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February 1999: "I RESIGN!"
Why can't good telesales people stay at the job?
I'm sure you read Decembers Dealers Diary on page 36 of the Indie. This is a carefully worded response to Sparks question about distribution contacts and their migratory habits. In common with everyone except gynaecologists, every job I've done has had both an up side and a down. I like to think of it as the jobs 'Clash' rating after the band of the same name, because it's a question of "should I stay or should I go?" For example:
A long time ago I sold PCs and 'macs for Ryman the Stationers, where the good side was meeting and working with my beautiful girlfriend, Judith. The downside was a Manageress who was a Nazi Bitch Queen from Hell. After nine months the cons had outweighed the pros and so I resigned. And it's just as well, or I'd still be there, selling calculators and mobile 'phones and putting up with a continuous steaming river of bullshit for £11k p.a.
Later I had a job in telesales, a bit like the one I've got now. On the up side I enjoyed the work, had a great relationship with customers and colleagues and earned reasonable money. Without blowing my own trumpet too much, I was doing what I'm good at, being a proactive, friendly, well informed, accurate and entertaining account manager. On the down side, the beverage machine sometimes ran out of Diet Coke™ and the sandwich van was often late. Result: Happiness. However… I failed to hit target for a couple of months, which ain't good. Had I lost my silky sales skills or were there other factors at play? Had our move of warehouse lost me some local business? Had a serious lack of stock suppressed my sales figures? Had a change of management dented my confidence in the future of the company? Had an unfeasible sales target caused a crisis of motivation? I thought so. It was a fateful day when I walked into that office, explained the reasons why I was having a problem hitting my figures and asked for a little bit of help. It wasn't forthcoming. Call me crazy but I need some enthusiasm to do the job. That enthusiasm can be bought with a nice pay cheque at the end of the month or by doing satisfying and enjoyable work, better still both. Perhaps I'm greedy (a bad thing in a salesman?) because I wasn't doing the job for my basic, I was doing it for the commission, and I like to think targets are meant to be aimed for and with hard work reached. Being bottom of the '% of target' pile wasn't doing anything good for my professional pride either. The Clash rating looked shaky, so I quickly evaluated my position. I wasn't going to earn any bonus for a bit and I'd stopped enjoying myself. IT jobs in the south -east aren't hard to come by for someone with my experience, as reflected by the number of customers who'd playfully tried to head-hunt me. I had a big, fat bank account, which from a height looked remarkably like a safety net… Then I realised sometimes it's the devil you don't know that's the more attractive prospect.
So in my best Prisoner voice, I resigned.
Not without regret though. I would miss my colleagues and customers (who I'd like to thank for their kind words of support), people I regard as friends. I didn't like doing it. I don't enjoy disruption and hassle. I'm a fighter, not a quitter, but some fights you win by walking away from them. As one cliché closes another opens and a world of opportunities awaited me as I drove home. Once there, I was gassed by some undertakers and awoke in a strange world where no one would make eye contact, or talk to me, a bit like a Tiny store. I was chased by a giant white ball and everyone referred to me by my direct-dial 'phone number. But it wasn't real. I wasn't a number anymore, I was a free man! The next morning I vowed to cut hallucinogenic drugs right out of my diet. Later that same day I'd done two interviews and had two firm job offers, and I hadn't even had a chance to re-type my CV. So here's your answer to why your sales contacts change so often. The bad ones are killed and eaten, which is fair enough. The good ones make it look easy which can be a two edged sword. The core problem, as I see it, is if you think it's prices or brand names that sell IT products perhaps you're forgetting that it's sales people that sell them.
My advice to satisfied retailers is if your distribution contact is darn good and you want to keep them, don't be shy, tell them. Then write to (or e-mail) their guv'nor, just to let them know why their firm is getting your valuable business. Everyone likes a pat on the back and so will smile and be happy and you'll get a nice warm feeling inside. The tangible benefit is when your contact loves you they'll be less inclined to screw you on price, proving that a little appreciation goes a long way in this cynical business. To fellow account managers I say loyalty to your firm is important because you're being trusted with valuable customers. Stick it out through the hard times with a smile and a laugh and all the world will be yours. If you're good, you'll inevitably climb the ladder of success, which is usually A Good Thing. However don't be blind to opportunities beyond your current employer because maybe grass that looks greener actually is. If you realise you've got more in common with Gynaecologists than you thought, because you're both working with a bunch of [word removed on legal advice] then don't put up with it. Quality of life is everything and job satisfaction, as well as remuneration, has a part to play.
Next Month: Back to light-hearted japes and fluffy whimsy a subject close to retailers hearts…. Retailers spleens.
Paul 'happy bunny' Smith is a Business Development Manager. No, really.
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