Redemption of a Salesman

by Seymour Kuperman

Mr. Storm, who are you? How long have you been in business? Have you references?

I answered her questions in such a way as to give her confidence in my company and myself. I closed my book of references, and mused, What exactly did you have in mind for your new addition?

Her voice modulated higher and in a snooty tone she said, You tell me, youre the expert!

When she said that, I took control. I didn't like her remark, so I answered back with a flurry of ideas, Let's put the addition in the rear of the house, size to be thirty by fourteen feet with a bank of windows on both sides and front. We can also install new aluminum triple track windows, Then I said, What do you think?

I usually ask that to gauge their feelings.

She paused, then said evasively, I see. And what would you do about the floor?

We could install a new Armstrong tile floor with the latest colors, cream and sea-foam green, in a checkerboard design. What do you think, Mrs. Sullivan?

She remarked coyly, I suppose., which led me to believe she didn't want to appear to be an easy mark, and was just following the protocol of her snooty peers. I was beside myself. I really needed this job. My wife was pregnant, my doctor was hounding me for money, and to top it off, I was about to lose my job if I didn't sell this one. I knew no one had ever signed a contract standing up, so I asked, Do you have a place where we can sit?

Let's go to the kitchen. she replied.

As we sat down, she said, Isn't this much better?

I nodded my head in agreement and was ready to get down to business. I was desperate to make this sale. My wife was having a baby, the doctor was hounding me for money and my boss was about ready to let me go. I felt another disappointment would break me. We continued our act with her trying to evade the sale while I tried to make it. This was it, I pushed for the close. I told her I would give her a written guarantee for two years on the labor and materials, and that we were bonded and insured. These were all the things a homeowner wanted to hear, but all I was getting were evasive excuses for not entering into contract.

Finally, she gave me a serious look and said, How much are you going to charge me?

I said, With drawings, labor, and material; thirty five hundred.

Her face showed no emotion and she said, Ill think it over and let you know.

When the customer makes that statement, it usually means they won't let you know. I didn't want to create anymore resistance, even though I wasn't particularly fond of her. I wanted to build a legacy for future salesmen. A legacy of being polite, rather than rude or pushy. I always wanted to leave the estimate in a way that it will be remembered as a happy one. I gently closed my briefcase so she wouldn't notice my heartbreak and disappointment.

As I walked toward the front door, with a half-baked smile I said, Guess I'll be leaving.

She called out, Thank you, Mr. Storm. It's been a pleasure.

I slumped into my car and began the long ride home. I didn't know how much more I could take. With one disappointment after another, I was at my lowest. I once had a job as a radio announcer, but that didn't work out as the owner had said I slurred some of my words and the advertisers wanted me to go. I had sold cars for a living but the company went broke shortly after I started. And then, just

when I thought I was going to make it big in the construction business, that was slowly slipping away. Shattered by disappointment, my only consolation was being reminded what my old mentor Sheff would tell me. He would say, The life a salesman is a life of hardship and disappointment. And in order to rise above it, you must fill it up with faith and hope. At the end of every disappointment when man is at his lowest, an unseen force intercepts and brings forth a seed of a better opportunity.

Little did I know, when I got home, a chain of events would unfold that would loose the gods of luck from their bindings.

It was approximately four in the afternoon when I arrived home. As I opened the door, I knew I would have to look into my wife's eyes and tell her all my excuses, starting with, She just wasn't ready to make a decision., She just needs to get another estimate., or She needs to think it over and let me

know.. As I said that, I knew she had heard it all before. Sympathetically, she looked at me and said, I know, I understand.

Just then, the phone rang. I was in no hurry to answer it because the calls I usually get are from people who are trying to sell me something. Hesitantly, I picked up the receiver and said, hello?, and I heard a womans voice that sounded slightly familiar say, Is this the construction company?

Yes, it is. I replied.

There was a slight pause.

Do you folks do room additions? she asked.

Yes we do, and your name?

Eh.. ah.. why... my name is Mrs. Sullivan, can you send one of your men over to give me an estimate?

Sure, have you had any other estimates yet?

Yes, I've had one already. she said.

That's fine, I said. What is your address?

904 Mayfield St. At that moment I knew for sure this was the same Mrs. Sullivan I had just given an estimate to.

I asked, Would seven this evening be okay?

That is fine. See you then. she said.

I hung up the phone and thought, This is really strange

I called out to my wife, Sue..would you believe that was the same lady I just saw for an estimate this afternoon?

I wasn't that puzzled because its quite common for customers who are looking for a contractor to go into a sort of frenzy, taking several names and numbers of contractors from the yellow pages. After making a few calls to contractors without a great response, the customer becomes frustrated because some contractors won't return their calls or answer the phone, some appointments are set, and the whole situation of names and phone numbers becomes a confusing blur. I was under the assumption, this is what happened to Mrs. Sullivan.

