As a Dupont Radiopharmaceuticals rep, I always thought it was a good idea to invite upper level in-house people out to the field for customer visits to help both parties get the big picture and for me to change up the routine a bit and educate my customers.
There’s usually quite a bit of preparation involved, especially with regard to who the visitor was. You nail down their itinerary, book them a hotel, wash the company car, set up appointments, get a haircut and most importantly, read the package inserts so you give them the notion you know what you’re selling. Very painful.
So you plan full, all out days of customer calls, lunches, dinners and meetings. Down to the letter. Printed out. In an embossed, personalized folder. With histories, buying patterns, competitive issues and local politics. It takes you two weeks to make this one week happen because you know these pukes are going to be shooting their mouth off to anyone who will listen about probably the only meaningful thing they’ve done all year. I was glad I could help.
Sometimes, they would fly in at night, get a cab to the hotel and you would meet them at the hotel for breakfast. Sometimes for the very first time. This is where you realize, much to your horror, that not only are you not on the same page, you’re not even on the same planet. It’s then that you realize that there is such a thing as “cubicle deprivation” and you have four full days of this ahead of you.
This was in the days when you could get on the airport concourse and meet them at the gate. Usually, the plane would run late and you would start falling behind schedule immediately. The first tell tale sign you get is that we have to go to baggage claim to get their golf clubs. Or they come off the plane and yell PARTY!!! They’re smashed. Your heart is in your left sock by now and survival is your only goal.
Then they break the news that they have a conference call at 2 pm and will probably have to work into the night to get an emergency report back to the office. Now I have to start doing the Teabury Shuffle with my scheduled calls. The next day the hotel manager tells me my little buddy caused quite a ruckus in the bar last night.
A visit from hell: His name was Bob A. I don’t worry that he’ll read this because I’m sure he doesn’t have electricity. He was some big wig in the manufacturing of all our radioisotopes. I hardly knew him from the site but I became instantly aware that he was getting a lot more radiation than someone living in downtown Chernobyl.
As I sat across the table watching food accumulate in his beard and trying to decipher what he was saying, I panicked and started to plan my deceptions. I could faint. I could invent a dying relative. I could pour sugar in my gas tank. I could just… expire.
Or I could stick this fucker in the trunk and Fedex him back to Billerica.
I have a “no” button. When it gets pushed, it ain’t happening. No! Not! Never! It’s over! My survival instincts kicked in and I got on a pay phone and started cancelling. Everything. Especially the big clients I was hoping to impress. Whew! I can lose customers on my own, I don’t need any help from these people.
I took him to Arizona accounts that had populations in the double digits. Globe, Surprise, Oatman, places even low on a telemarketer’s list. He still managed to stir up trouble by arguing every scientific point with everyone. These were places where the docs wore bolo ties, cowboy boots and always had a pinch of Skoal between the cheek and the gum. One called him “little feller.”
On the last day he got pulled across the table by his tie by a muscle bound lesbian tech who had “enough of his shit.” Friday came at last and when we arrived at the airport I don’t think I ever came to a full stop when he got out.
Luckily, some of the folks who came out were a blessing. Some I took right into the gates of hell with customers who had issues with the company, our products and usually our pricing. I enjoyed that immensely. Here, have a big fat shit sandwich, shiny pants. One guy said “don’t ever do that to me again.” I had priapism for a week.
A lot of my visiting managers were just punching it in. 10 to 2 will do just fine, thank you. Maybe dinner. Some were actually put out they had to be there. Some were just looking for a chink in my armor so they could “work with me” on an issue to help them shave a few points off my annual review. Man, I gave them plenty.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to manage a territory with all the challenges that came with it. You had your own universe and no one actually knew how it operated. It made you politically savvy, cunning, fluent in bullshit, exaggeration and fantasy.
You were always six steps ahead of yourself. You learned that caller ID was the miracle of the century and to think pleasant thoughts about your childhood while these pukes cried about all the politics, unfair treatment, and who was screwing who back at the ranch.
Would I do it all over again? I have to think about that.