I am a great salesman.
Up to a point.
I just don’t have that one over-the-top-closing pitch to clinch a sale. I think there is a great divide between good salespeople and great sales closers. I know I sound like a bite from Glengarry Glen Ross (awesome movie) but its true. There is a place where closers dare go that is a price I just don’t want to pay. At some point, you must be willing to subjugate your sense of right and wrong and you need to bury any semblance of a conscious or concern for your fellow man.
I just don’t feel any sale is worth that.
So, I only got so far in sales, but I’ve always slept pretty soundly at night, so I got that going for me.
What I do like about being in the sales arena is the instant barometer of your success. You either close and make money or spin your wheels and contemplate another job that doesn’t slowly erode your spirit and desire to exist.
I wanted to keep my spirit intact.
That is why I left employment with a New York stock brokerage company in the early eighties. Of course they started me on phones and cold calls to start to build a client base. I actually did quite well in my initial attempts, especially if I could get them talking and engaging with me. They were all just nameless numbers in a book.
Not real people.
My prospects seemed bright as I set up school districts with 401k plans and earned a nice little residual income stream. I did almost all of my legwork over the phone (wow, portable phones you could actually take with you!) and I liked the job a lot.
When it came to face-to-face meetings, I was a big flop.
I made an appointment with Don and Sharon, a couple married for 60 years. They were in the process of selling their farm of 3000 acres and I was trying to convince the couple to invest some of the proceeds in a high-yield fast (relatively fast)-turnaround fund deal. The numbers were all there in black and white.
This was a slam-dunk done deal as far as sales go.
Shooting fish in a barrel.
As we chatted around the circa-50’s coffee table eating a slice of Sharon’s crazy-good caramel-apple cobbler, I was enjoying being in the company of such fine, honest people.
I turned down Sharon’s offer of a refill and stacked my papers in front of me. Truth be told, I was feeling kind of cocky.
As I was getting ready to place the contract before Don, Sharon hit me with a question.
“Mark, would you recommend this investment if it were your parents?”
Slam dunk indeed.
No fish in the barrel.
I silently placed my papers back in the manilla folder and turned to the couple.
“I would not make this investment at this stage in your lives. You will want more access to your funds for the things that you have said are important to you. It might be too long until your gain is realized and like all investments, you run the risk of losing your funds. I am truly sorry I wasted your time on this tonight, but I was under great pressure to have you sign the contract.” It was both embarrassing and cathartic.
I got up from the table and Don smiled and silently extended his rough hand.
As I left, I walked down the front steps and heard Sharon’s voice behind me.
“Mark, your parents would be proud of you.”
I lost the job.