up the closing questions thing because what normal person talks in closing questions??? “Sir, I’m really close by and I’m with Barbra and it’s raining and I have coffee mugs…Can I just come over?” He says, “Yeah, but only for a few minutes.”
Barbra suggests calling him “Phil.” “Mr. Philip Rawlings, President and CEO, Rawlings Tooling…for all your machining needs” is too formal.
“Thanks,” I say, opening the door to leave. She says, “Hey, what about the coffee?”
Then I get an idea. I ask, “ Do you think when I’m done seeing Phil next door, I could come back, have a coffee, and stow my heavy sample bag behind your file cabinet for a few minutes…I’ve got to head down the block and pick up a few business cards to make appointments with owners?”
“Sure” she says. “And you can use the phone too.” I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m clever….or maybe she’s been through this before.
When I enter “Rawlings Tooling,” next door, a stocky fellow greets me waving me over to an open door that’s his office. He is a fireplug of a man with the muscles of someone who’s worked very hard all his life. He is not actually smoking the cigar stub that hangs out of his mouth.
I think, This might be my first solo presentation IF I play my cards right. “So, uh, Steve, do you mind if I call you Steve?” He answers, “Sure, Steve is ok, but it’s actually Phil.”
Phil’s office walls are fake wood and covered with framed photos of family, also Little Leaguers. Each team picture has a small brass plate thanking “Rawlings Tooling” for sponsoring. He points, “For fifteen years, we’ve donated those T-shirts and ball caps with ‘Rawlings’ on ‘em.” I nod. He tells me that even though they never win, he likes them to look sharp when they always lose.
Other frames on the wall include Mr. Rawlings with his bowling league, an old dollar bill, a shot of his family posing with a Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, and another posing with a Jesus at Holy Land USA.
On Phil’s desk sits a half-full coffee mug with a cartoon of a golfer on the side that says, “Old golfers never die, they just lose their….”
Also on his desk are “jobs.” Oversized oily cogs, cranks, and bolts sit on top of what is now smudged mail. He moves everything aside and I see that, although his hands are not that greasy, the nails have been given up on.
“So what do ya have in your sample bag, little lady?” He sits down behind his desk, and he motions me to sit opposite. I think, Wow, seems easy enough to get in front of a customer…what’s the big deal? I begin the pitch we new salespeople have been practicing all week.
“So, uh, Phil, are you familiar with Synanon and the work we do helping people in trouble with drugs and alcohol?” He nods, “Yes.”
Now what do I do? He’s familiar with Synanon and the work we do helping people in trouble with drugs and alcohol.
“Go on,” he says.
I continue my lines, “Well, since 1956 helping troubled people in trouble with… we sell pens and.…
He interrupts my trying to think of what to say to fix what I just said, “That so?”
I tell him, “I wasn’t a drug addict, I just came to Synanon fresh out of college to work with toddlers in our school, and then I got drafted onto the sale’s team and I don’t want to sell stuff and I just got these clothes and it’s my first day and it’s raining and I got dropped off on the corner, do you have a Kleenex…. or would a tissue be better?”
He hands me a Kleenex box and says, “Ok show me what ya’ got.” I say, “I’m not supposed to do that.
“Right,” he says. “Your supposed to qualify me first.” “OK,” he adds, “Go.”
“Phil,” I say, “Phil, If you see something you like today while I’m in here in your office right now, can we write up an order here today now if you like something you see, uh, see something you like?”
“Sure,” he says.
I freeze, but just to be sure, I ask him, “Are you the ONLY owner?” He answers, “Yep.” I continue, “And you sign the checks?” He nods, then adds, “and if I see something I like, I buy it.”
Satisfied he’s the final decision maker, I lay out the giant statement we are supposed to say before we show any samples.
“Mr. Rawlings….Phil, I’d like YOU to spend TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS with me today!”
He laughs, slapping his hand on the desk.
“You know,” he tells me. “I don’t usually buy things from people who just walk in off the street, but ….” I interrupt, deciding the best thing I can say is that we are very reliable, and that we bend over backwards to take care of our customers.
I reassure him, “Phil, we are very reliable. We bend over for our customers. Silence.
Phil changes the subject before I dig myself a deeper hole. “So, show me some of your coffee mugs,” he says.
I nod, fumbling to open my sample case. We are trained to start by ignoring the customer’s interest in any low-end item, and, instead, start with our highest-end items first, no matter what.
I take out our three most expensive. They’re paperweights. “This is The Orion….” I hand it to him as though it’s radio-active and must be treated with extraordinary delicateness. I explain that the paperweight is a very classy state-of-the-art cutting-edge engraved advanced technology geometric-shaped customer gift.
