EXCERPT: “BIRTH OF A SALESMAN” beginning of the sales day

THIS EXCERPT, from “Birth of a Salesman”, begins the sales day in Greenfield, Minnesota’s ABM marketing office and introduces several key characters of the story’s plot. Enjoy.

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© 2010, Carson V. Heady

Copyright notice: All work contained within is the sole copyright of its author, 2010, and may not be reproduced without consent.
World Audience (www.worldaudience.org) is a global consortium of artists and writers, producing quality books and the journal audience, and The audience Review. Our periodicals and books are edited by M. Stefan Strozier and assistant editors.

This book is a work of fiction and any similarities between real groups, corporations or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

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Vincent’s present day situation had him governing a marketing office for ABM’s business and public relations bureau in Greenfield, Minnesota. It is Monday, November 30, 2009, and he is headed to work for what is to be a pivotal day: the last day of the month and culmination of a huge ethics investigation of his current supervisor, Keith Dickhauser.
The drive to the Greenfield office was not all that bad in the wee hours of the day. Vincent made it a habit to get to work around 6:30 or 7 each morning, double-fisting a 24-ounce black coffee and 44-ounce Diet Coke. He was not a morning person but that lethal combination could instill energy into a corpse. And the early hour meant little-to-no traffic as Vincent had little patience for it.
At 8 every morning, Vincent kicked off the day with a manager meeting. He used them to tout the prior day’s successes and follies and capitalize on the strategies for the day to come. Any time prior was spent getting work done in peace. When he is on the sales floor he is chased like a member of the Beatles; managers, reps, clerks alike ask him questions, seek his guidance on a number of items or just attempt small talk or flirtation with him. Before 8, none of these rampant distractions exist, hence his early arrival for the proverbial worm.
A common mistake in management is underestimating the power you have in impacting the masses. Vincent has realized his power, uses it and thrives on it. He needs them and they need him; they are certainly affected by his energy and enthusiasm.
Vincent pulls into the dimly lit lot and heads to his parking spot. At this hour, the lot is barren. The next to arrive will be Scott Kinsey, the man responsible for the clerical and commission processes. He is another early riser, often compiling 60 work hours a given week. He has a penchant for guarding his job functions like a fortress and attempting to condescend to others like they are not remotely on his intellectual level. In Vincent’s case, that approach has led to some terse conversations between the two.
Vincent swipes his identification badge at the door, opens it and walks into the kingdom. He makes his way down the long corridor to the section of the building where his office resides. Occasionally he will just stand in wide wonder at what this represents: an office under primarily his jurisdiction. No single person has more impact and influence on how the operations run than Vincent, for better or worse. His blood, sweat and tears have helped mold this into a top-flight arena for revenue.
That and the management team he has compiled. It feels like the DC Comics’ Justice League of America: the finest team of superheroes ever assembled. With the haphazard rule of the Keith Dickhauser administration, the team has seemingly held the ship together with rubber bands and duct tape. Time will soon tell if that ship will sink or sail in the aftermath of whatever outcome befalls their department.
Vincent sets his beverages on his secretary’s desk and retrieves his keys to unlock his door. Once open, he flips the switch and the light reveals an office showcasing little other than clutter and Elizabeth. Between the walls and the desk, the office is adorned with 41 pictures of her in all.
Some say clutter is the sign of an ingenious mind. At least he knows where everything is. For everything he adds to the energy and sales arena, he lacks in patience or the ability to sit still. He has the hardest time forcing himself to sit down to put documents in a binder or organize a cabinet or do just about anything that takes time away from his passion of driving results. Keith, quite the opposite, obsessed with tidiness, had finally given up on trying to get Vincent to conform to that organizational standard.
Keith had abandoned getting Vincent to conform to a lot of things by this point. The confrontations those two had gone through over the 2 ½ years Vincent had worked directly for him had made one thing clear: Vincent had put himself in a position where he was so necessary to the operation that he could get away with things most people never could under Dickhauser’s rule. While that was good for Vincent and allowed him wiggle room in fighting his many battles, it is not to say he can get away with anything.
His first duties in the morning: creating the schedule their dialer will perform that day, compiling updated manager and rep sales reports and logging into the dialer to prepare the campaigns. If either Vincent or Eric Aames, the IT guru who served as Vincent’s right hand man were to depart, Greenfield’s advertising bureau would be finished. Vincent loved this part of his job. He had created his own position through ingenuity and the fact Keith had no idea what it took to run a the center. He had no idea of everything Vincent did in a given day.
This division of ABM was different than any other. It had been formed 4 years prior when ABM decided to add an online marketing engine to rival the big dogs. They threw more and more money into the engine and began this division to hock their wares. ABM was notorious for spending lots of money to invest in capital ventures and partnerships but sadly did not invest in its talent and keeping the wheels properly greased.
Dickhauser has always been notorious for his infamous gang called, “The Boys,” and he surrounded himself in each entity he worked in with people he felt he could trust. He originally appointed his best friend Derek Walters as the head of his operation. Shortly thereafter, he brought in Scott Kinsey to run the clerical functions. Keith promoted Mark Rogers, whose father was a close friend, and who was struggling as a rep. Not long after, he added Danny Boyd as another sales manager – his third stint working with Dickhauser – and lastly there were Mike Enderle, Mick Farmer, Haley Jones (the lone female, whose father was another of Keith’s best friends) and Adam Sandberg, all former reps in Dickhauser’s previous venture running the advertising endeavor in Minneapolis years before.
