Big Al usually wanted us to do well. After all, as our sales manager, he received a tidy percentage of whatever sales we achieved under his “tutorage”.
But sometimes us doing well wasn’t on Al’s agenda. He was a Colonel Kurtz-type renegade, pretty much left to his own devices as area manager for the company’s most remote region, Northern Scotland. Al’s methodology often seemed like some deformed mutation, alien from all that the company’s training manual held dear.
For instance, one day, Big Al considered that we’d done our month’s duty by reaching our sales target a week early. Plus, we were way ahead of the second placed team in the UK league and, as such, were easily on course to win places on the annual sale conference held in some sunny climes. That year it was to be Malta.
Raymond, Al’s top performing salesman, was going through a motivated spell. These spells fell upon him without any discernible reason. He could be skint, badly in need of money, but still unmotivated. Or he could be flush with cash, in no immediate need of extra money, but motivated through the roof. When motivated, he loved to adopt a sanctimonious, superior attitude and would invariably start conversations with, “If you were as motivated as me, the whole team would be doing better.” De-motivating others seemed to inspire Raymond.
So, here we were, on the cusp of breaking all sorts of records, and Big Al tells us at lunchtime, after a couple of pints in the pub, “OK, it’s official. We’re off this afternoon.”
Of the four of us who worked for Al, two tipped their pints to Al, saying “cheers” I was a bit put out because I’d been doing well that morning, having signed up four members to the book club we were selling door-to-door in Aberdeen. But, as youngest and newest in the team, I resigned myself to an afternoon of playing pool in a strange pub, wondering who was going to dissuade Big Al from driving home after God knows how many pints. However Raymond, the top performer for the current month, decided to make a stand.
“How come we’ve got the day off, Al?”
"Coz I just said so. Next question.”
“I’m not sure I agree with your decision, Al.”
Al, with pint poised mid-journey to from the table to his mouth, paused, disbelieving. Having recovered from the shock, he gulped down some lager and replaced the glass to the beer mat never, at anytime, taking his eyes off Raymond. Al’s bitter and wounding wit was legendary.
“Your promotion to regional manager.”
“What are you talking about, Al. I’m not regional manager.”
“Oh, are you not? So, that means you still work for me?”
“I work for the company, Al.”
“Aye, when you feel like it, you mean. Correct me if I’m wrong. I had to pretend you went to work last Thursday when you stayed in bed with a hangover?”
Al’s wee web of corruption ensnared you silently, especially at times when you thought he was doing you a favour. But Al didn’t do favours. He just gave you threads of the web to entangle yourself with.
Nevertheless, Raymond was undeterred. “Al, you do what you want. But I’m going to work this afternoon. Don’t worry, I won’t grass you off. Just drop me back into sales territory. Pick me up at the usual time.”
After much debate Al agreed to drop him off. I took the opportunity to join Raymond and incur Al’s wrath too. We only had four brochures and membership forms between us so I assumed four sales were the most we could achieve. Raymond took the odd numbered houses and I took the evens. I quickly gained two new book club members, leaving me without brochures or membership forms, meaning my day was effectively over – or so I thought. I sat on a wall, waiting for Raymond to find me, which he did.
“What are you sitting on your arse for?”
“I’ve no membership forms left. I got two more members.” I was smiling, thinking I was great, and that he’d be impressed.
“People like you make me sick. Giving up just because you’ve no membership forms. By the way, I’ve got another six members since we got dropped off.”
By Bob Smith who 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.