Danny looked out the car window. It was snowing, not uncommon in Aberdeen during the winter but that didn’t stop Danny looking as if he was surprised.
As door-to-door promoters of a book club we were used to working in all weathers. A good barometer of a salesperson’s attitude was how affected they were by external factors; factors they couldn’t control, such as the weather. If the attitude was low, then these external factors would unduly influence the salesperson’s performance. If the attitude was high, then something like the weather would not hold them back. The trick as a manager was to keep the emphasis on the internal factors, factors they could control; skill, experience, ability, determination.
Sure, walking around in the snow as a door-to-door salesman, with every snow flake seemingly hitting your face with the force of a slamming door, would challenge the best. Then again, the best like to be challenged.
As Team Leader, and driver, it was my job to plan territory, make sure we did not knock on the same doors more than every six months etc. I turned to Danny who was still sitting in back seat beside Pat and Peter.
Raymond was still feigning sleep in the passenger seat, hoping it would mean he was last man dropped off.
“Righto, Danny. This is where you get out. Pick you up in two hours.”
“You’re kidding, right? It’s snowing!”
“So... your plan is... what? Sit in the car until it goes off? It’s Aberdeen!
We could be sitting here until March. How will that pay your rent?”
We were on commission only. No sales, no pay. No work, no sales. It wasn’t rocket science.
“Your territory planning is rubbish, Bob. We should be working in flats today.”
“Oh, Danny, I don’t care what kind of shoes you wear.”
“Very funny. You know I mean flats, you know, like wee houses one on top of the other.”
“Let’s think that one through. What flats should we work today?”
He mentioned an area in the city with high rise blocks.
“We worked there when it snowed last week, Danny. You think they want to see us again this week?”
He mentioned another area.
“We worked it a month ago.”
He mentioned every high rise area in just about a 50 mile radius, all of which had been worked within the last three months. It’s a long winter in Aberdeen. I reminded him that he’d used the old “Let’s work in flats” gag during the unusually hot summer, claiming he’d get skin cancer working out in the open.
“Well, I’m not working here, Bob. It’s crazy. Look! It’s a blizzard! I’ll get buried in it! All that will be left when you lot eventually find me will be a skeleton!”
“A skeleton with no sales. So, you can’t work in the heat, in the cold, in the sun, in the rain, or in the snow. Danny, there’s only about three days a year you can work. Keep this up and you’ll be a skeleton right enough. Then Pat, sitting next to Danny, stirred and wiped the sleep from his eye.
“Out the way, Danny. I’m getting out.”
“You bloody scab! I was just about to change Bob’s mind.”
“Err... no you weren’t. Now, let Pat out. Might as well let those who want to earn, earn.”
Danny mumbled obscenities under his breath and got out the car.
“It’s f****g freezing!” he whined.
“Aye,” said Pat, getting out behind him. “Who’d of thought snow was cold, eh?”
“What’s made you so brave?” Danny asked, adding, “You’ll be walking the streets for two hours in the Arctic.”
“’I’m not planning to walk any streets. I’m planning to get into houses.”
“How the hell will you get into houses looking like the abominable snowman.”
Pat lost patience. “Danny! The only thing abominable is your attitude. Jesus. Someone shut him up before he spreads the Neggies (negative vibes). Don’t worry about me anyway. Somehow I think I’ll impress the prospects (prospective customers) more than the snow!”
Danny, knowing deep down Pat was right, needed a face-saver. “That’s called arrogance, Pat.”
“No, it’s called selling!” Pat replied.
There was a moment’s silence. Then Danny reached into the car and got his winter jacket, which he’d been using as a pillow, and put it on. “This is my territory, Pat. Bob said so. Get back in the car.”
Danny was not above making peace after making war. He leaned in to the car, picked up his sales presenter and winked at us. “I’m going out. I may be some time.”
He walked off and sure enough within about 10 seconds we’d lost sight of him in the blizzard. Pat got back in. I turned to him.
“Well done, Pat. I take it you want dropped off next?”
“Are you kidding! It’s f****g freezing. To the flats, boss!”
We laughed so much we “woke” Raymond up. I dropped Pat off a few streets from Danny. As he got out the car, he did his morning routine checklist, making sure he had everything:
“Pen, Membership Forms, Brochure, Comb, Chewing gum, Sales skills, Impish charm, Good Looks, Immeasurable talent...”
He walked off into the snow. But, when our salespeople had everything they needed, mentally, they glowed in the white.
Bob Smith has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer and motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.