However, there was only so much of the gang to go around and Keith and Derek had to look elsewhere for talent to in lifting this group off the ground. His résumé shining above all they sifted through, Vincent Scott became their next pursuit.
Now, nearly 4 years later, Vincent was at the helm and had seemingly created his own empire.
Vincent, mid dialer recycle, clicked the button on his phone to begin play of his voice mails. The voice of Agnes Landry, the employee ethics investigator assigned the Dickhauser case, came on the speaker phone.
“Vincent, this is Agnes again. Lydia and I received the files you sent. We are getting ready to close out the case and have just a couple people left to call. You mentioned appraisals you were forced to change and documentation that Keith falsified in order to terminate an employee. Please send any supporting documents on that and anything else you may have pertinent to the case. Thank you again for your help.”
His cell phone rang, breaking the flashback. It was the practically everyday 7:15 AM call from Keith Dickhauser himself.
“Hello?”
“What’s up?” Keith boomed on the other end, his voice naturally gruff and emotionless until the bear was poked.
“Prepping the dialer and running the reports,” Vincent answered. “Today’s going to be big.”
“Good. I got fucked up last night. Too much vodka. Did you go out?”
“No,” Vincent replied.
“Have you heard any more about the investigation?”
“No, nothing,” Vincent responded. “They probably don’t want to talk to me.”
Vincent deflected the question for multiple reasons. One, no one being investigated is allowed to talk about it. Second, no one involved in the investigation is supposed to talk. Third, he had no idea what to say; anything he uttered could lead Dickhauser to suspect him in the fracas.
“Well let me know if you hear anything,” Keith grunted. “I can’t figure out which one of these fucking managers is trying to tear me down. There are enemies among us. We can’t trust anyone.”
“I understand. I’ll keep you posted.”
“I was in the training class yesterday. Why do you hire so many black people? There were only a couple young white guys.”
Vincent’s eyes widened; it was like he had no control over the verbal vomit. “I hire the best of who I see.”
“OK. I will be there a little before 8. Are you having a stand-up?”
“Yes.”
“Are you meeting with these fuckheads at 8?”
“Yeah, I am going over the conversion rates and efficiency for November and goals for December. Since it is a short month, I’m opening the floodgates on the best leads tomorrow instead of waiting two weeks.”
“OK, sounds good. Our only problems are management problems. Don’t be too easy on them.”
Nearly four years of talking to this man had taught Vincent that Keith never says “goodbye”, he just hangs up.
Vincent did not view Keith Dickhauser as an irredeemable individual. He had the propensity to be a decent human being but the value he could add to this evolved division had diminished to the point of nothing. Dickhauser’s days were the days of the face-to-face lunch and drinks meeting, the golf meeting and the work until noon and take off the rest of the day routine. He was a relic of an era long gone in ABM. ABM’s price gouging of its customers and disregard for growing competition led them to losses in many of its ventures. This burgeoning department’s success was its only chance to get out of the red.
Dickhauser would curse you up and down for a minuscule detail but send flowers when a relative passed; he would take the entire team of managers to Christmas dinner every year and was legitimately concerned when the topic was family. He had lost his father at an early age and cared for his mother for years until her death. When Dickhauser was assigned this division, it was his last shot. He had already been demoted for verbal bashings he administered employees as head of the Minneapolis advertising office. He had been shipped to Dallas for a year and monitored closely before being given this last opportunity at redemption. The company had no idea if it would pan out or not, so putting Keith in the role was no risk.
As time ticked towards 8 AM, Vincent started printing out 17 copies of the reports he wanted at the meeting. He grabbed his weathered binder he had gotten on his first day in the advertising bureau 3 ½ years ago, tucked the reports into it and made his way to the conference room. It was game time.
As he turned the corner heading towards the meeting room he walked right past Phoebe Wells and her current boyfriend, overweight and goofy-looking sales rep Denny Price. He acknowledged neither.
Vincent met Phoebe on his first day in ABM advertising. She certainly stood out as she wore outfits that flaunted her fantastic figure; she had bleached blond hair and a significant amount of makeup. The voice and laugh Vincent once found charming now screeched in his brain like nails on a chalkboard.
Phoebe was a thrill-seeker always attracted to the wrong guy. She would set her sights on the guy in a committed relationship or the one who was forbidden fruit. In Vincent’s case he was even more appealing because he was in a position of authority and any personal interaction between them would be taboo.
Phoebe would coax her prey into the web, promising the earth, moon and stars, showing initial affection and acting like she cared. Her true colors came out when she would start making time for everyone but the guy she was “committed” to and failing to follow through on any and all commitments. She had done it to the father of her daughter. She did it to the guy she married and the guys in between. She did it to Vincent. And, after Vincent finally cast her off, she did the coup d’état; she spit in his face by contradicting everything she told Vincent by bunking down with a rep in their building.
His transformation into cold-hearted bastard had taken another major leap and he had Phoebe to thank.
Now, Vincent’s life was all about Elizabeth and the job. She was his salvation; he had endured a lot of pain over the last couple years fighting to be with her but it was all worth it. The pains he had felt were dwarfed anyway when compared to that of relinquishing the person he loved most to the person who had hurt him most every two weeks due to a custody arrangement.
That was where Vincent Scott was now. He had fought a lot for a lot of things. First, it was his career, then his subordinates and now his daughter. He was always on the side of right, but his rage, intolerance and occasional quests for vengeance would do nothing but hold him back or hinder his fight. He was not perfect, but he was trying to be.
