Have you ever met someone who is not cut out for their job?
The newspaper I work for hired a new advertising account executive – fancy wording for an ad salesman. This is what I do. I sell advertising or, as I like to put it, I help businesses find clients and patrons through effective marketing. It can be a difficult job at times, but rewarding. I have learned a great deal through my work in advertising – about businesses, interpersonal communication, and rejection. These lessons have made me a better salesman, community member, and a better person.
The new guy seemed like a good fit for our publication at first. He was young, dressed with a dapper professionalism and a potentially excessive dose of gel to hold his quaff of black hair in place. As I met with the new hire, who we'll call Greg Parker for the sake of this story, I could tell he was enthusiastic about working for the paper. He'd had nominal experience in advertising, selling ads on fund-raising calendars and sports memorabilia for local high schools, and peddling ad spots in Mega Hunter – a recent manifestation of the phone book. He seemed to know some of the basic tenants of sales, had a good attitude, and we needed another sales rep. It was a perfect fit.
The First Day
He arrived at work promptly on his first day at 8:00am. He got to work, familiarizing himself with our management software, his client list, and the basic layout of the office. Having a desk adjacent to that of Mr. Parker, I answered questions, helped him find office supplies as needed, and tried to make him feel at home in his new environs.
“You want any coffee?” I offered as I strolled to the kitchen.
“Nope! I'm an energy drink man!” he replied as he violently shook a water bottle full of chalky, pastel yellow substance.
When I returned from the kitchen, he'd finished half the bottle. He was zoned into creating his email signature with tenacious concentration, so I passed by without a word, returning to my own task list for the day. Before I could get settled in, he poked his head around the divider.
“What do you use for an email signature? I can't figure out what to put in mine.”
I sent him a blank email, showing my signature at the bottom. I tried to refocus on my attention to the impending deadline of the next issue. Soon, Greg appeared at my desk. He had taken a lackadaisical route to my workspace, as if he were on his way back from the fax machine or copier. I find both of these options hard to believe, unless he was copying his newly minted email signature.
“Hey man! Are you into MMA fighting?”
I looked down at my computer screen for a moment, hoping that this question was directed at the wall – a likelier candidate for this question than I. I glanced up. He was still standing over me. Shifting his weight from one leg to the next, as if he wanted to engage in some mixed martial arts there and now.
“Uh, not really. I'm more into...working.”
He loped back to his desk, resuming whatever task was next on his orientation list. A few moments later, a little box appeared on my screen. Greg had discover Google Chat.
Greg: Where do I find my clients?
Chris: Under “Greg” in the client management program.
A bit later, I heard from behind the partition,
“You're going to Paris in June? SWEET!”
Greg had discovered the companies online calendar. And my vacation, evidently.
“You'd better be careful over there man! You know there's a volcano over there? Iceland – or Greenland, I think. I heard Lindsay Lohan might miss her court date because of all the smoke. That's what TMZ's saying.”
“I'll be careful. Thanks for the...advice.”
The First Sale
I did my best to avoid him the rest of the day. He must have fared well enough, because bright and early the next morning, there was Greg, full of vigor and ready to start making sales. He consulted me on a couple clients, then dug in. About 10 am, he made a phone call. After a few minutes of chatter, he hung up.
“I think I might have screwed up.” He said blankly.
“Ok...” I replied, unsure how to respond to such a statement.
“Well, I sold an ad.”
Surprised by the speed of this supposed sale, I went back to check on the terms of this sale. As I reviewed the terms that Greg had agreed to, I realized that while he had sold an ad, he had grossly undercut the bottom line, practically giving away the ad space. I brought this to Greg's attention and told him that he should run any special pricing by the publisher before offering it to the customer.
Properly chagrined, Greg emailed our publisher, explaining what he'd done. Then he left for lunch, which would be followed by a visit to a client. I was having lunch in the office that day, so dug into getting some real work done in Mr. Parker's absence. About an hour later, I got a call from the new sales rep.
“Hey Chris! You at the office?”
“Yeah Greg, whats up?”
“Well, you know how I was heading out to Silvis to see this client? I kind of forgot all my stuff.”
“Do you have anything? Price sheet? Calendar? At least an old copy of the paper?
“Uh...no. I don't think so. Can you bring me my binder?”
“No Greg. I will not bring you your binder! Stop by a restaurant that carries our paper, and at least bring that with you. Talk about marketing strategy, and avoid specific pricing questions.”
The Last Supper
Needless to say, he didn't make the sale. About three hours later, Greg came strolling into the office. He sat down at his desk, rummaged around a bit, and logged onto his email. A few moments passed before I heard an exasperated mutter behind me,
“Gah! What an asshole! I...I gotta get out of here!”
He stormed into the kitchen, then swept by me in a flurry, without a word. The door jangled as it bounced in and out of it's frame, standing ajar in Greg's wake. I looked at Elizabeth, my co-worker in astonishment. She solemnly observed,
“I don't think he's coming back.”
“He took his nuts!”
The nuts she was referring to were the canned variety, cashews I believe. These were what he'd retrieved from the kitchen. We investigated around his desk for clues into this tempestuous behavior. His email was still up and on it was a reply from our publisher regarding his 'sale' earlier that day. The email was completely professional, albeit reprimanding in nature, but nothing to storm out about.
A few hours later, the publisher returned from his meeting. We explained the situation. At that point our leader made three unsuccessful attempts at contacting Greg Parker. It was clear that the newest addition to our organization was not coming back.
In retrospect, we should have seen the writing on the wall with this guy. But you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes though, it's just not meant to be.
I doubt he'll be using us as a reference.