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    The Copying Machine Salesman

    By on May 8, 2014 in Memory Lane with No Comments


    In the mid 1970’s I decided to get a new job, one that was part of a real career. Up until then, I had mainly worked in restaurants. I enjoyed them and I did make pretty good money, but I always knew that I’d have to get a “real” job someday. I was getting pretty old at 24 years old. I had an AA and BS degree that would look pretty darn impressive on my résumé. I longed for something that I could sink my teeth into.

    I scoured the job ads in the newspaper for weeks and couldn’t find anything that piqued my interest. Then one day I saw an ad for a sales associate position with 3M Company; Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Now that sounded like a solid company that was right in my wheelhouse. With my sales experience from my early days with Fuller Brush Company and my stint as a men’s shoe salesman at Thom McCann’s, I would be a shoe-in. Sorry.

    Well, I sent in my résumé and amazingly enough, received a call from them within a week or so. Ha, I knew it! They were itching to get me on their team. I was no fool http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-fashionable-young-businessman-image15791385though. I knew that I had to dress for success, so I purchased a great looking 3-piece suit for the interview. Actually, my mom helped me pick it out. I wasn’t what you’d call a fashion icon back then, (or even now), so I needed some guidance from an expert. We picked out a great looking wool suit, along with a back-up suit of dark blue. We had them tailored to my tall and thin frame and presto! I was pure Wall Street.

    On the day of my interview, I arrived early, as I always do. I told the receptionist, a gorgeous young woman, whom I later discovered was moonlighting as a ballet dancer, that I had an appointment for a job interview. She had me take a seat while she informed the sales manager of my arrival. I surveyed the vast, open office. Everybody in the office looked very professional with their suits and briefcases. There was a continuous low-level chatter of voices from them busily talking on the telephone. There were about a dozen quasi-cubicles that consisted of two desks attached together by a divider that separated the two desks for privacy. It was as alien to me as walking on the moon. I had never worked in any kind of office environment before, but I had that feeling of destiny.

    I was interviewed by Skip, the sales manager. He was in his late 30’s, stocky, very clean-cut, and friendly. He was very easy to talk to. The interview went very smoothly. He explained that I would be selling copying machines around the greater Sacramento area. He then informed me that if I was offered the job then I’d have to get a station wagon so I could transport the copiers for sales demonstrations, and then asked me if that would be a problem. “That is absolutely no problem at all” I blurted. I quickly calculated that on my, soon-to-be, executive-level salary that the cost of a station wagon would be chump change as well as a tax deduction. See, I was already thinking like an executive.

    “Well then Mr. Jensen, we’re prepared to offer you a full-time position. Welcome to 3M. When can you start?” and he extended his hand to seal the deal. “I also urge you to get a haircut to help round out your professional look.” he added.

    “Funny you should say that, I just got one yesterday.” I replied, at which point Skip literally fell backward off of his chair and rolled on the floor laughing … no shit. My hair was a pretty average length for the mid-1970’s but compared to Skips’ close cropped, gel-managed coiffure, I looked pretty “casual” to say the least.

    I spent the next 2 weeks in intense sales training. Most of it was pouring through the official, and highly confidential, 3M Professional Sales techniques on cassette tapes. I actually spent much of the time making copies of my face, hands, butt, and any other body part that I could place on top of the demonstration copying machines, and then putting them on the receptionist/ballet dancer’s desk. Skip taught me how to do presentations and utilize the many “techniques” that professional salespeople use to close deals. It was actually very good life training that would often come in handy in my personal life.

    “Please tell me any concerns that you may have in going out on a date with me. Now, if I can find a solution to each and every one of your concerns, to your complete satisfaction, will you then go out with me? Great! Please sign here.”

