Sales: You can never go home.
A funny thing happened on the way to my annual solo sabbatical to Arizona this year. I called a friend who is active in the local business community there to inquire about the weather for the last two weeks of October. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned that an old radiopharmaceuticals distributor of mine had an open sales position and they were looking to fill it. You interested?
For some strange reason my heart rate quickened as I peppered him with questions about the status and timing of the position. I had worked very closely with this group over the years and always considered myself part of their team. I was drooling to have a rematch. I started picturing some more horse property in Cave Creek for Susan, of course.
They have since been gobbled up by Cardinal but still have a presence in radiopharmacy. Warts, notwithstanding. Boy, did that get my juices flowing. I was running that territory when this current batch of rookies were using the kiddie pool.
I had developed so many sales, marketing and on-line chops while trapped in Boston, I thought I might have some fun and add something to the mix. Wrong Bobo, back on your meds.
I was the territory manager for Dupont and Bristol-Myers Squibb from 1990 until 2003. I was relocated in-house by Bristol Myers Squibb, because I had developed a knack for video production, web design and e-marketing back before it was what it is today.
Needless to say, I tried to beg off moving back east for BMS, claiming I could help out from Scottsdale. They didn’t want to hear that and on April 1, 2003, I was shoveling snow with my new neighbors.
Back in the big house, I was immediately underwhelmed. I thought I had wandered onto the set of “The Shining”. During a marketing video shoot once, I realized I needed more tape, so I started to jog slightly towards my equipment when someone said, “Hey, slow down Bob, this is marketing, ya know”.
And the pace deadened from there. I should stop here before I start self medicating but that experience changed me for life. I learned that paranoia isn’t just for pot smokers.
I endured five years but I have to say, I learned quite a bit on their dime. In 2008, I left to start Double O Creative. I spent the next five as an entrepreneur, with all that that entails. Which means learning to live and die by your own hand.
I always missed direct sales. Sure, I owned my own business back east, but the west was beckoning and I always kept a steady eyeball on what was happening in that field. It is also a fixed market. Binary. My business is all over the map. It changes every day. After all, I create content for sales people all the time and the interview was a veiled attempt I guess, to change their game. The impossible dream.
Now, I find myself on the phone with an internal recruiter, discussing my resume (which I have never had to create or submit in my whole life) the job qualifications and my familiarity with their products. She called me back a few days later and told me I was all set and gave me the date and time which fit nicely with my sabbatical. She told me the hiring manager couldn’t reach my salary number but I figured I could up sell once I got in the room.
Interestingly, the recruiter kept admonishing me not to lie. When I tried to tell her I had nothing to lie about she cut me off with “Hey! Just…don’t…lie!” That started my wheels turning. What was that all about? I thought I would move forward with the interview anyway, though I was having second thoughts for having been spoken to in that way. Pretty crude start, I thought. Pure Syncor, all over again. I thought I was up for a position, not parole.
Undeterred, I moved forward because I think interviewing is a healthy if not unnerving exercise and I was very curious about the process post 2008. I have another one in a few weeks that someone reached out to me about and should be a hoot. I have serious masochistic tendencies but this would have been a horrible experience if I really needed the job. Still, why do I do this?
On the appointed day of my interview, I arrived 15 minutes early. I had to ring a security buzzer due to the radioactive content in the building and was waved in by the pharmacy manager. She never said a word to me. She pointed to a conference room and told me to wait in there. Maybe she thought I was delivering pizza.
Unfortunately, she was also one of the interviewers. When the hiring manager showed up fashionably late from Houston, they set up a phone on the chair next to me so the head of operations could participate in the process, then we began.
Remembering not to lie, I told them things I don’t usually tell my wife. I opened the book on myself and never looked back. Their big make or break question was how was I going to secure a contract from a large hospital group in Nevada that was purchasing from someone else they were perfectly happy with and oh, paying a lot less for their product. Minor details. Too bad Attilla is dead, he would have been their perfect choice.
I told them I would “wire the institution”, meaning I would infiltrate the organization completely before handing them an agreement and a pen. I said it wouldn’t happen over night and by the way, what digital tools and materials were they providing to their reps to undertake such an uphill mission?
When I realized I was participating in a farce only Fellini could dream up, I started interviewing them. I turned the table. Why would I want to join a “because we said so”company for a small salary and a big forecast? What have you done or are doing to change your image in this industry? What efforts are you undertaking to become part of the community? What information are you imparting to your customers that’s not all about you?
I mean, it’s not like they don’t only have a set amount of customers and they’re either “for ya, or agin’ ya.” There’s no real creation of new business. They are actually only providing a service. They also have a lot of detractors because the company, despite the Cardinal label is still largely run by radiopharmacists who think Dale Carnegie was married to Roy Rogers.
The pharmacy manager said next to nothing, despite desperate looks from the hiring sales manager while the phone kept falling off the chair and getting disconnected, pissing off the pharmacy manager’s boss.
Who finally chimed in with, “No offense Bob, but when’s the last time you have ever sold anything at all? This, from someone who thinks the only sales tools you ever need is a headlock and a chest bump. I think I’ll write a blog called “Neanderthals Say the Darndest Things” I’m sure the first and last thing he ever sold had Kool-Aid in it.
Full disclosure: I recorded this whole meeting after I saw Eric, the hiring sales manager click his phone on and keep sliding it closer to me as the meeting went on. I looked it up later and although rude not to tell me, it’s not illegal in Arizona as long as one person knows it’s being recorded. Even if it’s it’s just him? WTF?
So after doing everything but tipping the table over, I laughed my way back to my car shaking my head.
I have to say, it was a trip back in time. Before Cardinal bought them, they were Syncor International and trying to get my customers to use their services was like trying to get your best friend to go out with your not so attractive sister.
Pity the poor bastard who ends dragging that bag for that crew with a GPS up their butt. Tough duty! The position will probably be automated by the time you read this.
On second thought, maybe I’ll cancel that next interrogation.
Gargle, rinse and spit.
If you have any questions or need advice, please feel free to reach out to me here.