He did not need or want for anything else. Sure, he enjoyed writing his book and hoped he could touch lives with it and his teachings. But as he climbed the corporate ladder he realized that more and more loonies came out of the woodwork to take potshots rather than to take notice of what they should be doing that would make them successful.
He walked into the conference room and, like King Arthur, took a seat at the head of the large round table. He set down his binder and coffee and took one last deep breath before the mayhem would begin.
8 AM marks the beginning of the sales day for the management team. Of course, many waft in anywhere from 8 to 8:05 on a good day, sometimes later. Vincent has tried to clamp down on it a few times in the past but, like anything else, it works for a while and then they relapse. This is one of few areas Vincent picks and chooses his battles. If the department is having a rare lull, he may take exception but otherwise he tries to be lenient about it.
After a few minutes they are assembled. To Vincent’s left at the table sits Mark Rogers, his lone counterpart in the division. To call him an equal would not be comparing apples to apples as Vincent’s few weaknesses are Mark’s strong points and Mark’s shortcomings mostly through lack of experience are Vincent’s bread and butter.
Vincent had no ill will towards him. In fact, as time went by Vincent actually started to respect him. Mark had been a rep under Dickhauser’s tutelage years ago and when Keith started rounding up people to become managers in his new center he tapped “The Boys” whether qualified or not. When Dickhauser saw the opportunity to move him to commandeer a new inbound venture under their umbrella with ridiculously low objectives, he did so and those numbers masked Mark’s inability to achieve results.
Mark meant well and played the political game well, which is why Vincent suspected he would be the type of guy the company wanted. It was nothing like Dick Knoll, who he had to actually try to whip on the sales report. Mark did not try to sabotage Vincent behind his back and his results were no danger to those of Vincent’s.
Continuing around the horn to sat Scott Kinsey, overseer of all clerical and commission functions. A very pious and condescending fellow he was. Kinsey was a sanctimonious bastard who was nothing more than an overpaid accountant, making a salary more than twice that of pretty much all of the sales managers. The man was a computer wizard but his people skills and ability to work as part of a team were pathetic.
Vincent sardonically regarded Kinsey the greatest salesman in the business, however, as he somehow sold Dickhauser that there were no problems with clerical and commission items while reps and managers screamed bloody murder about them. Kinsey had recently gone through a divorce and it made him all the more biting with his commentary. Kinsey and the managers battle regularly but Dickhauser refuses to keep him in check due to the tight-knit boys’ club that exists to protect one another.
Next to Scott was Danny Boyd. Another of “The Boys” from way back, he had been exiled from Dickhauser’s old team after having an affair with a married direct subordinate. He came on board the fledgling division and took over a stacked team that regularly ranked second after Vincent’s. When Vincent got the job running the salesforce that Danny had also interviewed for, his spite for Vincent grew and the two of them clashed frequently.
Betty Cross was next at the table. She had spent years developing ad campaigns and joined the team when her job was downsized. She served as liaison with the Labor department, handled special projects and was one of the few people Vincent enjoyed talking to on a regular basis. She actually seemed to understand him. Her only drawback was that it took her half an hour to explain something that should take five minutes. Vincent’s impatient nature caused some rifts over his impulse to walk away mid-thought but overall they got along fluidly.
The motherly Helen Johnson was next to Betty. Nary could a disparaging word be said about the woman, she was nice as could be. In her early 50’s, she had been with the business for quite a time, mostly in service capacities. She was good at saying uplifting or inspirational things, but did not have the apathy and killer instinct to perform adequately here. She could not have the tough conversations and keep her troops in line. Be that as it may, she was the den mother and everyone loved her.
Maria Fernandez was next – a case of a book you do not judge by its cover. She had a small build, a short woman of Spanish descent who was strikingly beautiful and deliberate in her mannerisms. If you saw her on the street you would think her timid; the irony being she was anything but. Maria was the top rep in the history of the team and a bulldog on the phones. Vincent previously had the pleasure of working with her on his own team and once he took over the floor she was one of the first he promoted. Her results had not taken off in management as quickly as she would have liked but Vincent helped her stay the course and she learned quite a bit from the woman sitting to her left, Gina Baker.
Gina was something else. She had been with the company 9 years, mostly in service functions and had come on board to Dickhauser’s team the same day Vincent did. The two of them clashed at times as managers as Gina was another strong-willed individual who would do whatever it took to win. She did not have the kind of success she was looking for early on and often relied on intimidation with her reps to get the job done. When Vincent took the helm he saw in Gina a very moldable employee who had a lot of the tools in place. Gina had no qualms about speaking her mind and telling her subordinates what she thought of them, yet at that point her criticisms were mostly bad. Vincent tried to help Gina harness that and find a balance. And now she was the top manager in the department for the second straight year.
Haley Jones sat next to Gina. Vincent remembered when he first met her, as she came on board in early 2007, another of those Dickhauser recruited from his outside sales days. Her father was Dickhauser’s first boss, mentor and friend. Vincent had thought her strikingly attractive and could see why she had been an outside sales rep. Over time, they had an interesting dynamic as they often had different views on but their combined efforts made for a healthy sales endeavor. She helmed an offshoot team that contacted recently acquired customers and helped them tour their new programs. Vincent had annexed that team for himself in early 2009 after they went several months without scratching the surface of their expectations. They had not missed expectation a single month since Vincent took over.
He knew she was another that talked poorly about him behind his back. But again, he was not above using the fact that these people needed him to his advantage.
