The interview was scheduled for 9:00 AM. I was excited. Potentially, it was going to be my first job in Canada.
The hiring company was an International Distributor of consumer products.
The office was on a street lined with warehouse looking buildings. Not quite what I had expected. Far more people than I anticipated were present for the interview.
The competition is going to be tough, I thought to myself.
After a brief wait, a few of us were herded into a small meeting room where four people from the hiring side were waiting for us. One of them, John, identified himself as the manager of the operation. The other three were introduced as Territory Managers. To me, they looked awfully young and underdressed.
As the only one wearing a suit, I was clearly overdressed for the occasion.
John launched into a brief spiel about the company and its success in the distribution business. Each of us was given thirty seconds to introduce ourselves and talk about our sales and distribution experience. John went on to explain that we were picked based on the strength of our resumes, and he was satisfied that we would do well with the company.
“You guys are going straight to training” John announced.
I was elated. It was easier than I thought.
We were quickly paired up with Territory Managers.
I got Brian. He did not look a day older than twenty years.
Since I didn’t have a car, Brian offered to drive me to the training location.
As we headed out of the building, Brian grabbed a very large duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. He threw the bag in the boot of his beat up Chevy and enthusiastically announced:
“Let’s go kick some butt!”
A little unsure, I responded, “Sure.” I was all for it, whatever that meant.
As we drove along to the training location, I wondered how much money I was going to make at my new job.
“This looks like a good spot,” Brian said, interrupting my thoughts.
I was expecting another warehouse complex. Instead, we were pulling into what appeared to be a plaza, housing small offices, and shops. As we got out, Brian pulled out the duffel bag from the car. For a second he contemplated passing the bag to me, then decided against it. I had to admit that the giant-sized duffel bag wouldn’t have gone well with my suit. In his jeans and T-shirt, he looked a natural to carry it.
I trudged along as he purposefully walked up to a small office with a sign on the door that read “Stationery and Computer Supplies.”
“Can I help you?” the lady at the front office asked.
In dramatic fashion, Brian dug his hand into the duffel bag and whipped out what appeared to me like an ugly doll with bright blue hair and asked:
“Would you like to buy a troll?”
Troll? I had no idea what he was talking about.
“What part of do-not-solicit don’t you get?” The voice came from the back of the office. The man appeared to be the manager. I looked back at the door, and sure enough, there was a sticker on the glass door that clearly read “No soliciting or loitering allowed.”
Not missing a beat, Brian pulled out another troll, this time, one with bright green hair and flashed it in front of the receptionist.
“C’mon bud, it’s Christmas, they make great gifts.” The comment was targeted at the Manager who seemed to be in two minds about enforcing the no soliciting rule. Clearly, he was drawn by the ugliness of the trolls. As he walked up to us, Brian handed over the trolls.
“Just twelve bucks each; they are a steal,” he was in full sales mode.
As the rest of the office staff circled around, one of the guys phoned home to check with his wife if a troll would make a good gift for his nephew, Andy.
He bought the blue-haired troll.
As we walked out of the office with thirty-six dollars, Brian said nonchalantly,“It’s as simple as that; now, why don’t you try?”
I finally got it.
Our next few stops were less fruitful. I got strange looks as I carried the bag and tried to sound like Brian. The suit did not help. As we wrapped up the first phase of my training, we did a quick count. I had made one sale, Brian had two more. Seventy-two dollars for nearly two hours of work.
“We make a clean 30%, and that would be…” Brian trailed off. Obviously, mental math was not his forte.
As we headed towards the nearby McDonald’s for a bite, I did some soul searching. I had made a deal with myself that I would take on any job to gain Canadian experience. But, was I ready for a switch from the corporate world to a career in door-to-door selling?
As we wrapped up lunch, I broke it to Brian: I was quitting.
He appeared disappointed, but not surprised. I let him keep the commission for my sale – $3.60.
As I wished him luck and caught a bus home, I reflected on what had just transpired.
My first job in Canada was not going to make it to my resume. However, I now had a better appreciation for door-to-door salespeople and cold callers…