My First True Sales Job

I was working three jobs, going to college part-time, and partying way too much. Monday at 3 am, I’d wake up, drive 30 minutes to the UPS center, and unload trucks or sort packages if I was lucky. $12.50 an hour in 1984 was pretty good. I am off shift at 8:30, then go to classes 9 am-2 pm, then at 7 pm, run meetings selling retirement and life insurance. Or at least I was going to the meetings they set for me, I never sold anything there. On the weekends, I’d deliver and install sod. That was tough in the Louisiana summer heat and humidity. But hey, I always had money in my pocket. After nine months of this, I was burnt out. I knew there had to be a better way.

I picked up the classified section in the newspaper, and there was  “Management Opportunity…with potential for growth with a salary of $1200 a month. I had to apply! I showed up the next Thursday for what I now know as a group interview. There must have been 40 people there. Of course, I was in the front row. From 8:30 am to 3, there was a new speaker every 30-45 minutes. In between speakers, we watched the VCR with motivational talks from actors, businessmen, women, and a few athletes. I was thinking all day, when do I find out what this is really about? All the while, there was a large conference table in the front corner with a white sheet covering a bunch of lumps of all different sizes.  At 3 pm, Caleb, the main guy for the day, gave one final motivational talk, then walked over to the table and ripped off the white sheet.

To everyone’s surprise, underneath was a parted-out Kirby vacuum cleaner. I busted out laughing. I couldn’t help myself. Caleb looked at me with the white sheet in his hand like I had just slapped him. Insulted was his non-verbal facial expression. He casually sauntered over to me and asked, what are you laughing at? I boisterously replied, “Really, you kept us here all day for a vacuum cleaner! You gotta be kidding me, man”. Caleb said calmly but sternly, “Yeah, you probably couldn’t sell any of these anyway.” Of course, I took the bait without knowing the hook was set. I said, “Oh yeah, I bet I can sell more than anyone in this room by Monday. He replied, “Prove it! “

That was Thursday afternoon. By Sunday afternoon, I had sold six at full price, only two of which were to friends and family. I made $3600.00 that weekend. The next Monday, I quit college, UPS, Insurance, and Landscaping on the weekends. I had found my ticket! For the next six months, I sold Kirby Vacuums and cleaned up!

As all good things come to an end, so did this. My last sale was to a poor old woman with nine kids in a run-down house on the poor side of town with no carpet. I couldn’t sleep and realized I had used my God-given talents for the wrong outcomes. I quit the next morning.

What was your first sales job, and what did you learn?

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Author: Rocky LaGrone

Rocky LaGrone is a seasoned sales development expert with over 25 years in sales development and training working with well over 1,000 companies of all sizes in various industries.

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