Haley’s best friends in the business were to her left, Adam Sandberg and George Flaker. Sandberg had been an outside rep with her and they came on board the online division the same day. Sandberg had been a force to be reckoned with as a manager, competing with Vincent at times, and he made the move to the lucrative inbound team. He was sidelined by stress issues, mostly caused by working with Dickhauser, and was now returned to the fold. After a month to get his bearings, he was back near the top.
Flaker was a former member of the military and had come from a family with money and respectability. He was the first person Vincent promoted, as he had shown significant promise as a rep and his cockiness and way he carried himself were very much in line with what Vincent was looking for. His downfall was his occasional laziness and use of excuses but when the pressure was on he was someone you wanted on your team. Bar none he was probably one of the top five salespeople in the building. He just had yet to reach his potential.
Continuing we come to Randall Darwin. Randall was entering his 29th year in the company and had been an outside rep and manager. When his job was downsized, Dickhauser brought him on board as a favor to Darwin’s former boss, Derek Walters. Keith was frustrated when he was not able to quickly adapt to the call center atmosphere, despite the fact no one had trained him how. He had reported to Mark for months with no traction. He was moved to Vincent and started showing promise.
Randall could get a good cheer going but at first had no idea of how to fine tune his skills for the call center setting. At the onset, he did not like Vincent’s arrogance and was put off by his speeches. After working together for months, seeing his results spike and seeing Vincent serve as the buffer between Dickhauser and the management team, he respected him.
While Vincent put on that front of over-inflated ego, often just to elicit a laugh from his followers, he would do whatever it took to guide his people. Randall was a prime example. His job had been on the line and now, after Vincent rolled up his sleeves and did everything he could to help, he was fighting back and felt he had an ally. He was a guy with a long career that he did not want to see end. Vincent knew that and respected it.
Next up around the table was Jimmy Sander. Jimmy had been with ABM for 10 years, formerly working in an IT capacity and, when his job was eliminated he interviewed with Vincent for a rep position. Jimmy was one of the nice guys, often to his detriment. But when Vincent met him he saw the attitude and determination of somebody that wanted to win and would put forth effort to do it.
Jimmy, along with Abby Winters, was in the training class Vincent sat in on for a week shortly after he joined the division. They chatted over burgers at lunch and beers after hours and Jimmy was one of the few people Vincent trusted. He had been the only person Abby trusted with the relationship she was having with Vincent after hours and the two had swapped female woe stories for years now.
While Vincent had gone through the ringer with Abby and Phoebe, Jimmy had ended years of relationship rollercoaster by tying the knot with on-again, off-again girlfriend Carrie Harper. Carrie had a son from one of the guys squeezed in between interludes with Jimmy, but Jimmy took the boy in as his own. She lost her job because she could never show up to work and she financially raped Jimmy for years, ruining his credit and his life before leaving him for someone else. What a gem.
Through their woes, Vincent and Jimmy stayed tight and had family Halloween’s together and their kids were at each other’s birthday parties. Some days they just sat in Jimmy’s basement playing video games and drinking beers to wash away those dark times. Jimmy was a true friend.
Clyde Barton sat next to Jimmy – yet another who had faced job elimination and Vincent recruited him from the telecommunications side. Clyde brought that assertive, open-minded and revenue-oriented coaching style, which Vincent liked. Clyde was a bit of a scoundrel, however, in probably every sense of the word. Fidelity was a punchline to the man and Vincent was not sure if he could trust him but, Clyde ran a top flight sales team and seemed to say the right things.
Clyde had been the spearhead of the operation to unseat Dickhauser. It was during that uprising that Clyde gained favor in Vincent’s Cabinet. He was now a regular in the Breakfast Club meetings every morning down the street at McDonald’s. He seemed to be a good person to have as an ally, despite his shady demeanor. He and Vincent often had different opinions but they learned from each other. They worked well enough together to warrant keeping the relationship alive. Despite their differences, one would identify the other as a friend. The spark that began the uprising targeted on ousting Dickhauser was an attempt Keith made to suspend Clyde for speaking out against him and Scott Kinsey. The issue originated when one of Clyde’s reps lost a huge sale due to it never being keyed by the clerical team, which was commonplace around the office. Vincent went to bat for the sale and lost. Clyde continued to push the envelope and Dickhauser did not take kindly to it.
Keith, flexing his political muscle, tried to twist Clyde’s words and hammered him with the accusation that Clyde was trying to get Keith to violate the company’s ethics code by paying a rep for unrealized revenue. All Vincent and Clyde wanted Keith to do was lobby to get some kind of incentive payment for the rep, which was well within his ability, however Keith adamantly refused. Keith went so far as to usurp Vincent from the process by conducting the threatening meeting with Clyde using Kinsey as a witness and Betty Cross as a note-taker.
This was one of the many mysteries surrounding Keith, Kinsey and Danny Boyd; it was unclear why they refused to fix the problems that were so clearly damaging the department. It was unclear why they would not lobby to pay someone for work they did. It was ambiguous why they were nothing but a barrier for Vincent and the managers, who just wanted to get things done correctly. It was almost as if they profited from the improper payment of sales personnel.
Clyde had friends in Human Resources, and hated the way Dickhauser made it sound like he “saved” Clyde when his previous project management job was surplused. Clyde actually interviewed for a few jobs and his first choice was this one, but Dickhauser held it over his head that he had saved him by bringing him on board. That was typical Keith; because he had scratched the backs of “The Boys” over the years, they were indebted to him and he never let them forget it. They would do anything for him, mostly because he pressured them to feel like they had to.
From that event, Clyde organized what he referred to as “The Brotherhood,” which was several managers banding together against the Dickhauser regime of oppression. His intent was to drum up enough support to initiate an investigation that would result in Dickhauser’s downfall. It was quite a plan; one that nearly everyone wanted to see come to fruition but most were terrified to kickstart.
