I’ve never been good with salespeople. Not only are they very self-aware, they also seem to know a lot more about me than I do – like what I need.
When you work from home you meet a lot of people selling various things. Each has a different approach. Members of the Travelling community are the easiest to deal with. They don’t seem to have the time for sales patter. Whether they are selling eggs, (“Do you want eggs?” ”I’m grand for eggs” “No bother” ) or pillows (“Do you want pillows?” “I’m grand for pillows” “No bother” ), they treat both rejection and success with equanimity.
After three o’clock it’s time for The Young Lads Selling ‘lines’ For Something. I always buy lines from urban young lads. Even if the worthy cause sometimes looks suspiciously handwritten, I don’t mind. If they’re willing to put in legwork even for fraud, at least they’re learning a valuable lesson about the link between reward and effort. Plus it means they have less time to be selling other sorts of lines.
Other door-steppers have a certain amount of subterfuge. Two Korean girls initially appeared to be lost and asking for directions. In return – using some highlighted passages in their Bible – they showed me how to find the way to God.
It’s a lot quieter at the door than it used to be. The No Junk Mail sign has deterred most leafleters, except of course from the Clothing Collection Mafia People. There are a couple of these Please Thank You, Help Child Poverty, Stop Bad Thing, Make Good Thing stickers delivered every week.
This week’s visitors are two Eircom PhoneWatch salesmen. I estimate that they are in their late teens, or very early twenties. You can generally age a male by the way he wears a suit. And these two – Kevin and Andy – looked fairly ‘debsy’. Kevin is the pro and does all the talking. It’s Andy’s first day and he is there to Look and Learn.
Kevin is a nice guy and opens with some “It’s a fine day isn’t it?” and “These are grand houses all the same” banter. But the patter sounds older than he is and my hackles are raised. For some reason, when young men start doing old man style talk, I get suspicious.
Kevin is not to know my inbuilt prejudice. The guy just wants to sell some burglar alarms. He engages me in some more chat.
“Are ye here long yerself”
“Ah a few years.”
“Is it yerself is the homeowner – the bossman?”
[I’m flattered slightly and blush]
“Ah I spose so”
“Are ye interested in an Eircom PhoneWatch Burglar Alarm Wireless Rapid Response Air Max system …”
In a millisecond he follows up:
“Look I know the price can put you off but we’ve a special offer just with us today….”
Before I know it, we’re standing inside in the kitchen looking at likely spots for wireless sensors. How did that happen? I glance at Andy. He doesn’t seem to know how he got there either.
Kevin is talking – “So we put a wireless sensor here because the burglar alarm sensors on the windows are completely ineffective. You see the thieves are actually taking out the entire window by popping it out of the rubber seals.”
You have to admire thieves. Forget about the smart economy or entrepreneurial initiatives to stimulate jobs growth: ‘Vision 2020 – Getting Ireland Out Of The Ditch’ or whatever they are called. If you want to see true flexibility in the workplace, look at thieves. Instead of breaking windows, they are now removing them. Imagine if they put their skills to use in a legitimate trade – like glazing.
And they are stealing everything. Last summer the following exchange took place on Joe Duffy’s Liveline.
– I’ve Mary on the line now, Mary you’ve another story of an even more unusual theft
– I do Joe, wait-till-I-tell-ya. I was out for a walk last Friday. If you remember it was a lovely day.
– I do Mary, the sun was splitting the stones.
– Well Joe, so I went for a walk to the local forest park Joe
– Lovely. As you do. And what did you find Mary?
– It was gone, Joe.
– What was gone Mary?
– The forest, Joe.
– They stole the forest Mary?!
– Yeah Joe. They stole the forest!
– Mother of God.
Even though I’ve no forest, Kevin reckons I could be a target for thieves. He’s putting the hard sell on the burglar alarm system and we’re getting towards the endgame. Having established that I need three sensors, a control board and some sort of a yoke for the two doors, we start talking money. As it turns out, the price is too much. I’m relieved. Even parsimonious people fret when the price of something is in a grey area of affordability. But wait! Kevin’s got a trick up his sleeve.
“But we’re doing a special offer that if you’re willing to sign up now and have this box on your wall saying your part of the system we’ll offer you this discount.”
He writes the number on the page as he says it. We still can’t afford it but it’s getting close to the grey area. I feel under pressure to buy it – even though I’m still not fully aware of what ‘it’ is. I pull my own ace out.
“ I’ll have to ask my wife.” Clearly I was lying earlier on about being the bossman.
“Would she be available to talk now? “
“Er..no” I lie again..”..She’s on the phone.”
This is part of our good spouse/ bad spouse strategy. We’ve known each other for nearly six years but in that time have not developed any telepathy. In a sales situation where we are both present and not given a chance to confide, we will stare at each other trying to read the signals. Confusion results and into that vacuum – like Lionel Messi skipping his way around static defenders – dances the salesman. Which is why we recently paid €10 for a photo of us holding a parrot.
In situations like this, the strategy is that the other spouse will remain a hidden and forbidding figure – a vaguely ogrish character who eats salesmen for lunch.
Kevin has seen this trick before and knows he is beaten for now. Andy stays silent. I show them to the door. It’s a small victory for me. And presumably thieves, who are, no doubt, removing my windows as we speak.