How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Salesforce In 10 Easy Steps -- Step 2: Can I Get That In Writing?
[Step One: See this link to find out what happened in the story so far
So we were all in a bar again, this time in Century City, mobbed with entertainment lawyers and accountants who were concentrated in that part of town, just on the edge of Beverly Hills. I didn't drink that much until I joined this salesforce. The "we" was Bryce Bennington and William Sanders and me. Like I was trying to explain, there was no mystery to a salesforce in Los Angeles having such a perfect surfer dude blond babechasing specimen of male meat such as my friend Mr. Bennington. He was the consummate flirt and had no end of energy for explaining to any woman floating my his lair -- barstool, I should say -- that sales was all about seduction. Bryce had beer. I was vodka and tonic. William was scotch on the rocks.
Speaking of seduction we were talking about the new Head of Marketing -- a Frenchman named Francois Granger -- who some how got wind of us making fun of him in the conference call the week before and was about to descend on the three of us to accompany us on salescalls. Surely the most dreaded activity in the world for free-ranging cowboy and cowgirl salespeople -- dragging the guys from HQ into your accounts to meet your customers. But after we yucked it up about how Marketing never knows anything about real live customers and avoids them like the plague and shoots their wad and budget on setting up idiotic one-way mirror focus groups, this new guy, we were all calling him Frenchie, or at least Bryce was -- called our bluff and was taking us up on our dare to actually visit real customers.
Bryce finally shut up about which customers to take a Marketing Guy to and which customers NEVER to take a Marketing Guy to. It was one of those things not-so-good salespeople did on a regular basis to cover their asses -- only parade the guy around in front of your best customers. I tried to do the opposite. William and I agreed.
William was six years older than Bryce's bubby beach boy 39 (going on 13), but came across as about three decades wiser to my mind. He was very East Coast, buttoned down, serious and I have to add, seriously handsome, also seriously married. He might have been the only salesman I'd ever met so far that didn't try to hit on me within the first month on the team. Bryce was a boy babe too, but such a hot tamale, you had to handle him very carefully. I'm a nice looking blonde, no movie star I'll tell you, but a cracker jack salesperson (thanks to all these great people -- mostly men -- who showed me the ropes througout my career). Bryce had tried to get into my pants ... let me see ... a few times, well, ... maybe 4 times, no ... well, there was the sales meeting in San Diego ... I don't remember. It's just Bryce was one of those guys you have to keep reminding "We're at work, dear! This is not a Roman orgy!" He was an eager puppy. I actually kindof liked him, but I would never information let that spill.
"But check out the schedule, I don't get it." Bryce said.
There was everything riding on this visit -- William and I knew it. Bryce was no dope, he should have figured it out, maybe he was just playing dumb.
Our manager was leaving the company in a month and these two Alpha Males were going to have a bloody battle to be promoted into her slot. This visit would probably have a lot to do with who won, who lost. I was a senior saleswoman, but new to the company -- only there 4 months by now. I wasn't really a contender.
"Look at this, he has a early meeting with us in downtown LA. Cool. Then he takes off with you William to see three customers in your territory -- hits Beverly Hills, Century City, Manhattan, Redondo, the Marina, but drags Sally along. Then he comes down to Orange County and San Diego with me the next, again, he drags Sally along for the ride. Then he's got Sally all to himself in Burbank, Westlake and the rest of the Valley."
Bill gave me an UP eyebrow.
"Come on, Bryce," I said. "He wants me to be Little-Miss-Notetaker. I get to tell him my version of the all the calls, tattletail on you guys, since I'm not in the running anyway."
"So we better treat you really FINE, girl. Bartender, bring her anything she wants!" he said pounding on the bar and then cozying up to me. I whacked him away.
William was looking at his watch. He had little league games and bbq's with the family and all that happily married stuff the other two of us kind of envied but often made fun of.
"I gotta take off," he said seriously. We said our goodbyes to William and he headed out.
Bryce and I finished up quickly and headed home. I was wondering about this Frenchman, but wouldn't have to wonder for long, since he was appearing the next morning at the ungodly hour of 7:00 for a meeting with us. I was chanting "Francois, Francois, Francois" in the car on the way home to try to get "Frenchie" out of my mind and mouth, hoping not to slip and refer to him that way.
He was there before us the next morning. I recalled he'd been in the San Francisco office and had flown down the night before. He reminded me of someone. Some French actor. I think it was that big beefy roundish one named Gerard Depardieu
. But he was a little thinner than that guy and he was funny as hell. We all warmed up to him pretty quickly. He even made fun of himself. He had good ideas. We didn't want to like him. But we found we were liking him a lot.
The sales calls with William went off like clock-work. Still, he had done the same thing Bryce decided to do, only trot out the accounts where everything was perfectly pleasant. Boring, if you ask me. Then off to San Diego and Bryce really did a fine job as well. Most of his customers adored him anyway. We all had lunch in a Burger King off the 5 Freeway and Francois, who told us to call him Francois, not Frank or Frenchie or French Guy or Frog (he'd heard them all), launched into a pretty hilarious story about mixing up words in English when he first started in sales with the company. So that was it, he had started in Sales -- no wonder we liked him.
