It was training day again. Denzel Washington was nowhere to be seen but who needed him when we had Larry. It was 'classroom' training and we had just sat down. I was new but Larry’s legend was high profile. He’d once been a door-knocker himself, albeit for double glazing, not a book club.
I heard a couple of old hands say that classroom training was all theory and not actual sales training. Plus, they continued, Larry had been parachuted into a senior position without knowing our industry. I heard Western Team Manager Gary complain, “Double glazing is not just another industry – it’s another planet!” Larry heard the grumbles too.
“Guys,” started Larry, “Do you think I got this job because I didn’t know your industry?” No one answered. Larry took that as a green light to continue. “By the way, guys, what is your industry?”
“Books,” said one old school Book Club Stalwart.
“Really? Books? Funny, I thought your industry was ‘selling’, more specifically, door to door selling?”
There was silence. The light was still on green. So, Larry took advantage to squeeze through a few more related ideas. “And, if we are agreed now that our industry is selling, then perhaps you’ll understand why I have become your boss? For instance, anyone here been a Regional Manager before? No? Okay, then I guess seeing as I have, then I’m best qualified for the job? Bear in mind ladies and gentlemen that I’m not here to be humble. I’m here to made this region the best.”
There was a bit of foot-shuffling and half-hearted coughs. But no challenge.
“Now, I have your territory plans here.”
“But,” said Barbara, team manager for South West Scotland, “I haven’t given you one.”
“That’s okay. I created all your territory plans last night.” He then stood up and handed each of the five team managers for Scotland their new territory plans. He’d mapped everything out in post codes, thus dispensing with the green fingers approach that had had grown organically over the last few years under the slightly eccentric leadership of the previous regional manager.
“What was wrong with the old system?” asked Barbara.
“I dunno,” replied Larry.
“Then why are you dispensing with it?”
“Dispensing with it? No, I’m not dispensing with it. I looked for a system and couldn’t find anything like a system operating here. Looking at your territory coverage you all seem to go where the mood takes you. Have of your route cards were made up retrospectively, almost as if you were trying to disguise your movements rather than plan them out in advance. This way, at the very least, I know everyone in my region is working territory methodically.”
A lot of pairs of eyes suddenly directed themselves to the floor when the route cards were mentioned. Route cards had been works of fiction for some time. It was a great unspoken. If you didn’t screw up too much, then no one would look at your route cards too closely.
“Okay, so, you all follow these plans to the letter today and I will buzz around, joining in with all four teams over the next couple of days to give each and every team some field training. I couldn’t help but here how much you prefer that to classroom training.”
One by one the teams shuffled out and Larry shuffled his copies of each of their territory plans. Maybe this guy was from the same planet after all.
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.