The sound of salesmen

Today was my first day attempting to sell insurance by myself, after I had finished most of my prescription deliveries. I stop at a convenience store to change into my “salesman” shirt, only to realize that the tie I’ve chosen is really, really short. I look like Oliver Hardy.


I start with a pool installer on the main drag. “Hello, is the owner here?” I asked the woman behind the counter.


“The owner’s not here, but how can I help you?” she asks.


“Well, I’m with Aflac and I’m just driving through the neighborhood, and I’d like to talk to you about insurance.”


“Well, thank you, but we’ve already got Aflac with someone else,” she replies.


“Well, great choice!” That’s the cleverest thing I’m going to say all day. “Um, thanks for your time!”


“Good luck!” she says as I lurch out the door. I head for the furniture store next door.


I address the first person I see, a man behind a desk near the back. “Hello, Larry (I’d looked up the owner’s name online… wait, what if this isn’t him?)… er, I’m Dan Bayer and I’m with Aflac. Would you have a few minutes to talk about insurance?” I sputter. I’m sure it comes out smoother than I think, but in my mind I sound like Donald Duck.


Fortunately, the guy I’m talking to actually turns out to be Larry. Unfortunately, he’s not interested in insurance.


“Thanks, but I’ve already got insurance with company X,” he says.


Sales school told us to parry this particular line of defense by comparing our product to the competition, and pointing out where they fall short. I’m thoroughly convinced that what I’m offering is better, but I’m struck dumb. How do I point this out without implying that the guy’s an idiot for choosing an inferior product?


My train of thought derailed, I don’t. “Um, okay… well, thanks for your time”, I mumble, before leaving. I spend the next half-hour moping around one of the antique malls downtown, feeling generally dispirited. I finally decide to go to a restaurant on my list of prospects.


When I get there I sit in the parking lot, psyching myself up. I get out of the car, stride purposely to the door, mentally preparing my pitch, reach for the handle and… nothing. It stays solidly shut. Confused, I look inside to see someone mopping the floor. The place had closed five minutes earlier.


Defeated again, I spot a light industrial facility across the street. I sit in their parking lot for ten minutes, trying to get a grip on what I’m going to say. I’m going to introduce myself, then… what? What if I don’t get a chance to say anything else before being ushered out the door? Before I can figure this out, I get a phone call from a patient who just got home and wants their delivery. Profusely thankful for this chance to avoid more embarrassment, I start the van and pull out of the parking lot.


Actually, it went better than expected, given my pathological fear of dealing with people in positions of authority without a camera, guitar or drink in my hand. Obviously I’m going to have to get over this if I’m going to have any success at all in this field. So I’m going to come up with a better pitch, which I will practice on my housemates, or perhaps Mr. Whiskers.

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