One of the reps who previously worked for Clyde, Frankie Rivera, sat to his left. He had gone through two stints as a rep for the department and a few months into his second he was tapped to be a manager. Dickhauser had always liked Frankie and he was one of the few people Keith would actually listen to. Frankie had made his rounds, having slept with several reps in the department, including Abby at one point while she was sleeping with Vincent, and was trying to get solid footing on his inconsistent sales team. Vincent was none too pleased when he learned that little tidbit.
If there was a member of the team who was most embattled and beaten it was Steve Zimmerman, the next around the circle. He was a hard worker but could not motivate a roomful of kindergartners to go to recess. Steve was hired because of his prominent last name; his father sat on the board of directors. He was still with the business because he had the good fortune of some high-quality reps over the years. But his luck was about to run out.
Cathy Schumer was next; she was formerly a bartender and was very much into the music scene as she headlined a band of her own; someone who was good at putting up with the public and did a grand job as a rep getting customers on board with ABM advertising. She was the most recently promoted and had taken over the former last place team when Vincent had to cut its manager loose. And she had lifted them well over expectation in a short period of time, proving her mettle.
Next up around the circle was the life of the party: Johnny Slade and Cal Riley.
Johnny had been another of the most impressive reps the team had ever seen, to the benefit of Zimmerman, who often tried to claim he had created him. Johnny was one of the hardest closers in the game. He was smart, diligent and ruthless. Vincent had taken a liking to the guy upon first sight in the interview. A product of some boiler rooms scattered across the country and several sales jobs, this guy was in line with what Vincent wanted in the business – a guy who would not back down. He set all kinds of records in the division but was very outspoken about his problems with the department’s inadequacies in the commission and clerical realms which caused him to butt heads with lots of people. Again, this made him right up Vincent’s alley.
Though he disagreed with a lot that Vincent had to say his first year as a manager, Johnny rode the wave of some strong reps and did things his way. His first year he was one of the top managers on the team and was lucky not to have to manage a lot of processes because his reps wanted to win badly enough that they took care of him. Unfortunately, in year two he had a much different clan and they required a lot of babysitting. As Johnny had not heeded Vincent’s advice in year one, he collapsed early in year two but was becoming better learning what it took to build himself back up. Vincent had more respect for him now that he was learning through experience how to manage the processes that led to success.
Cal was Mr. Charismatic. He brought the party. He managed to accomplish more with a lesser skilled team than anyone in the business because he was crazy with energy, full of life and as flamboyant as it gets. Cal had grown up in a small town in a broken family and had done most of the work in caring for his mother and sisters. He was the first person in his family to make it. Cal came into the company at 21 and was rough around the edges – not the most scholarly but he was more than willing to compensate with hard work. He was introverted at first until he learned the ropes but once he started closing business and closing the ladies of the office he turned into a maniac on and off the phones. Cal was the guy other guys envied and the ladies wanted. He would walk into a bar or party and the females would flock to him. He did not pay a lot of attention to reports and details but when it came to rallying the troops with sheer unbridled enthusiasm, he fit the bill better than most.
Finally, rounding out the round table was Dean Yamnitz, likely the most intelligent and well-spoken member of the team. He had an MBA, was well traveled and Vincent wondered what on earth prompted him to apply for the rep job to begin with. In fact, even at this point as a manager he was overqualified, but if climbing this corporate ladder made him happy, so be it. Yamnitz was the polar opposite of Cal yet their teams were stationed next to one another’s (on purpose) to play off each other. He was the straight-laced disciplinarian and student of statistics, well organized and analytical. He had what Cal did not in the way of discipline and analytics while Cal had what he did not: the animation and the goofiness. Dean had worked to become more of a driver in that capacity and it aided him on his climb to the upper echelon of the sales pack.
The top manager in the unit was Gina, but also near the top were Yamnitz and Clyde. Cal was in the fourth slot followed by Sandberg and Haley. Maria was coming on strong this year as well and she, along with Cathy were the brightest spots of the relative newcomers.
Vincent put the multiple reports at the end of the order and they began being passed around to all.
“Good morning, team.” Vincent led off.
“Good morning,” came the collective reply. Some days he had to elicit another because the first was weak but lately, with the commotion in the air and this being the final sales day of a month, the response was upbeat.
“Scott, do you want to lead us off?” Vincent often deflected to Kinsey early so he could deliver whatever message he had and he or Mark could bring the meeting home with a sales message at the conclusion.
“Sure. Managers, as you saw on Friday we released the latest outstanding contracts report. I know today is the last day of the month but we really need to get this cleaned up by Wednesday when the preliminary look at the next list is released. I have the report split into two tabs. One shows stuff from last week and the other shows stuff from before last week. I will have bins set up outside my office for each set. Danny, do you have anything?”
Boyd nodded. “Yes, we have noticed that many of you are turning in multiple copies of contracts. This is not going to help anything get keyed into the system more quickly. Please refrain from this activity.”
A few managers looked away to control snickering or showing a reaction. First, the “outstanding contracts” report was a catastrophe. The managers received twice weekly looks at lists of contracts that were alleged to be missing. Many of them had already been turned into the clerks at least once but still appeared on the report for reasons that no one had been able to pinpoint. A lot of them had not been checked off, been misplaced and twice a missing contract was found in the bathroom after being turned in to the receiving clerk. In short, the process and this report were disasters.
