March '04

Derek Murphy Ultimate Fearless
David Gianatasio Smile
Savannah Schroll Showmanship
Dianne McKnight How To Train Mules
John Leafey The Field

The Field

            John Leafey

The more houses you see, the more you’ll sell. That’s what they told us from the get go. It was all about numbers. They emphasized, right from the beginning, that there would be a lot of rejection. And there was. Nine out of ten people will say no, that’s a given. Don’t stand there and argue. Don’t beg or plead your case. Some will be hesitant and those are who you talk to, those are buying signals, otherwise just move on. Say thank you and try again at the next house.

I showed up for an ad that said “Training for Account Managers.” It was pretty simple – I had called and they just told me when and where to show up; would give me no other details – but I needed some money. Eight of us sat in a nondescript room in a building that could be any other building and filled out forms. Finally, a bunch of guys came out of some back room dressed like they had just watched Boiler Room and thought they were heading to Wall Street. Eight of the fifteen or so pointed at a different one of us, sitting there dressed like we were going to a department store interview, and said “you’re with me,” like we were picking teams.

We strutted out to the parking lot and I was told to hop in the backseat of Evan’s car as Ryan – he who’d picked me – got into the passenger side. For the next half hour Ryan quizzed me and spouted stats and numbers that had been fed to him who knows how long before – “what do you think the best form of marketing is?” “we work with 90% of the top companies in the country” “in eight months you can be making six figures.” – while Evan blew smoke out his window. It all seemed rehearsed and barely less vague than the classified ad, spruced up with lots of numbers and the namedropping of big companies to draw me in.

Finally, we got to our destination. Evan parked at the end of a block in the middle of suburbia and Ryan grabbed his briefcase. We split up and I was told I was just there to follow Ryan and observe. On our way to the first house, Ryan pulled a piece of paper out of his brief, “these are what we are offering. Check them out. They are a great deal.” It was ten coupons for buy one pizza get one free. For $20. I looked at him with my “are you serious” face. “I know, a pretty good deal huh?” he answered. These guys talked like Gordon Gekko and we were selling coupons door to door. Except they never said “selling.” Or “door to door.” And this was “the field.”

I walked around all day, watching Ryan try to sell these coupons to people in between bestowing on me his pearls of wisdom and energetic motivational sayings. “You gotta follow the ABC’s. Always be closing,” he’d say after turning someone’s “not right now” into a “let me go get my check book.” He seriously said that; I can’t overemphasize my feeling of Hollywood stock market cliché. After selling three to one mom: “Oh man, that was totally juice.” “Juice?” “Yeah. It’s an anagram. Join Us In Creating Excellence. But we just say it all the time. It’ll catch on. Juice, that’s juice.” I wanted to laugh at him.

We met back up with Evan at noon by the car and started heading to the local fast food joints.

“How’d you guys do?” Evan asked, lighting up again.

“We kicked ass man. Four already.” Ryan answered, grabbing Evan’s lighter and cracking his window.

“Shit. That’s awesome. Total juicec. I got a couple.”

“Juice man. That’s good for before lunch. It’s all about after lunch anyway.”

“Yeah, I’m happy. I’m totally just out there with a good attitude.”

“Good, good. Hey, pull in here. At this Panda Panda. Mmmmm, some orange chicken sounds good.”

Over lunch Ryan took me aside and outlined it in his notebook for me. “You’ll be out in the field for 3-6 months. You get $10 from every card you sell. After that you’ll be an Assistant Project Manager, like me, and take people out training. That’s what is fun for me. Being out here with someone. So, that’s an incentive. And you get $2 for every card one of your guys sells. You build a team and then after eight to ten months, you are in the office. Pretty sweet huh. It’s not like a pyramid though. You’re building a team of good guys to help you out and trying to get them up to where you are.”

All I could think was: if you have to say you are not a pyramid, then it is a pyramid. A variation of what I had learned earlier in the day: if you keep telling me you aren’t a salesperson, then you are.

After lunch we went back out to the field. We circled the same neighborhood we had been in in the morning two, three, four more times, making notes of which houses we had already talked to someone at, which ones had had no one home, who had told us to maybe come back later. At the end of the day we had sold 15. A great day, Ryan told me. Again, we met up with Evan and made our way back to the office. He was in bad spirits because he had only sold nine.

“Ten is kinda the goal,” Ryan told me, loosening his seat belt and turning around in his seat. “If you get ten you get to ring the bell. If you get fifteen, you get to ring the bigger bell. A cool little way of letting everyone know you are juice.”

I laughed.

“Which means we get to ring the big bell. Hell yeah!” Ryan put his hand in the air for me to give him a high five. “So, we’ll go in, ring the bell, then you’ll have to wait in the lobby again and I’ll talk to Ken. I’ll tell him you’re a good guy and that I’d like to have you on my team. Then he’ll call you in, you’ll make your case for why he should hire you, and he’ll make his decision. Then, hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The entire drive back, I thought about how earnestly I wanted to make my case. I thought about the macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles I had eaten for too many days in a row. I thought about how, underneath the bullshit cool, Ryan seemed like an alright guy. How it didn’t seem so bad. I could sell ten and make a hundred bucks a day. And in less than a year I’d be in the office all day, going home at 3 and making six figures. It DID seem like a pretty sweet deal.

Walking down the hallway we heard someone ringing a bell and cheering behind closed doors. We walked in, didn’t talk to anyone, and Ryan picked up the large bell and handed me a metal stick to gong it with. I reeled my arm back, looked over at him and said “This is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever done.”

John Leafey loves basketball but really isn't any good at it. He's always down for a game of horse, but will likely lose despite his ability to make ridiculously long shots with somewhat regularity.