Phil says, “I see, but the mugs….” I interrupt again, telling Phil what I hope will be the “kicker.” I ad, “The Orion is a leading paperweight in the world of paperweights!”
He nods, but seems like he might want to laugh.
I go on: “It’s for all your big corporate customers for Christmas……..or, uh, Hanukkah,”
Next, I hand him “The Neptune “…..similar but a different shape, and “The Saturn”…..the third one of the bunch.
Phil likes them and says he’ll think about a couple of those as Christmas gifts for his very small handful of big customers.
So I say, “Do you want me to write ‘em up?” He laughs and puts up his palm. “No, just give me a chance to talk to my wife about those, she’s off today.”
I furrow my eyebrows: I thought he said he was the owner, the final decision maker. Now there’s a wife???
Then he says the thing I’m told is the worst thing a prospective customer can say: “You know, you’re a pretty good little salesgirl,” because that means I’m not going to get an order because I’m so bad at getting an order that Phil can tell I’m trying to get an order.
Not having been trained to give the right response to that “compliment,” I decide that this might be an Overcoming Objections moment. I think, I’ll tell him that we’ve had a lot of success with our customers using our products.
I bravely venture forth: “Ya know, Phil, we’ve had a lot of sex with our customers….uh, success with our customers using our products”
Mr. Rawlings covers his face with one hand and he’s shaking his head.
Fuck, I think. What is wrong with me????
I open my mouth to try again, but Mr. Rawlings jumps in. “I get it….Waddya’ got in imprinted coffee mugs?”
Relieved we’re moving on, I show him a sample mug he likes and I quote prices, again, as trained.
I say: “40,000 mugs are three fifty each, 20,000 mugs are four fifty each, and 10,000 mugs are five fifty each……Which would be better for you?”
He bursts out laughing, “Just the two dozen.” But, then, to my surprise he tells me: “I buy all my give-aways from you guys every time you have a new group of sales trainees and you drop one off on that corner across the street.” He tilts head toward the window.
“Every time?” I ask. He nods, “Like I said, been doin’ it for fifteen years…How’s Howard?” I answer, “Do you mean Howie Blesser?” “Yeah,” he says. “I gave him his first order….he occasionally comes in with one of you trainees. Tell him hi.”
It suddenly dawns on me: He’s actually giving me an order!!!
I think fast. I need a pen. It’s in my purse which I drop on the floor.. Lipstick and a mini hairspray roll out under the desk…..also, two back-up tampons. They land under Phil’s chair.
Mr. Rawlings says, “Good job showing your high-end stuff first and also on the aiming high in quoting the mugs…..Oh, and great Positive Mental Attitude!”
“Thank you,” I say, thrown off the memorized sequence of my presentation.
He interrupts my concentration, “Now you write ‘em up.” I nod, BIG! He continues to instruct, “Same order as like last year, same logo, same mugs, and I’ll get two dozen hats too, same as last year.”
But then, all of a sudden, he gets up and starts to LEAVE!!!
Now I’m flummoxed. Is he coming back? Do I follow him? He reappears with a blank check and tells me he always pre-pays so he can get the free shipping. I am writing furiously creating a mess of scratched-out corrections on my three-part sales form. I’m poking at my calculator at the same time, coming up with wrong calculations, first, $61,322, then $429,187.
Finally, I give him his right total, two hundred and fifty one dollars and forty-nine cents, just over our minimum order!!!!!
I think, Remember, I can’t leave without giving Phil his signed copy! He points from across his desk, reading the order upside-down and says, “No, you fill this in over here.” He points again. “All this too.”
He reaches for the order pad, signs the bottom, and tears off his copy himself.
Standing, he says, “I gotta get back in the shop, so call me about the paperweights, huh?” I nod…. really big.
All I want to do now is run out of the place with the order so Phil can’t change his mind and come running down the street after me yelling “stop, I was just kidding!”
He exits his office heading to the back through the swinging door. I pipe up when it swings open, “I’ll stop by….” door swings closed…..opens again “tomorrow with the paperweights for your wife to see!”
As I walk out the front door triumphant, I think, Mr. Rawlings just gave me an order!!! He LOVES me….
Now I head back to Barbra, the receptionist at the other machine shop, the one that might be going out of business.
She is on the phone just like before, but motions behind the file cabinet where I can stow my sample case while I collect business cards from nearby machine shops.
