Once you are on the government dole it is necessary to seek out employment. Something I was doing anyway, so not a real problem to keep track of where I applied for work and who had not called me. It is all a click, cut and paste away.
While seeking work I still sought out customers for the cemetery. Without floor duty I was able to exercise extraordinary freedom and go anywhere I wanted whenever I felt like it. Without a draw I was essentially working for free so I could coordinate my day around whatever pointless meetings Sandra needed me to attend.
Like many companies our sales team met on both Monday and Friday mornings. I always like Friday mornings better because it served as a recap of everything that did not happen and destroyed the impossible projections forced out of us on Monday and many times there were doughnuts.
Mondays are a mix of training, motivational speeches, a recap of the weekend where virtually no business happened and a push for sales projections. Always a surprise that when the question asked on Friday about what everyone is working is repeated on Monday, Monday morning answers have more money attached because nobody was planning to work the weekend. Sales goals are handed down from some corporate cloud where executives grind out conclusions about how much everybody should be selling based on past performances, averages and other goals that were never reached. The typical Monday Morning sales meeting goes like this:
Rah! Rah! Rah! How’s everybody doing? Fantastic! We are the greatest sales team in the world! No matter what you sell or where you sell it this is your Monday morning meeting. I have been to hundreds of them in my 35 year sales career. It starts out with innocent cheer leading that soon morphs into a collusion of training modules and corporate psychobabble developed by self proclaimed marketing gurus who have convinced the leaders of sales teams that their methods are undeniably sound and that there are always more sales out there than your reps are bringing in. Because they have successfully brainwashed the company heads into buying into such programs, sales managers, AKA; Business Development Managers, Regional Vice Presidents, Chief Marketing Officers and the like, have been influenced enough to believe that infinite sales do indeed exist and that your sales team needs to believe it too.
So the dog and pony show continues with rousing tales of success from the past week. Any sale, no matter how small or routine becomes a significant factor in proving to the team that whatever business model is in place, it works. And no matter how well the team has been doing, even if all sales records have been broken, it is still not enough. There is always more out there folks, you just have to go get it. As The Warriors Cochise spouted in reference to the gang leader Cyrus “It’s all out there. All we gotta do is figure out a way to go steal it.”
Motivational methods simply run in two directions; positive and negative. Once the positive is out of the way, the psychology and tone of the meeting is generally flipped to coerce the team through fear. This is done subtly when the team is riding a high tide and nearly meeting or reaching goals. When goals are father away, the subtext goes out the window and sales managers point out (what they see as) inadequacies and play upon the group dynamic of shame. Pushing guilt on a sales force does not motivate them to sell but that does not keep it from happening. There is a horrendous saying that has been reiterated in numerous ways throughout my career; “Shit rolls downhill.” Sales managers use this term as justification for their own unruly behavior and siphoning blame from themselves for such poor manners.
When sales managers feel threatened by loss or humiliation you will witness their behavior shift into a serious melodramatic role of authority. They automatically parrot whatever threats they have been charged with in hopes that the team will increase performance and reach the goals plucked from the imaginary and hopeful cloud of projection. Now, having lowered themselves to the level of ethereal upper management whom sales is charged with keeping happy at all times, like a winsome yet threatening God with thunderbolts at hand, managers display disturbing and lopsided behaviors. They praise and molest the psyche of the team simultaneously. “You’re all doing fantastic, but you could be doing so much better. In fact, you’re really not trying at all.” They gesture and flail on dry erase boards. “You’re here, and we should be here. I don’t want to point out any one person who is not pulling their weight, but some people are hitting their numbers and some are not. Don’t tell me, but ask yourself this: What am I going to do to step up my game?” They don’t point to any single individual, yet numbers are on the board for everyone to see, so we know who they are talking about. It’s you or somebody you know.
I want to clarify that this behavior is not confined to any particular industry. This is status quo for sales teams across the business spectrum. Whether the product at hand is business to business or business to consumer makes no difference. The rhetoric of the Monday morning sales meeting is reworded to suit that team. In my illustrious career, I have sold pots and pans, newspapers, advertising in multiple forms, cars, rental vehicles, coupon books, a myriad of other gadgets and services and now cemetery property and funeral services and Monday morning sales meetings here are no different than in any other sales office I have ever been a part of. When I was young and impressionable I bought what they told me but after hearing the same message regurgitated for decades I realize that management has nothing new to say, only new recruits who have not yet heard this gospel.
Sales managers who bleed originality do not seem to exist. I see the same management performance repeated by different actors who quote Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins and tell us true winners are modeled after Vince Lombardi. Most people don’t know who these guys are, what they sold, who they played for or why we should care.
It is the same cookie cutter approach that sales management has been using for the last 30 years. Review and rebuff. Managers keep looking for some alchemical answer that will make each team member an absolute star and blindly miss the fact that this is impossible. You have to have losers to know who the winners are.
In the end the Monday morning meeting terminates with smaller team meetings or one on ones that grind another 20 minutes out of your day, to remind you once again, no matter how close you are to the top or how great your lead if you are there, somebody is coming up from behind to steal your thunder, so you better get out there and sell. Team members with lesser performance levels are asked to draw up action plans, report all of their activity and have solid reasons for low sales.
This is another ploy management has for weeding out anybody not meeting whatever level they need to make their own bonus; tromping on the self-esteem of minimal sellers. “This dialogue is presented as a consultation to help you, low performer. People out there have money. You’re not bringing it in. What are you doing to change that?”
“I’m using all the methods and tools you gave me. I am making all the phone calls and contacts I can in a day. Most people love what I have but can’t afford to buy it. They don’t have any money.”
“That’s a lie. They all have money. They are just not giving it to you. What are you going to do to get their money?”
The personal consultation turns managers into Mafioso crew bosses and sales people into family members not pulling their weight. Even for those who once rode the crest of a great wave of sales and who now rank near the bottom of the tote board, past performance means nothing. What have you done for me lately? is the anthem. When sales are up, your Capo says “You’re a good earner, look at you, bringing in the dough.” When sales are down expect to be kicked in the ribs. “Where’s the motherfucking money? You holding out on me? You’re out there representing us and you’re not bringing in any money! You’re making me look bad! Shit rolls downhill!”
This is the climate that forms naturally in sales organizations where upper management is far removed from the sales team on the street. The Generals know that the revolving door downstairs moves swiftly and once their Soldiers turned Slaves can not be beaten into submission they will slip away and some other sucker will stream in with resume in hand.
The Monday morning meeting is not just for pomp and circumstance. It is a place to take a head count and know who is fighting for you. To see who is truly on your team. To know who you have brainwashed. This is the conspiracy of the sales industry. It is the only mutually agreed upon doctrine amongst competitors. The real reason for Monday morning meetings is to test loyalty. If one is absent from my Monday morning, the most important meeting of the week, who’s Monday morning meeting are they at? This is the reason for traffic jams. Every sales person on Earth has to be in their office at 8 AM SHARP and they are all in each others way.
One recent Monday I had a conflicting schedule. Two 8 AM SHARP sales meetings with two different employers. Impossible to be in both places at once. Cemetery sales or the advertising sales? Such choices. Where would my shackles hurt least?