I realized that at the time, I couldn't sell Mrs. Sullivan because she was not in the state of buyers readiness. That is the moment when the tone of their voice becomes monotone, direct, and serious. Their facial features become firm and their body gestures become rigid, as if they were under a hypnotic spell. Many thoughts raced through my mind and I was conflicted. I felt a small amount of hope, intermingled with excitement and guilt. But I reasoned, Why should I feel guilty? After all, what was the fault in going back there again?. Mrs. Sullivan thought it was okay to steal my time, pick my brain, and then take away my self-esteem. Surely what was the harm in returning, dressed in a different attire. I deduced my well-manicured beard, suite, and tie gave her the impression I was a dandy and sparked the illusion that I would be higher priced than my competitors. Mind you, it was only an illusion. I thought about Sheff, and how he said, Selling is only an act. and now, I was about to put on the performance of my life.

Sue, where are the old work uniforms I wore when I was a carpenter? I asked my wife

I'm not sure Dan, they might be in the closet downstairs next to the bathroom!

Everything was in place for my estimate. I had mapped out every detail. I would arrive clean shaven, wearing my khaki- brown work uniform and my clipboard. Like every good actor, I chose my props carefully. I needed redemption! I put my folding ruler in my back pocket, jumped into my wife's station wagon and drove toward my second debut. I parked my station wagon in front of Mrs. Sullivans house. It was getting dark and I wondered if she would remember me. God! If she did, it sure would be embarrassing. I decided I wouldnt mention my companys name unless she mentioned it. I surmised it didn't mean that much to her anyway because she hadn't remembered it the first time. I would tell her my name is Don, as it was not too different from my real name. As I approached the front door, Mrs. Sullivan was standing there with a look of anticipation.

Before she could speak, I nervously blurted out, Hi, Mrs. Sullivan. Don from Ability, you called for an estimate. What can I do for you?

Well... first, I would like to thank you for showing up on such short notice and I really am interested in getting a room addition built. she replied, cheerfully.

Sounds good to me. I said.

As we stood there, I noticed she was wearing a pair of eye glasses tied to a chain around her neck. She put them on to the bridge of her nose and looked at me as though she was inspecting a piece of meat loaf. I felt uneasy, gently moving away to keep a comfortable distance between us. Does she remember me?, I wondered. I was apprehensive and needed assurance from her. Just then, in an inquisitive kind of way, I heard her ask, Do you do the work yourself?

Well.., I replied. I do some of the work but you do understand, it's a large job and will require many men.

Oh, yes. she replied.

I knew at that moment she had fallen for my work uniform routine and hadn't recognize me. At least, that is what I was hoping for. She asked the same questions as before, such as how many men will be working, references,etc. This time I felt her leaning toward me.

Then she asked in a straight forward tone, How much will it cost?

Four thousand dollars, material and labor, I said in a confident and deliberate tone.

Actually, it was five hundred more than I previously told her. This was to cement the illusion that I was truly from a different company. I realized she wasn't buying on price but on the perception that it was a fair price because a working man wasn't out to high-bind her.

How soon can you start? she asked.

So as to not appear too anxious, I responded in a deliberate voice, Give us four weeks.

She paused, and I waited for the state of buyers readiness to work its magic.

Don, she said. What do you need from me?

When she made that statement, I felt a sense of hope surge within me. I longed for the chance to redeem myself. I had felt that one more blow of failure would bring me to my breaking point and so I pushed for the close. I handed the contract to her and told her to sign at the bottom next to my signature. She took the pen from my hand and asked, Right here?

Yes, right there. I replied.

A confluence of emotions took hold in my mind. I felt as if I was reborn. My confidence soared and I felt as though I had been vindicated. I gave a copy of the contract to Mrs. Sullivan and returned the original copy to my clipboard. It was time for me to leave because I knew if I tarried, buyers remorse could set in and alter the course of events forever. I thanked her and said my good-byes. I couldn't wait to get home. I was unwinding and once more I was the salesman Sheff taught me to be. I could pay off my bills and keep my job. The human mind will always rationalize the chain of events that occurred were of his own doing; and I was convinced it was my change of persona that sold the job.

Once home, I was anxious to tell my wife what happened. But as I opened the door, the phone rang. I held the receiver to my ear and said, Hello?

The voice on the other end answered, Hello Dan, its Sheff. How did you do on the estimate?

Youre not going to believe this Sheff, its crazy! I went there the first time and couldnt sell Mrs. Sullivan because I was wearing a suit and tie. When I got home she called me, but didn't know it was me who gave her the estimate before. I think she became confused because she called so many contractors. Anyway, I shaved off my beard and changed into an old work uniform, then went back and sold her! What do you think about that? I said, happily.

Well kid, remember what I always told you. The world is but a stage and we are all actors upon it. By the way, haven't you ever heard of good old fashioned luck?!

                                    This is a true story

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