She puts the still “talking” phone down on her desk while she tends to a huge pile of filing. Then she picks up the phone and says, “I’m still here, dammit!” and she waves “bye” to me.
The next hour I spend going in and out of mostly machine shop doors, not cold canvassing, but picking up business cards. The only business I enter then immediately exit, is Rex Ammonia Bottling. The receptionist there doesn’t even look up at me.
I return to Barbra and start calling the cards one after the other as fast as I can, making appointments for the rest of the week.
At five p.m. I am retrieved from my corner. All the trainees in the jitney are talking at once. It is a cacophony of partial phrases: “I almost got…” “The secretary was mean…” “He was too busy…” “He said to come back!!!!”
I wait for a pause then announce: “I got an order!”
Everybody is aghast and they clap and there’s a barrage of questions, the main one being: “How much?”
“Two hundred and fifty-one dollars and forty-nine cents!” I say proudly. “And I’m going back tomorrow for more….maybe!” I recount every detail of the sale on our drive to dinner at Denny’s next to our hotel.
Over burgers and pasta, during which there’s much story-telling about the day as well as low key “direction” from our manager, we finally return to our Best Western, girls on one floor, guys on another. We all fall exhausted into deep restful sleep, mine even more so, ‘cuz I got an order!!!!
Morning comes with a jolt. We all leap up madly dressing and sharing the sink and mirrors. Teeth, earrings, mascara, lip gloss…. then we descend on breakfast in the hotel lounge.
On our trip out to the same industrial area as the day before, the jitney is abuzz with what the day might bring. I am dropped off.
Now, all of a sudden, I realize it’s a new day and my order from yesterday is yesterday’s news. I have to try to do it again! In fact, I have to try to do it again EVERY day!
I go straight to Rawlings Tooling, and see the wife is sitting behind the front desk now. Her name plaque reads, “Sue Rawlings, Bookkeeper.”
“Can I help you?” She asks, even before the front door finishes closing behind me. “Yes,” I answer. “I’m here to see Phil…. I was here yesterday.”
“Well, what is it regarding, he’s very busy?” says she, like a seasoned brick wall. I weigh up: If I tell her I’m here to sell more stuff to Mr. Rawlings, she might get mad and cancel the first order.
She’s staring up at me waiting for my answer. “Well??” she says.
I’m trying hard to think of a strategic answer. I say to her, “It’s about, about…. The Orion and the Neptune and the Saturn.” I hold my breath.
Now the wife looks like she may not want to ask about the Orion, the Neptune, and the Saturn. Maybe she doesn’t want to make trouble with Mr. Rawlings about machine parts he’s ordering as that’s happened before…..maybe.
She sighs, gets up, walks over to the swinging shop door, and she calls out to Mr. Rawlings, “Hey, there’s a girl here about…” she hesitates, looking at me. I whisper, “The Orion, the Neptune, and the Saturn.” “About the Orion, the Neptune, and the Saturn,” she repeats.
Phil comes through from the shop wiping his hands on an oily rag. “The what?” he says to the Missus.
Oh no, I think. He’s forgotten.
“Oh yeah,” he nods, recognizing me and motioning me to follow…. “those nice paperweights!”
Mrs. Rawling’s rolls her eyes. “Wait, what do you mean, those nice
Mr. Rawlings starts to explain, “Calm down, I’m only getting a few of these paperweights…the O-…….” He looks to me for help.
I say, “The Orion, the Neptune, and the Saturn.”
“Right,” he says. “The Orion, the Neptune, and the Saturn. Come on back.”
A few minutes later, order in hand, I say, “Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings, for being my first customer ever!” They smile. Now I want to stay and chat for awhile. They feel like an aunt and uncle to me. But then, Mrs. Rawlings answers the phone and Mr. Rawlings goes into the shop.
By the end of day number two out on the “turf,” I am utterly exhausted. All of us trainees are. Now I’m scheming on how I might squeeze an extra fifteen minutes of sleep in the morning.
At 7:00 am, having gratefully slept in for a precious fifteen minutes extra, I slide out of bed fully dressed in my suit and pantyhose, rested but wrinkled.
My roommates gawk at me, but then they get it! They’ll “sleep-in” fully dressed too! We’ll ALL sleep-in fully dressed! Might as well put on make-up at bedtime too!
That’s a total of twenty extra “sleep-in” minutes… times six of us!!!
Refreshed and upbeat, I think, today I’ll head out to drop in on Morgan Tooling, Gluck Tooling, Vincent Tooling, Alejandra Tooling, and, just maybe, I’ll try ‘Rex Ammonia Bottling’ after all.