Tuesday, February 1, 2005

There but for the grace of Prozac...

This has been the kind of day that, some years ago, would have had me curled up in a corner wondering whether life was worth living.

As part of Aflac Sales School, we had to go out and visit 15 businesses face to face that we had researched over the weekend with the goal of SCHEDULING AN APPOINTMENT for next week. That's it. We didn't have to sell anything but ourselves.

I started the day getting ready, organizing my list, making coffee, doing my blog entry and walking Nestle (that took from 6:30 to 7:30). Before I put on my suit, I went to neatly trim my beard and accidentally took too much off one side. So, of course, while trimming the other side to balance, I took off too much of the other side. By the time I was done I was left with just a mustache (Elly really likes the beard...she's going to be disappointed.)

Following that debacle, I put on my suit and tie, grabbed my appointment calendar, cards, a pen, etc., and left Nestle to his own devices.

During the course of the day I visited 20...not 15... businesses. Guess how many appointments I got?

Right. None.

What I learned today was how to handle rejection and keep smiling.

I should have known the day would turn out like this after the first visit. It was an Interior Design and furniture company called "About Interiors". According to my research it had between 5 and 9 employees and was owned by one Dawn Patrick. I never got to meet Dawn. Her office manager... the gatekeeper... would only let me see her if I explained exactly what Aflac was selling. Telling her we sold "sensible employee enhancement programs that build loyalty to your organization" - the script we were given to kick off with - didn't cut it. "You mean EMPLOYEE BENEFITS!" said Joanna, he gatekeeper. "Dawn has never given employee benefits and never will."

Without me mentioning benefits, insurance, or any of the key words we were taught to stay away from, Joanna was insistent. Either I left her with a pile of papers so Dawn, who was too busy to give me 1 minute much less the 19 minutes for a presentation in the future that I was trying to schedule, or I could kiss it off now. I tried the two or three answers we were given, but it didn't satisfy the gatekeeper. Finally, I realized that I couldn't get any farther. Even if I had something more than a business card to leave with her, it would not be enough.

As I left, Joanna walked out the door and lit up a cigarette. Now, this was a woman who had been smoking for at least 40 years, so I tried one last pitch: "What happens in your company if someone comes down with cancer and can't work? Who pays the rent? Who makes the car payment? How do you get past the health plan deductible?"

Joanna told me she didn't have a health plan...it would cost her $500 a month and she couldn't afford it. Anyway, she was hoping cancer would just kill her anyway and it was none of my business.

I tried to explain that with Aflac, we could set her up with coverage against cancer for pennies a day that would protect her income and lifestyle when the cigarettes finally got to her.

She didn't budge. Here was a woman with a death wish who was going to stand her ground no matter what.

I went on to 19 more failed prospects (three of whom had Aflac already, so I replaced them on my list...that's why I got to 20;
2 of whom gave me an "I see an Aflac guy every goddam week and I'm sick of the duck...get out", at least one where the office had closed and one where the company had moved and I couldn't find an address, two whose HR person was out that I got cards from and callback times, and one lovely woman who does want to have Aflac but is involved in moving her day spa
and won't see me until April - when she made it clear that she wanted me to bring a duck for her grandchild.)

I even tried to get in to see my Dentist, Dr McCarl, whose practice with 10 or so employees (mostly family) has seen me frequently over the past couple of years (I paid at least a semester or two for his kid to go to Cornell.) His gatekeeper said that Dr. McCarl was with a patient but certainly would call me to schedule a time later in the day. He didn't. I called back and still wasn't able to get him. I may cancel my March appointment and find another dentist.

I got home around 4:00 PM and fed Nestle.

Here I am, beardless, without an appointment (I guess I failed the assignment) and wondering about my future. If anyone out there is listening... I need some cheering up.

And there's Sales School tomorrow!

PS: in honor of the start of black history month, the poster that Eartha Kitt autographed for me when I did her poster designs and web site for a production of "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" that she did in Chicago a few years ago, got bumped by my laundry basket as I was coming downstairs this evening and fell on my head. "To Bill - Love it... Eartha Kitt" is what she wrote on it. That, coming from the performer Orson Welles called "The most exciting woman in the world", and 2 Prozac left me feeling much better.
e-mail me at btchakir@mac.com
I appreciate comments and suggestions.