The Adventures of Alan: The New Guy
Written by Alan Hancock, Illustration by Peter Clayton
The New Guy.
There was a new guy in the sales department, an event that was always met with varying degrees of excitement, intrigue and scepticism. Salespeople, by their very nature, tend to be energetic, dynamic and competitive; the face of every business and typically hungry for success but their collective reputation amongst people like us, largely ignorant to the nuances of their profession, wasn’t the best.
We can all recall times where we’ve answered the phone to an overly aggressive cold call from a sales rep promising things that were too good to be true and we’ve all walked into an electronics store and before you’ve barely put a foot in the doorway you’re pounced on by a large man in a polo shirt rapidly reeling off the performance specifications of a washing machine you’re not even there to buy; firing off warranties like the icing on a cake you hadn’t ordered.
So, when Janet came bustling into the tea room, brimming with joy and glowing with praise for the handsome young professional with the slim fit suit, immaculate hair and neatly trimmed beard, it was met with groans and eye rolls from some quarters, even despite her detailed explanation of his fresh energy and new ideas.
“I heard his name was Jared,” said an unimpressed Ian with an exaggerated shrug “what kind of name is that for someone who lives in the West Country?”
Say what you like about Ian, you could always count on him to pick the most irrelevant thing to criticise.
“That’s the thing about sales. The pretension. It’s all style and no substance. They’re just sleazy guys who talk the talk. I’ve got no time for them”. He clearly didn’t relish the idea of Devon’s next Don Draper striding purposefully through his office space and then he launched into a classic man story about a time he embarrassed a door to door salesman just trying to make a living.
“I don’t even know what they do over there,” added Keith “it’s just selling things over the phone. We can all do that,” he said optimistically, wildly overestimating his abilities. Keith was reliable in his particular field but there wasn’t a chance he could match the innate charisma held by a sales professional. This was a man for whom eating a yoghurt was a pity inducing, dignity stripping ordeal; he just never seemed to get it right. It was like seeing someone pour a gallon of milk into a cement mixer to watch it slosh about mesmerically.
It was clear that these guys weren’t sold on the idea of sales; they’d been there a long time and they’d tell you they’d seen it all. The many distastefully arrogant men who utilised their bullish machismo to the detriment of everyone else. Whether either of them had seen anything beyond the walls of their cubicles for the past ten years it was hard to say, either way, the new guy had a lot of work to do in order to convince them that his presence added value to the company.
As they continued to deliberate and debate (gossip) about the pros and overwhelming cons of the sales professional, the new guy made his entrance. Janet liked what she saw and it was true, he certainly looked the part. He introduced himself and shook the hands of everyone.
“Hi, my name is Jack, I’m the new guy working in sales,” he said warmly, to the visible relief of Ian, glad that he’d never have to utter the name Jared again.
“If you can call that work!” came the scoffing reply.
Jack laughed politely, this wasn’t a new experience for him but winning people over was his bread and butter. That’s what he was paid for and selling himself to his doubters was just the first step.
“Well,” he said magnanimously “selling isn’t as easy as you might think. It’s not really about shifting products or services, it’s about selling us, people.”
“I hope not, that’s illegal,” quipped Ian
“What I mean is that we’re selling relationships, expertise, cooperation. A lot of our work involves understanding people and what their motivation is, what their problems are and then to inspire trust in our solution.”
Keith and Ian looked at one another, lacking any sort of comeback and a little put out to find the man’s pitch agreeable.
“Before anyone buys anything from you, there has to be a degree of trust, right? You wouldn’t just hand over your money to someone you didn’t know, from a company you’d never heard of until they’d put the effort in to reassure you you’re making the right decision. It sounds simple, obvious even, but it’s not easy, I mean you’re smart guys, would you consider yourselves easy targets to sell to?”
They both shook their heads with Ian eagerly taking the chance to summarise his door to door salesman triumph again, this time looking to impress.
“Exactly, it’s not all sitting in the break room drinking coffee.”
Jack, despite his age and apparent conformity to a stereotype, at least superficially, was clearly at the top of his game. He sold sales to the guys and it didn’t seem like they knew it. They went from their preconceived notions and ideas about the merits of the job and the types of people who work therein to ending their breaks agreeing they wouldn’t mind inviting him out for a beer as “That Jack seems like a decent bloke.”