Stop me if you've heard this one...
A Cleveland-based sales rep goes to visit with a prospect in downtown Dayton, Ohio and...
You had your opportunity.
So, I'm in Dayton last Friday trying to sell someone something they actually need (gasp!). I know, I know, it goes against everything I ever learned during my sales career. Up until now, I've only heard of prospects like this. Yet there I was, face to face with this rarest of rare beasts. I thought about how I would attack. I'd stare her down, give her my carefully crafted sales pitch, fold my arms and wait for her answer -- a resounding "yes." I expected her to unwrap a new set of Mont Blanc pens for the occasion, the kind you use when you're signing the Declaration of Independence or a pre-nup. I know they used quills when they signed the Declaration of Independence, but please just submit to my own personal vision of how the proceedings should have proceeded. It's my dream and if I say Freddie Krueger has suction cups on his fingers, then Freddie Krueger has suction cups on his fingers.
Unfortunately, before any of this could occur, my prospect, the one who needed what I was selling, cut me off at the pass.
"We've already allocated our budget for 2011, but I'd really like to hear what you have to say."
That's what she said. Dammit. So, no matter how well I attack, there's no way I'm winning the battle. No way. It's like she put up one of those invisible, impenetrable force field shield thingies that they use in Sci-Fi movies. I was cooked.
The good news is that I didn't let it faze me. I had the best pitch prepared, so I used it. It dazzled her for sure, but only in a way that caused her to say, "I like this a lot. Maybe in 2012."
Maybe in 2012? Maybe in 2012 we'll all be dead.
We wrapped up our useless conversation in about an hour and fifteen. My car would not be towed afterall, having put it in front of a meter on a side street about fifty yards from where I was meeting with the non-prospect. Before heading into the meeting, I had placed two shiny quarters into the box and received two hours of parking in downtown Dayton. You can't get that kind of value anywhere. Not Columbus. Not Cleveland. Probably not even Toledo. I was pleased.
As I packed my bags, the non-prospect asked if I needed anthing for the four-hour trip back to Cleveland. Water? Pop? Potato chips?
"Well, I have some water back in the car, so no to the first two. But, I'll take the potato chips for sure. Thanks."
She proceeded to tell me they were Dayton's finest chip, Mike-Sell's. I'm always down for a local chip. But, since I can't let go of ideas I had years earlier, I asked if she knew anyone who could get me a meeting with the Mike-Sell's people. If I could just get in to see someone and explain my idea of using discarded chips to be crushed, re-packaged and sold with dip I'd be sitting pretty. You dump the crumbs into the dip, mix it with a spoon and voila, instant snack. I do it all the time when I get to the end of a bag of chips. No waste at all.
Unfortunately, she didn't have a contact at the potato chip company. But, she asked me to wait in the lobby. She promised to be right back. About five minutes later, she brought me a half-eaten container of chip dip.
"You have to have dip to go with your chips, right?" she said.
"This is easily the strangest parting gift I've ever received from an almost customer." I didn't know what else to say. It almost made the loss of the sale bearable. "Thank you very much."
So, I said my goodbyes to the non-customer and proceeded to my car with my bag of chips and dip, about a two-minute walk across the street.
I opened the back door, slung my computer case on my daughter's car seat and started to open the bag of chips when I noticed a shit-ton of broken glass on the other side of the back seat.
I had been in a hurry to get to my meeting. I left my GPS on, still attached to the windshield. And, my iPhone was on the passenger seat in plain site. Like a display case for thieves. How stupid was I? It was a smash and grab without me in the car. They took both items and some CDs. I had a big hole in my back passenger window. I'm in a town I barely know. Fuck me.
I decided to go back to the office of the non-prospect to call the cops. I almost left my computer case in the car before I realized no matter how well I locked the doors, most thieves wouldn't have to use another brick to get in. I grabbed my bag. And the chips and dip combo. They weren't getting away with that, no sir.
My non-customer was mortified when I told her the story of my car being broken into. She gave me use of the conference room phone. I made some calls. To my wife, asking her to have my phone service shut down. To my insurance company. And, to the Dayton PD. They were busy, so they would call me back. How bout that? The loss of the GPS and cell phone were on my homeowner's insurance policy. That's a $500 deductible. Guess that's not happening. My windown had a zero deductible. Finally, something besides the free chips and dip was going right for me today. Problem was no one local could do the work on Friday night. So, I scheduled something with an auto glass company in Cleveland for Saturday afternoon.
The cops called back about a half hour later. They asked a few questions, determined I wasn't worth a face-to-face report, and suggested I go to www.cityofdayton.org to fill out my online report. What the hell? They have no problem dealing with me face-to-face when they pull me over for speeding. But they can't do it when I get robbed? And, apparantly, they didn't give a shit about the glass all over their street. Whatever.
So, with that all wrapped up, I pack up again to leave. As I exited, my non-customer was waiting outside in her non-broken-into car. "Get in. I'll take you to Walmart for some tape and plastic."
First chips and dip, now tape and plastic. I think I'm falling in love.
With tape and a plastic tarp, I began the process of covering my window for the long ride home. It seems easy. It turned out looking more like a Christmas present that my five-year-old wrapped during a night terror. I used half the roll of tape and there were still holes, but it was servicable.
I said said goodbye to my non-customer again. This time hopefully would be the last. I thanked her for sticking it out with me on a Friday night. She apologized for what had happened in her city. That seemed nice.
This drive would be long. This drive would be noisy. But two things made it all worth it. Their names were chips and dip.