This is the death of a salesman, in real life.

The great thing about selling stuff for a living is this: When you've been doing it a long time, your customers will call you when they want some more of whatever it is you're selling. And, if they like you, they will tell their friends and relatives to call you when they mention the need for the stuff you sell. This is based on a trust which takes years and years to accrue.

In order to accrue that trust, you have to survive all the twists and turns of fate in order to remain in the same place, selling the same thing. This can mean having to deal with some very peculiar folks, at times, who come and go in the Home Office. It can mean having to train several so-called "supervisors" over the years in the fine art of leaving you the hell alone. It also requires the luck which you must hold onto that your Company is wise enough to stay in business. I've seen several great salesmen who had their cushy world come crumbling down due to a PHB somewhere whose incompetence brought the whole Company down. Then they have to start all over. Years of good faith, wasted.

I had a friend here in town who was the regional sales dude for Stroh's Beer. I used to love Stroh's Beer. Every time I would run out of Stroh's Beer, this guy would drive his car up in my garage and unload ten cases. He would charge me the wholesale cost, which was under $100 for those ten cases of 30 beers each. You math geeks can figure out that beer was costing me about half of what a coke costs. One day, my friend woke up and Stroh's no longer existed, due to very bad management in Detroit. He had spent 20 years of hard work building up that cushy deal he had, and it was all farted away by a PHB somewhere whom he never even met. (Damn, I miss seeing his car pull up in my garage with that Stroh's beer when I run out. Now I actually have to drive to the store and then carry the beer out to my car, and then bring it home and unload it in my garage. And it's not even Stroh's beer. It's just a travesty.)

But, back to the subject at hand. When that guy started his job with Stroh's, just like when I started my job, and just like when any salesperson starts their job, he had to make cold calls. There's no way around it, if you plan on making a living selling stuff. If there were people out there calling the Home Office on the phone, wanting the stuff, there would be no need to hire folks to sell it. It's the salesperson who has to get on the phone and call folks, or get in a car and go talk to folks. And when you're starting out, it's pretty damn tough. You don't have a client base. You have to build a client base, and that means starting out from scratch, usually. You might have been born into a family of salesfolks who will pass on their clients when they retire, but that's rare. You might buy a bunch of clients from someone, but that's costly, and also rare. You can't really buy good will.

Do you have any idea how many folks try to break into a sales gig and fail? (I'm talking about what they call outside sales, not working at Radio Shack or Sears.) I don't know the actual percentages, but I know that it's very, very high. I would suspect that it's less than 10% who manage to tough it out past their draw. I know I meet folks all the time who tell me this: "I did what you do for (six months, one year, two years, etc.), but I just couldn't handle it." I know exactly what they mean. There is one demon which drove them all out: Call reluctance.

You must make calls. You must make a certain number of calls a day. As one guy told me once, "It's just like shaving. If you don't call on -X- number of folks every day, one day soon you wake up and you're a bum." The trick to making these calls every day is not letting it get to you, personally. You have to realize that if they slam the phone in your face, it's not personal. You must reattach that smile to your face and pick up the phone and call the next one. (Did you know that folks can tell whether you're smiling on the other end of a phone call? It's true.)

But here's what happens to so many folks: They start assuming a pattern of negativity. In other words, you have a list of 40 folks to call today. The first 10 not only hang up the phone with a loud slam, but they also insinuate that you love your mother in an unnatural manner. And here is the moment of failure. You mistakenly assume that "it's just not my day," or "maybe I wasn't cut out for this," or some other negative wave vector takes over your mind. So you don't call the rest of the folks on the list.

Every day that you do this, it gets easier and easier, and the guilt you felt that first time gets less and less. Pretty soon, you're thinking of schemes to get someone to pay you to go back to school, or you're putting in applications at retail malls.

But, hey: If it was easy, everyone would be working for themselves, eh?

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