Then I had him all to myself to drag over to Disney and Universal and Paramount. Sounded exciting, the big LA movie studios, but it was actually a number of grueling meetings with the IT guys and all their issues with our software. The first meeting was rough. The next, the guy chewed me out, but then signed a renewal contract -- the only contract Francois got to see anyone close during his visit., I was happy to realize. And then the last meeting. Well, I took him into the lion's den and let him hear one really difficult customer bitch and moan for a solid hour. We left there on a really unhappy note, the guy telling him our user interface basically sucked and they were ready to rip it out and put in the competitor.
We ducked out of the building and leaned against a wall, trying to catch our breathe, "Whoa," Francois said to me. "You wanted me to see the real thing I guess."
"You bet," I said.
"We better take a break. It's nearly 5:00 anyway," he said looking at his massive gold watch. He was quite the snappy dresser, had I mentioned that? It was a hot day and we both needed a break.
By this point we were over in the Valley near a nice little French restaurant on Ventura Boulevard, so we ducked into the bar there for drinks. We got a small booth in the back and talked over the calls. We were drinking red wine. Just as I suspected he wanted to know what I thought of Bryce and William. I hated being in that position. I dodged it a bit. I spoke about both of their strengths.
"Right, right, but tell me about their weaknesses," he urged. I wondered if he was testing ME all of a sudden.
"Tell me about YOUR weaknesses," I said, noticing and kind of NOT noticing that I was getting DRUNK.
Weird how that moment can slip up on you.
And suddenly you think. "Hey, I'm sitting here with this good-looking French guy that I WORK WITH and I'm getting drunk and I'm flirting." And some part of your mind is saying -- "this is NOT a good idea." Problem is, your body is saying, "Go for it."
And he says, "I have a weakness for women, but many Frenchmen do. We have a bad reputation I'm afraid." looking innocently off into the crowd.
"Is there any food around here. I really need some food."
He orders for us -- something French -- it was probably something disgusting like calves intestines smeared on French bread with a piece of goat cheese on top.
The food helped a little. But then he ordered more wine.
My girl alarms are now sounding in my head. The sirens are loud and fearsome. If I were a firestation, my little firemen would already be jumping out of their beds, into their pants and boots, sliding down the pole, getting the hell out of there fast. Unfortunately, the alarms were getting drowned out.
He reaches over to take my hand. I yank it back.
"Hey," I say, "Aren't you even going to tell me you have a mean old wife who doesn't understand you and never wants to have sex and all that?"
He bursts out laughing, "Is that what they all say?"
"Well," I say, "well, most of them!" I'm freaking out like a girl scout losing her cookies.
He's grinning. "I don't think Europeans tell that story. At least we French guys don't."
"I really should go," I say. I stand.
"No problem," he says putting money down on the table. "I'm sorry, I'm tired, I don't know what I was doing."
"I mean, I can stay, if we just talk business." I say. I sit.
We sit. He pulls back. Thank God. He acts like he's all business. It's good. Not really. I'm still drunk. We talk about something dry and boring to do with the semantic web, I have no idea what the hell he's talking about. I am in that bad place where now that I can't have him, I really, really want him.
I stuff food in my mouth to keep it busy, to offset the wine. We actually manage to talk our way past that tricky moment. He tells me some great things that are happing in headquarters. They are really trying to support the salespeople. They are really beginning to get it. I tell him one of the worst things anyone can do to a salesperson is act like headquarters knows more about the customers. No one knows more about the customers than we do. He agrees. We're getting sobered up, it's going to be okay.
He tells me he'll take a cab back to his hotel, I don't need to give him a ride. I appreciate it. Both of us had probably imagined how nice it would be to make out there in the car alone together. And if that happened and then I have to drop him at his hotel -- well, best to avoid all of that. His hotel and my house are in the completely opposite directions anyway, so it makes sense.
He is polite out in the parking lot. It's a beautiful night. I fumble with my keys, dropping them. I look like an idiot. He bends down to get them, hands them to me. I'm not so drunk anymore thanks to the food, just nervous now. I tell him to have a good flight home. He is leaving the next morning at the crack of dawn. He kisses my hand goodnight. Kisses my hand?! Talk about French! Nobody does that. He says good night, turns, goes over to the cab line and jumps into the first one, heading back to his hotel. I'm looking at his butt. It's cute.
I turn away fast. Don't look, I think to myself.
I get in my car in gear. I take a deep, deep breathe and thank the universe once more for letting me squeak out of that one alive. At home, I'm so hot, I call up an old boyfriend I keep in reserve for just such evenings. We have an understanding. He's a good guy. Very good.
A week later, the word comes down. We're all on the edges of our chairs as the conference call gets going. Whichever guy doesn't get the promotion will probably leave and that's bad for all of us, no matter who gets promoted.
Bryce is sure he has the promotion. William is sure he has the promotion. I think it will be William and Bryce will have some temper tantrum and just quit. Francois announces that I'm the new Sales Manager for the region. They report to me. None of us can believe it. They looked as shocked as I do. They don't know the half of it. "Hey guys, she was the only one who got me a signed contract, remember? And I'm sure she's the only one who can handle the two of you and I don't want either of you leaving. I need you selling."
"Go team," I think to myself and break out in a sweat.