The New Man was a human dynamo. His reputation preceded him. He was known as one of the big guns. He’d been around since the company was formed and was pretty much now a trouble shooter, like Mr Wolf in Pulp Fiction. He’d been appointed temporary Regional Sales Manager to our region.
Our region’s previous RSM had been promoted and moved down south. No one in the current staff had been deemed good enough to take over, which immediately demotivated the four Area Managers, each of whom believed they were the obvious pick. A blame game had started as each of these managers, and their most sycophantic acolytes, believed the other team’s performances had shone a poor light on the region as a whole. However, the truth was that each of the teams’ performances were roughly the same. So, a poisonous atmosphere waited to test the man-management skills of the new RSM, who’d been sold to us as someone possessing guru-like wisdom.
The disappointment of not being promoted during the month-long management vacuum was obvious in every negative utterance from the Area Managers who’d been preaching positivity right up until learning of HQ’s decision. This had a knock on effect on their team members who were witnessing something akin to watching their parents fighting as the Area Managers bitched and fought. Obviously, the next thing to suffer were The Figures. The Region was crumbling from the inside out.
We awaited in this desolate landscape for the arrival of the New Man, who was going to be introduced to us by Number Two at a meeting in our Glasgow office. Number Two was referred to as such not just because he was second in command of the UK sales outfit, but also because some of the more cynical Scottish staff thought that he was full of shit. The term ‘Number Two’ was not a reverential one and was usually followed by childish giggles no matter the age of the giggler. Number Two had no idea the term produced such merriment and, thinking it was a measure of respect, often referred to himself as Number Two, a fact that only increased giggling all over Scotland every time a memo signed by him (he put ‘Number Two’ in brackets after his name) arrived through various letterboxes.
The big day arrived. The Area Managers prepared their embittered questions with care as if they were preparing an ambush with poisoned arrows. The New Man stood up without being introduced and stated that the only people who’d still be here in a month were ones he’d personally recommend to HQ. The others would be let go. Anyone who didn’t like it could go now. The poison arrows suddenly seemed useless in the face of this nuclear assault. The big gun had arrived. “Any questions?” There were no questions. “If there are no questions, then there’d better be no grumbling either.” This was the New Man advancing over the territory ceded by the Area Managers, ceded when they chose not to ask questions, which was in effect a retreat. It was the right move.
“Now, if you’re all waiting for me to say something to motivate you, to inspire you, to make you feel wanted, loved, or even just worthwhile well, I’m not convinced that you are any of these things. Five minutes on your own without leadership and your region collapsed from second to tenth. This tells me you were all more interested in something other than The Figures. I’m told some of you think that I think I am a god. Wrong. The Figures are the gods. They matter more than anything. If you’ve got The Figures on your side, I am compelled to listen to you. If you don’t, then you are compelled to listen to me – or walk.”
He certainly had the attention of the meeting although there was no real killer line that made everyone suddenly feel they were on board and going somewhere.
“This meeting is over. Shorter than you thought? That’s because this afternoon you are all back out on sales territory. Area Managers? Give me your territory plans before you go and I’ll follow one team and work with it.”
Two of the Area Managers never worked from formal Territory Plans, despite this being like a book in the company bible. These heretics worked from “green fingers”, like they had all the necessary info in their heads. They simply left the meeting with their teams. Jen was the only AM who did things slightly by the book. She handed in her Territory Plan.
“Looks like you have the pleasure of my company, Jen.”
I was in Jen’s team. The New Man came out with me. We were door to door sales people selling book club membership. It was like a mobile Amazon before the internet. He watched me do one call and then for the next 30 minutes he did all the calls with me watching. This was unheard of. A big gun getting his hands sullied by actually selling. And in front of a sceptical salesman who thought he already knew everything. We were used to being preached to. The New Man was no preacher. He simply performed miracles in front of my eyes, selling memberships like he was shelling peas. He gave me back the sales presenter and gave me one memorable tip.
“Never forget, no matter how unlikely it may seem, EVERY person who answers the door to you is a member already. I know they look like blocks of stone. But your job is to sculpt them into the member they are underneath that stony exterior, to uncover the member in them. That’s what your skill is. Got it?”
I nodded without conviction. “Have you got it!?”
I eventually understood that what he had done, aside from give me a boot up the arse, was to show me that EVERY person was a potential prospect. This immediately increased the odds in my mind. It was a mind trick as much as a sales skill lesson. I felt empowered. And grateful.
The New Man then left me and performed the same miracles in front of the rest of Jen’s team. By the time we got back to the office, we were a car-full of gleaming converts. By the end of the week, the New Man completely dominated the territory. One Area Manager was given notice. Everyone else saw the light. Then, the real sales gods, The Figures, came back on our side.
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.