The state of the clerical team was varying. There were some who cared and were diligent. There were others who shopped online during work hours, had the work ethic of a stuffed animal and were more interested in spreading the latest gossip than doing their jobs. Others had vendettas against managers who had tried to turn them into Kinsey for their crimes. Scott did nothing to manage them nor did he want to implement any kind of measurement of work for them that would hold them accountable to do their jobs properly. Why create more work for himself, right?
Unfortunately, Kinsey was where the buck stopped because he would not allow any management input on ways to fix the process, would not hold his employees accountable to do the work properly, and anything that was reported to him fell on deaf ears. With Dickhauser wrapped around his finger, getting anything accomplished in the clerical world was a crapshoot; therefore, getting reps and managers paid properly was not something that happened often enough. The troubling thing was that no one could quite figure out why this cluster at the top did not want to pay people properly and promptly.
No matter what offers Vincent, Mark or the managers made to chip in, help out and help improve the process, they were rebuked like they had no idea what they were talking about. All the while, Kinsey sold Dickhauser on the fact that all was right with the clerical world and that commission issues were a figment of everyone’s imagination. He would give Keith some lengthy explanation using big words that went over his head and somehow convince him the managers or reps were mostly to blame for any gaffes in this area.
To Kinsey’s point, a chunk of commissions were paid properly and a majority of clerical functions were done properly. The problem is, in a large sales environment, “a majority” does not cut it. Large discrepancies make for unhappy people and when neither Scott nor Keith cared enough to fix the problems, the fallout fell on Vincent and the managers. Not only that, but since no clerks suffered but the reps always did, it did not make for a healthy work environment. Keith and Scott may have been able to slink into their closed offices or out the door early every day, but some unhappy managers had to deal with the regular fallout and it was not an enjoyable experience.
Scott’s disdain for salespeople and his apathy towards people getting paid properly while he pocketed his $130,000+ per year were not well hidden. His unwillingness to listen or care about what they had to say was the main thing people in the division took exception to. That and the fact he was quick to put down and talk to people like they had no business even sharing the same Earth as he did. Most people would not challenge him, but a few of the stronger managers and Vincent surely did.
The reason contracts were turned in multiple times was, as Cal told Vincent just days before, “Dude, I’m going to keep turning that shit in until it comes off the report. I’ve turned some of them in four times.” It made Vincent chuckle but he certainly could not argue with the logic. The process itself was anything but logical so Cal’s attempt to be a smartass may just be exactly what was needed. Keith was going to scream at all of them and curse them out for the reports regardless, so they might as well attempt to finally get some of the contracts removed from this fictional report.
The thought on everyone’s mind was that with a company this size, why does it have such a hard time processing paperwork and why was it so difficult to pay people their hard-earned commissions? In addition, when a rep made a mistake that cost them a sale, they suffered. When a clerk made a mistake that cost the rep a sale, the rep suffered. They were given no compensation for the sale in either their results or their wallets. And that caused a big rift between management and commission folks. In fact, Danny Boyd’s mere presence out there at this point was a testament to recent progress made from a war on clerical waged by Vincent just months before. Danny was typically stationed downtown but after the war began, Dickhauser had to move Danny to Greenfield to try to fix the broken process. Vincent’s antics had a way of getting things done for the multitudes he represented but this also attracted the resentment of those he waged war against.
Desperate for another challenge and hovering above the ABM earth like Superman waiting for a crisis, Vincent had heard the pleas of the people for so long. It had been the punchline to a long-stale joke: “Why should I sell anything when I’m not going to get paid for it anyway?”
Vincent’s stance on management, just like being a rep, is to eliminate the excuses, eradicate objections and get rid of all obstacles. When no excuse remains, there is no justification by the other party to not submit to your wishes. Of course, that is unless they were just lying to cover up their laziness, but this was a way to purge that behavior as well. And if salespeople and managers claim they will not sell or cannot get motivated because they are not getting paid properly, Vincent can only hem and haw for so long about how if they sell above chargebacks they will never notice them. When every single manager, even those at the top and those who never make excuses, comes to him with an issue, he must lend credence to it. And he did. And he made a huge dent in the problem because no one who should have would.
After listening to one of his top reps go on a tirade in his office and confirming these issues with a couple of his trusted managers, Vincent decided to do the one thing no one had ever had the audacity to do – throw himself into the melee and show up Scott Kinsey’s refusal to fix their problems. Like Superman IV when Superman made the decision to rid the world of all nuclear weapons, Vincent Scott decided to rid the division of all clerical and commission problems. (Certainly not a fine piece of cinematic art but it paints the appropriate metaphor.)
Vincent sent an e-mail to the division soliciting perceived issues regarding clerical or commission questions. He did not design it as an attack. And it was not – it was coming to the aid of the reps and managers. That, after all, was his job. They were the ones making his money and he owed it to them to rid their world of this problem if he had the power to do so. And he knew he was the only one who could or would.
The problem with a lot of people in Corporate America is they are so consumed with fear of a poor reputation or not being liked by superiors that they just sit back and let themselves be flattened. Vincent sees injustice and fights back, despite the damage it does to his reputation and career. That is why some people greatly admire him even though they have too much trepidation to follow suit. It is also why those on the receiving ends of his attacks are not fans of his work.
In this case, Vincent was flooded with problems from the team. All they wanted was someone to care. It would have been different if Kinsey would have shown some sympathy or willingness to help. He did understand a lot of flaws in the process, but when someone was not getting paid properly a typical response was, “I understand your rep isn’t getting their full $11,000 commission check, but they are at least getting $6,000 so what is the problem?”
