Boosting their sluggish sales
Having wasted time with a string of small-time insurance companies, I finally landed an interview with a major marketer of financial products.
He scanned my resume: “editor… proofreader…life insurance and securities license…outside sales.” That should have impressed him, but he didn’t crack a smile.
“Here’s the good, bad and the ugly with this job: we have the contract with the teacher’s union.” He hesitated. “We need a sales rep at the university at San Bernardino.”
His tone shifted to exasperation. Even with the union endorsement, the school had just a handful of clients and a poor reputation. Only six sales in the last four months. So the pressure was on to find a self-starter—no handholding.
My mind pored over the scenario. “Who do the employees consider to be a financial authority? I blurted out: “Personnel Manager.”
Gracie had been in Human Resources for 14 years. I admired the wine posters on her walls. We were soon chatting about Chardonnays versus reds about tax-sheltered annuities, alumni and campus VIPs.
Turns out, we both spent our early years in San Diego County. Addicted to avocados. Got four leads from her and a promise to send more my way.
That first one was Rick, a biology professor: long, grey beard and easy going. My first-appointment jitters didn’t show through my standard script. He reached for the pen.
So I pulled out the boilerplate contract—oops! No signature page! Without blinking, I drew a line at the bottom of the third page and handed him the pen. He signed, it sailed through payroll.
Next was Frank Shea. His fellow groundskeepers turned to him for financial advice. My father was a landscaper so mowing lawns was the icebreaker.
Once a client, he lined up the other groundskeepers. And if Frank says it’s okay… Guilt by association.
But seminars were a favorite. The second round was typical: a company-sanctioned script filled with reasons to invest, municipal bonds, return rates and more.
Questions punctuated the presentation. I tossed in a joke to lighten them up: “borrow money from pessimists; they don’t expect it back.” Even the hard-nosed deans and tenured professors cracked a smile.
Then came the one-on-ones. The dry data gathering—tax rates, portfolios and such—was woven with their goals, purposes, attitudes. That gave a more accurate retirement picture when it was translated into graphs and income projections.
Rick the biologist had no surprises; he just wanted a worry-free retirement. Ironically, Dr. Shahad, an economics professor, was still working on balancing his checkbook, so we cracked open his ledger over coffee and cleaned it up.
Given the gravity of the situation, Dennis wanted every detail of my every move in my weekly reports; contacts, referrals, conversations. He was anxious to know what worked. He was always nervous.
So 10 am every Monday he got my weekly report in a different style of writing; whimsical, or academic, newspaper headline after that.
Six months and several managers later, my company had 83 new clients and tripled their monthly income.