"The appointment is set for 9:30. He needs people to buy his cars. Tell him how commercials on our station will reach listeners. And that listeners need cars."
"But, I ..."
"Don't worry, kid. You'll do fine. Fake it 'til you make it."
It was my first day in sales. I was given a handful of sales brochures and sent to make a call on a Pontiac dealership.
I wasn't making enough money as a radio DJ, so I had taken a job on the station's advertising sales team. It was my first day and I was having second thoughts. "Fake it 'til you make it" didn't sound like a strategy for success.
I walked across the Bob George Pontiac showroom and asked to speak to the man my manager had made the appointment with. The sales manager. Ted.
"I'm sorry, but he had to step out."
"I have an appointment."
"Let me check."
I waited. Shifting my weight from foot to foot. Adjusting my tie. Thinking about the sales brochures I hadn't had time to read in my briefcase.
"I'm sorry. He had to pick up his son at school, but Mr. George can see you."
Mr. George?! That's the name of the dealer. The guy whose name is on the sign.
"OK," I said.
Said? More like squeaked.
I followed her past offices and a break room to a door that was more elegant than the other doors in the place.
She opened it and ushered me in.
Occupied by an imposing older gentleman.
He was probably in his early 40's, but, at the time, to me that was old. Established. Beyond my pay grade.
Looking at his suit, I became uncomfortably aware of my suit recently purchased from a thrift store. I felt like it had "Thrift Store Suit" embroidered on it. Electrified somehow. And flashing.
"Sit down," he said pointing to one of the chairs that was considerably smaller than the throne he easily filled on the other side of an imposingly large desk.
I sat. I wasn't sure what to do next. Running away didn't seem to be a prudent option, but it was the only suggestion my mind was pushing.
"Uh. I'm Scott Frothingham. From the radio station. I was supposed to meet your sales manager. Because he needs people to buy cars. And commercials on our station reach listeners. And listeners need cars," I blurted like a 6-year-old telling a mall Santa what he wants for Christmas.
"That's your pitch?"
"Have you done this before?"
"No. It's my first day."
"And they sent you to call on me?"
"Uh. No. Your sales manager."
So, you're being hazed."
"You've been set up. Your first day they send you to call on Ted. He beats the hell out of you and sends you back to the station with your tail between your legs. Old school assholes call this training.
"You seem like a nice kid. Let's fuck with these assholes."
He turned and pulled a binder out of his credenza. As he handed it to me he said, "Study this. Learn it inside and out. Don't tell your boss. Tell him that Ted wasn't here, but you have an appointment with Bob George on Monday at 11:00. He won't let you come alone, I'm too big a prospect. When you come back, pitch me like this teaches. Your boss'll shit his pants."
I looked at the binder. "How to Master the Art of Selling." Tom Hopkins.
On Monday, I returned with my manager, Randy.
Again, I followed the receptionist to the fancy door.
Mr. George scowled at Randy. "I don't know how this kid talked himself into this meeting, but I don't have a lot of time."
Mr. George was engaged. Randy seemed a bit stunned.
When I was done, Mr. George signed a 3-month deal, insisting I write and produce his commercials as part of the agreement.
Randy seemed more stunned.
In the dealership parking lot, the receptionist chased us down and said I'd forgotten my pen. She handed me a pen that definitely wasn't mine. Along with a folded piece of paper.
"Nice," chuckled Randy as he checked out the receptionist walking back to the dealership. "Looks like somebody has a secret admirer."
There in scrawled script was written: "Nice job. Your asshole manager didn't know whether to shit or go blind. See you next Monday at 11. Got some Zig Ziglar training for you. Bring back Hopkins. Don't bring Randy. Bob"