    After my 2 weeks of sales training I was ready to hit the road to test my wings. I was initially responsible for selling the notorious 3M 609 copying machine. It was their oldest, biggest, and heaviest copying machine. Imagine trying to convince somebody to buy a Windows 95 computer today. My manager thought that it would be a good way to hone my sales skills without losing potential customers for the more expensive machines. I’m sure that he didn’t expect for me to sell any of them.

    http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-1950-s-styled-station-wagon-image3419849I now had to purchase a vehicle big enough to transport that behemoth 3M 609. My dad, through a friend of his that was an auto dealer, found the perfect car for me; a 1967 fire engine red Ford Fairlane station wagon. Wow, you couldn’t miss me coming down the road in that. It was a monster! It had all-black interior with vinyl seats and NO air-conditioning. In retrospect, it was a bit less than perfect. The average summertime temperature in Sacramento hovers around 95 degrees with occasional highs in the 110’s, IN THE SHADE. The temperature in the direct sun was equivalent to the surface of Mercury, the suns nearest neighbor.

    Now, picture me driving around in that blast-furnace on wheels, wearing a 3-piece wool suit. I would show up to do a sales presentation, pushing in a huge gurney-like cart supporting a copying machine that was literally the size of a small car, looking like I had just emerged from a swimming pool. Oddly enough though, it worked in my favor. I usually did sales presentations to the secretaries and office managers that were predominately women and so I played that sympathy card for all that it was worth. I’d be doing my demonstrations, dripping with sweat, with my trademarked “aw shucks, Wally Cleaver” attitude. My demonstrations were laced with self-deprecating humor.

    The following is the well-rehearsed part of my 3M 609 sales demonstration that proved to be the most effective:

    Picture a 24 year-old me in a 3-piece suit, with sweat dripping down my forehead, standing by the infamous 3M 609, with an office manager and secretary seated nearby, totally engrossed in my sales presentation. “Ladies, I will now show you just how easy it is to remove a paper jam, in the unlikely event that one should occur. First, I will crumble this sheet of paper into a ball.” I would then crumble a sheet of paper into a very little ball. Then I would flatten it with my hand so it was still very crinkled. “As you can now see this paper is very well-wrinkled.” I continued. “I will now send it through the copier, thus creating a paper jam, at which time I will show you just how easy it is to remove.” Now, the whole time I knew that a crinkled piece of paper would rarely cause a paper jam. So the 3M 609 clunked and churned and eventually spit out the crinkled paper, complete with a crisp new copy, neatly into the paper tray. I would then have an astonished look on my face and exclaim, “Wow, I can’t even create a paper jam. This just goes to show you how reliable this baby really is.” I sold three 3M 609’s in one day, which was a company record. I was instantly catapulted into 3M infamy.

    Recognizing the amazing sales prowess of his young protegé, Skip immediately started training me on the latest line of copying machines which included, their top-end masterpiece, the VQC. It was a fraction of the size of the 609 and could make copies on plain paper. It was revolutionary, and quite expensive. After an intensive week of practice, I got my new sales patter down cold and finally the day came for me take the VQC out on my first sales presentation. I carefully loaded it onto the specialized cart with the collapsible wheels allowing one to easily load and unload it from a vehicle. I pushed that marvel of modern technology out the front door with all the eyes of my fellow sales force on me, watching with a mix of admiration and envy, due to my meteoric rise into copier sales stardom. I felt like I was on top of the world.

    I opened the back of my Ford Fairlane and carefully lined up the cart with the back of the car when the unthinkable happened. The collapsible cart suddenly collapsed before I could push it into the car causing the VQC to flip over the edge with a sickening crash. I was horrified. I quickly wrestled it back on the cart and pulled the cart back up, but the damage was done. The cart now resembled a gurney with a very dead VQC lying lifelessly on top. I thenhttp://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-business-couple-kissing-over-desks-office-side-view-image31831520 proceeded to solemnly push the deceased copier back into the front doors of the office. It was eerily quiet. Again, all eyes silently followed me as I slowly pushed the cart into the repair room, thus ending my corporate career as a sales associate with 3M Company. The positive outcome of this whole experience was 2 great looking suits, a fire-engine red 1967 Ford Fairlane station wagon and 3 dates with a part-time ballet dancer.




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