The kid that knocked on the front door yesterday afternoon knew his stuff. The hook to his pitch drew me in immediately.
“If we choose your house as tester for our security system, we won’t charge you for the service.”
I decided to hear him out rather than just give the standard brush off of “no thanks, we’re not interested” used when any door to door or phone salesperson called.
Behind me, mother sat next to the dining room table, her feet soaking in a tub of hot, soapy water, her toes being softened up so that she could cut the nails. She’d taken off her red twill pants as the pant legs couldn’t be rolled up easily and had draped a dark green bath towel over her bare thighs. This was her quarterly routine, or maybe bi-annually, if she wasn’t very motivated and the toenails could wait on their trimming. She’d gotten cold sitting there, watching TV, waiting on the softening process and had just asked me to take her the red sweater she left on her regular chair on the other side of the dining table. She looked rather festive: red sweater, green towel, bare calves above the blue tub where her feet were covered with bubbles, nail clippers at the ready on the table next to her, her hair freshly washed and curled and styled.
The kid at the door asked if there was somewhere we could sit and talk and I suggested the three foot high wide wall around the porch. I unlocked the wrought iron security screen door and headed outside.
“What’s going on?” Mother called, a frown between her eyes.
I waved at her and closed the door behind me and went to sit on the porch wall to listen to a sales pitch. It was interesting watching and listening to the young guy, early twenties, dark skinned; I would have said black, but his last name was Ramirez, so I guessed he was some combination of Black and Hispanic; he knew his info and did a good job of telling me about it rather than just reciting some script. He’d break grammar rules every now and then and also threw in some expressions that he was familiar with that definitely placed him in the millennial generation. It was like watching and interacting with someone who spoke the same language but with a different dialect; after all, I am from a half a century before that generation.
He had several good points and whoever had trained him had a nice grasp of successful sales. Ask the questions that get the potential buyer to acknowledge their own need and then show them how that need can be fulfilled. I recognized the technique from my days as a Realtor as one half my brain critiqued his method and ability and the other half thought about what we could get for nothing just for sticking a sign in the yard and the agreement to use our name as a reference.
Mother was elderly; I did need to leave her alone from time to time; she was a worrier over safely as she followed behind me to make sure doors and windows were locked; it was possible that a medical emergency could occur while I was away or even when I was in the house but unaware that she’d fallen in the garden; and yes, we did live just a few houses away from an area that was seeing an increase in crime, so, it was true we would benefit from the security system; and yes, they would cover the monthly monitoring fee, the installation fee and the cost of the wireless equipment. The only catch was that we would have to pay the monthly fee of $12 a week that the company passed on to the local authorities for ambulance, fire, and police response. $12 a week. Didn’t sound like much, $48 a month. It would be a squeeze to fit it in the budget, but still, it was a great bargain and it should bring Mother some sense of security and alleviate my concern whenever I’m away. I was sold. It would be worth the cost.
“I need to discuss this with my Mother before I commit.” I said. “This is her house and her money and she needs time to think about this.” All true, but the reality is I manage the money and the bills and if I felt we could cover something we wanted or needed, Mother generally deferred to my judgment. Still, I wouldn’t make the decision without talking to her, not to mention I’d learned the cooling off period before signing on the dotted line was generally a wise idea.
We said our goodbyes, he went on to other appointments and agreed to return in a couple of hours and I went back inside.
“Now tell me what that was all about.” Mother had just about finished trimming her toenails and was drying her feet and moaning over the pain in her back caused by bending over the tub of water.
I took a deep breath and launched into a detailed description of the system and how we would benefit if anyone broke in or if she had a medical emergency; my mouth moving, words coming out, while my brain was thinking: this thing has to be armed which will confuse Mother and if it goes off and she doesn’t respond to the voice activated intercom call from the monitoring company, they’ll send fire and police out and we’ll be charged if there’s not a real emergency.
“How will we afford it?” She said, putting her red twill pants and black sandals back on. “Can’t we get a medical alert for less than that all by itself?”
“Possibly.” I said as I dumped out the tub of soapy water into the toilet in her bathroom and watched the water slush and gurgle down the drain, a nagging sense of pressure building at adding another bill to the monthly budget. $12 a week, 52 weeks a year, divided by 12 months and, suddenly that $12 became $52 a month; beyond our budget; beyond the resources of Mother’s retirement money unless we cut something else out.
Mother’s cane cloncked across the floor as she moved to her regular spot at the dining room table, sat down and unmuted the TV, her attention back on the screen and off any discussion of a security system.
Ok, God. Do we need this thing? We’ve lived this long knowing that you’re in control and have got our backs. Besides, I have no idea how long Mother will live, what her health issues will be. Do I need to stress over adding another bill to the budget?
And just like that, the excitement over the thought of something for not much cost and the building dread over another bill faded away and in its place a peace floated down and reminded me that we’re ok just like we are. God loves us and watches out for us. I breathed in and out and smiled and headed to the kitchen to put dinner on the table. Thank you, God, for cooling off periods.
Several American-based security system companies make annual invasions in Weyburn (Canada), where it is considered an easy pitch to sell security in a community that has money, many new houses, and lots of fresh strangers in town. This last spring the competition among company sales persons must have been intense, as the sales people were very unwilling to take no for an answer. The local newspaper reported that there were incidents of salesmen being removed by police from properties. It left me wondering what kind of stress the sales people must be feeling to act so aggressively.
Wow – I have definitely felt stress as a salesperson, and I may have wanted to cry and stomp my feet when I didn’t make the sale, but I also learned early that the best way to sell is to do it effortlessly without showing any desperation (regardless of how I really felt). Buyers tend to feel your stress and if you’re relaxed, they feel more confident.
For those salespeople who had to be forcibly removed, my guess is the stress was unreasonable, such as getting fired if they didn’t make their quota or setting the reward so large (big $$$ for sales) that people just wouldn’t give up. Both of which miss the point – sales is supposed to be win-win for all parties and if it isn’t, then you haven’t met the client’s need.
I think this is a very good insight, that sales should be win-win. I also don’t feel comfortable with self-promotion, as you shared on another comment, and I struggle with that as a writer. Yet, this shift in thinking might help me be a little more assertive when putting myself out there, as this takes the focus off me again and back on the client. I tend to settle comfortably in that mind set after I get the job, but before that I don’t feel at ease.
It is horrible to think that people face losing their jobs if they don’t make the sale. When I think of that, I can see these folk who come to Weyburn to make the sales pitches are essentially alone. Without their sales team they have no one, and they come from another country, without their own means of transportation… they probably feel tremendous risk and vulnerability, and much pressure to remain with the group–something that is itself different from staying employed.
This is good to think about. The stress they show when they come to the door is right at that high level, on the verge of losing it, which is actually quite uncomfortable (a bit scary) to encounter.
I think you’re right, they are essentially alone and that builds pressure. I try to remember the win-win part of putting myself out there as a writer, as well. We have to put ourselves out there, if we want to garner any type of support of if we want to attract paying people who need something written, but it can be stressful. I try to remind myself, best to step back, take a deep breath and be who I am. As writers, that in itself will make whatever we’re writing real and accessible to the reader, without that awkward pressure that is scary to encounter.
Very sound advice. I appreciate the challenges of writing, to be authentic above all else, but there are moments when I feel I might not get there!
I can relate. 🙂