He consciously processed incorrect commission reports on a weekly basis and most of them did not have the time to do the research to prove him wrong. Had he merely stood in front of the salesforce to say, “This is the problem and the people that need to know about it do know about it and I am going to stay on them until they fix it,” that sentence would have worked wonders. But since he was not willing to say it, Vincent did. Doing so earned him even more admiration. It also earned him more haters.
Danny Boyd had never enjoyed being a sales manager because of the hard work involved but he was relatively effective when it came to supervising organizational functions and putting processes in place that could theoretically work better than what was there. After the shot across the bow from Vincent, Dickhauser started to take notice and brought Boyd in to help clean up some of the problem.
There were cartloads of hundreds of contracts sitting around that no one knew anything about until they slowly tried to make dents in them. Clerks were losing contracts, making keying errors and no one was doing anything about it. The process was deeply fractured. Even if Vincent could not single-handedly fix the process, he was the catalyst who could at least get the attention drawn to it necessary to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
“Betty?” Mark prodded.
“Yes,” Betty began, sifting through papers. “The call grades that were due last Thursday are still missing from a couple of you. Also, if you could have your observations finished and in the system for November by end of business tomorrow, you will be in compliance for the month. That’s all I’ve got.”
“Thanks, Betty,” Vincent stated. He looked around the room and thought, Here goes.
“Team, here we are. I don’t want you to look at it like the last sales day of a month. I want you to realize there are 19 sales days left in this year. Overall, it has been a solid year. I want to thank Gina and Dean for leading us so far– both have already exceeded their annual objective. Let’s hear it for them.”
There was applause.
“This month has been a shortened one and I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I hope it reminded you why you are here. It did for me. I bust my tail here to support my daughter and for the amazing payday we are going to get come March. We go through a lot of nonsense and put up with a lot of craziness to make this place tick. I appreciate wholeheartedly what you guys do. I understand how difficult your job can be but it is about focus on a high level about what is important.”
Vincent scanned the crowd. All eyes were attentive.
“We have focused this year on working smarter and not necessarily harder to accomplish our goals. Managing processes instead of people. Holding people accountable and making them justify what they do. Holding them accountable to do basic call flow items. And we have gotten better at it. Believe me when I say, ladies and gentlemen, this is the most talented team I have ever worked with. I know I sit up here and beat the hell out of you some days but it is only because I love you and I want you to be the best you can be. That is what you should want yourself. Someday, if not today, you’ll look back and realize I had your best interests at heart.”
Vincent grabbed one of the pieces of paper in front of him.
“Here is this month’s sales report. As you can plainly see, we have some huge disparities between top and bottom. Those of you at the top of the heap – Clyde, Dean, Cathy, Cal, Maria and Gina – are doing it in every category. I’ve heard that these meetings seem redundant at times and you know what? You are completely right. I am pointing out a lot of the same things over and over again. I am at a loss as to why we are not doing a more consistent job across the board of managing this process of conversion rates of our products. I cannot understand why some of you have an uncanny ability to keep your people on the phones for the vast majority of the day and others of you have literally no control over your reps. I myself cannot figure out why I have to repeat myself on a seemingly daily basis. But rather than harp at you today, I’m going to open up the floor to the best in each category and let them talk about why they are where they are. You hear enough from me.”
Vincent was elated to see some people looking up from their note-scribbling or text messaging and paying more attention than usual. He was right. Sales management is often about saying the same thing over and over until it finally sticks. As long as you can look in the mirror knowing you did all you could for the person and they made the decision not to meet you halfway, you will be able to sleep that night.
“Maria, your team leads the pack on our search programs. How do you drive that behavior better than anyone else?” Vincent inquired.
“It’s about accountability,” she responded without hesitation. “When they sell something without it, I make them call the customer back. I inspect their pitch-screen in the middle of a presentation to make sure their bundle includes it. They know if they don’t sell it they have me to answer to.”
Vincent smiled. “Great, thank you, Maria. Clyde, your search results are booming all of a sudden. Care to tell us why?” Vincent asked with a wry smile.
“Well,” Clyde began, returning the sardonic smile with one of his own, “after being passed over for monthly MVP honors multiple times, I realized I was going to have to if I ever wanted to win.” The group laughed. “Seriously, it was just another step in the process. I have the reps report to me every pitch they make. When search wasn’t included, I stayed on them about it. They knew I was going to hammer them if they didn’t include it and it finally started to stick. I guess they just got tired of hearing me talk about it.”
“Good answer,” Vincent chimed in. “See, team, Clyde and Maria have been very clear with what they expect and have followed up to ensure their coaching is working. Holding the team accountable for this basic component is all it takes. They are working smarter and not harder by doing something minor that impacts every call their reps make. When you sit with a rep, you impact one rep one call at a time. When you do exercises like this, you impact every single call everyone makes going forward.”
Vincent glanced again at the reports in his hands.
“Cal, your team is consistently at the top of our bundle conversion. Why are they pushing this better than the rest?” Vincent asked.
“Well, you know we’re always going to do what we do,” Cal answered with authority in his voice. “It gives us the capability to sell double the amount, these guys know it, and they get paid quicker. So it’s good for them and they know I’m going to hound them when they don’t do it, so it’s just fun for the whole family.”
“Eloquently put, as always, Cal,” Vincent smiled. “Bottom line, team, it just makes sense. And when you see sales announcements that say the customer refused one or the other as part of the bundle – wrong answer! We’ve got to get used to saying, ‘Mr./Mrs. Customer I hear what you’re saying, but all of the components I described are automatically included in our bundles for new customers. Typically the price would be $X per month but because you are a brand new business I can discount it to $Y per month which, we’ve already established, is just 5 customers before the pure profit kicks in. Now, let’s sign the papers.’ And yes, it’s that easy.”
