Friday, October 24, 2008

The world's greatest salesman

Every year I perform my stand-up comedy routine at dozens of sales awards banquets. They’re usually held in nice resorts, include open bar at some point and are attended by the company’s top producers – the “best of the best” if you will.

The attendees carry themselves well. From the moment they stride into the resort, golf bags slung over their shoulder, they walk with an air of accomplishment. They know they are excellent salespeople. Some may even go so far as to think they are the best salespeople.

They are not. For I know the best salesperson. While we have never met, I know where to find him or her. It’s somewhere in Pennsylvania. But more on that later. First, any talk of the best sales person in the world has to include this joke:

A salesman walks into a sporting goods store to apply for a job. During the interview he tells the manager that he is the world’s best salesman.
“I can sell anything to anybody,” he says, matter-of-factly.
Unconvinced, the manager puts him on the floor immediately and then drifts over to the salesman’s area, hoping to watch the first customer exchange.
A man approaches and chats briefly with the salesman. Together they head to fishing tackle where, within minutes, the customer has purchased $500 worth of fishing poles and tackle.
The awestruck manager creeps closer, anxious to get a whiff of the conversation.
“Now that you got the fishing tackle, aren’t you going to need a boat?” the salesman asks.
The customer agrees and buys a boat on the spot.
“How about a trailer to haul that boat?” asks the salesman. Another sale right there, this time for a top of the line trailer and hitch.
“A trailer like that can only be towed by a large Winnebago,” says the salesman. Let me show you what we’ve got.
The manager is completely blown away as he sees the customer sign the paperwork for a new Winnebago.
But the salesman isn’t done. Not until he has sold the customer a piece of lakefront property where he can fish to his heart’s content.
When the customer had left, the manager came out from behind his hiding place. “I gotta tell you buddy, I was skeptical but I just watched you in action and you truly are the world’s greatest salesman. I mean, that guy just came in to buy fishing tackle and he walks out with a boat, a Winnebago and a piece of property. Unbelievable!
“You don’t know the half of it,” the salesman replies. “That guy came in looking for tampons for his wife and I said, ‘hey, as long as you aren’t doing anything this weekend, why not go fishing?’”


Okay it’s not a laugh out loud joke but it’s funny if you pound the pavement every day, hoping for the next big score that will send you on that trip to Hawaii. And maybe someday you will be as talented as the salesperson in Pennsylvania. Again, I don’t know this person’s name or whether this person is male or female. I only know that he or she sells cell phone service.

Several weeks ago I was performing for PennMed Healthcare, which manages 17 long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania. Each year the company organized a corporate “retreat,” in which the top brass go to a remote location and spend two days discussing how to make PennMed a better operation.

For reasons never quite explained to me, the group chose the St. Francis Center for Renewal, a convent located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was the first show I had ever performed in a convent. Statues and paintings of Jesus were on every wall of the showroom. The Lord truly was watching me from all angles.

But that’s not all. According to Wikipedia, Bethlehem is also home to the largest concentration of Amish people in the world. Indeed, when driving around the area, it’s hard not to see billboards for Amish furniture and other wares.
So there I was at 8:30 a.m. driving a rental car and attempting to find a convent in the middle of Amish country. Upon arrival, I turned on my Blackberry to check email.

My phone worked perfectly. I had all the bars. I had full strength. I had cell phone service. Put more succinctly, I had cell phone service in an area populated by a bunch of women who had given their lives to God and a collection of people who still think we’re living in the early 1800s.

Whoever convinced the population of this area that they needed cell phones is the world’s greatest salesman. END OF DISCUSSION. Prepare the plaque, engrave the company pen and book the trip to Cabo. We have a winner.

I still wonder what these people are doing with their cell phones. Are the Mother Superior and Ezekiel texting each other late at night? Are the nuns listening to choir music on their new 3G iPhones? Are the Amish buying and selling oxen on eBay?

Actually, I don’t care and I doubt the world’s greatest sales person does. For right now, that person has probably just convinced the executives at PennMed that the nursing home residents need motorcycles.

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