Vincent looked again at the reports in his hands.
“Dean, your conversion of upgrading to websites and selling into larger geography is off the charts. What gives?” Vincent asked.
“For starters, Vincent, my authorization is required for any small geography sales. That shows I mean business on this category. Even though 60% still get sold in the small areas, it makes it a little painful and it makes them sell me on why they are advertising the less effective programs that are not truly indicative of where they do business. The fact they are always thinking about it and pitching the bigger programs is in their heads has gone a big way in changing the behavior,” Yamnitz responded. “As for websites, we all know it is paramount for any business to have one so we talk about this in each of our three daily stand-ups. I think it is the repetition that drives the point home.”
“I love it, Dean. Team, you have carte blanche to run your team as you see fit. Unless, of course, you aren’t hitting expectations and then you’d better believe Mark and I are going to put in two cents. Or more, in my case. Dean has three daily stand-ups to keep a firm grasp on what’s going on, and he has taken it upon himself to mandate approval forms for something he wants to drive a behavior in. Fantastic,” Vincent marveled.
Vincent turned to another page and held it up.
“Okay, team, lastly it’s on to efficiency or, in some cases, lack thereof.
Gina, you are always best in show here,” Vincent observed. “What words of wisdom can you impart on your peers to guide them in this area?”
“I’ve been doing this for 3 years now and I know the game. These people may not like me but they know what happens if they can’t answer for their time. I’m not in this business to make friends but I will help those who help me,” Gina said assertively. “Let’s face it – some of you have to get past the popularity contest. Some of you have to remember that this is your money and you are letting these reps ruin it for you. Where are they going to be when you can’t make a house payment or buy your kid a Christmas present? They don’t care. So you have to keep them honest, keep them following the rules but at the end of the day squeeze every penny out of them you can.”
Vincent could not help but grin. “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” he said.
“Seriously,” Gina said. “Let’s all keep it real here. Some of you are letting your people get away with murder. Idle threats don’t get you anywhere.”
“You’ve got that right,” Vincent echoed. “Gina, thank you for your candor.”
They both laughed. Gina had become the person Vincent used as an example on a lot of categories. Her methods were rough sometimes, but she drove results. During the year they were managers together they frequented each other’s cubicles to vent. Even now as the area manager, Vincent made daily stops by Gina’s cube to vent and just discuss matters at hand.
“Before I turn it over to Mark I have one last thing to say. As we close out a month and soon a year, let’s realize what our real challenge is. We have to constantly reinvent ourselves in this game, constantly look for new challenges. Some of you have mastered the job or gotten close. Others of you have mastered one or two aspects and have several more to go. Whatever the case may be, whatever you want your future to be, keep your eye on the prize and remind yourself every day that we are lucky to have what we have. We are lucky to have this job, to have each other and to have at least a handful of people who want to make us some money. Let’s get out there and get ours!”
The table cheered and Vincent signaled for Mark to take over.
“Good morning, team!” Mark boomed.
“Good morning!” came back the reply.
“As usual, Vincent covered pretty much everything. I’m just going to add a few points,” Mark stated. “I want to thank a couple teams that posted over $1,500 in monthly revenue last Wednesday.”
Vincent grimaced when Mark did this: thanking teams, reps or managers that did not hit what he had put out there as a much higher daily target. These were rookie mistakes and he sometimes wished he was the only one running these meetings. However, Mark often did point out relevant information or something Vincent wished he had thought of. But it was not often enough.
The table finished clapping for the top daily managers, the feel good moment over.
“We have a lot to accomplish today and I wanted to talk about the different lead sources we have going,” Mark continued.
Vincent blinked, cringing again. They knew how to call the leads. They knew what to say. He had covered it a billion times before. No matter what was said in these meetings, nothing struck home except the tough concepts. Lead them off and leave them with bright spots but other than that you had to hit them with cold hard facts between the eyes. Talking yet again about how to dial lead sources was not the way to go.
Mark was articulate and knowledgeable; he just was not adept at managing managers. The managers liked him personally, they just looked to Vincent for most everything. Vincent was able and willing to go to bat for the team against Dickhauser. Mark would not. Vincent jumped into action any time their sales or methods came under fire from other offices whose accounts they were borrowing and selling. Mark would not.
The two of them were complete opposites and that was just the way it was.
Mark ended with a, “Let’s get out there and do it, team!”
“See you guys in Block 1 for an 8:30 stand-up,” Vincent announced. “Make it a great day, team!”
“Yeah!” Cal boisterously proclaimed, clapping his hands as everyone got up from the table and filed out.
Vincent had been here hundreds of time before, about to start a sales day by leading his troops into battle. Being able to do this had been what he had wanted for so long. He knew he probably had fewer days ahead in this office than behind but he knew when he left, just as when he left the residential division that things would never be the same and he would be remembered fondly for the contributions he made.

**********************
BIRTH OF A SALESMAN on AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/Birth-Salesman-Carson-V-Heady/dp/193544431X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284000823&sr=8-1
Carson V. Heady has written a sales/motivation/success book unlike any other, entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be. It is a how-to sell/career advice book inside a novel about the fictional author who practices what he preaches.

If you would like to strengthen your sales skills and learn life lessons from someone who stumbled and fell so you don’t have to, go to http://www.carsonvheady.com/

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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