|CUSTOMER CONTACT, A Reality
by John Schuerman
I am an artist working as a correspondent
from the great river of economics. I have traveled through the land of
consequential business decisions. This is my report:
Section 1: The Journey
Jan 28/95 Paying a visit, paying our dues to The 3M complex ... one of them anyway. Our dues are time investment talking to the wrong folks. We enter. Security clear and David Sterud is our contact arriving--all casual 'n shit. We are stuffed up in suits ourselves.The long walk through cubicles and rows and hallways. Everything is tidy-- modem with colors that match in delicate balance. This is the company where 35% of sales come from products developed within the last four years.
The epidemic replaces work in mental processing time. Something is missing. An orange pink. A triangle. A color. A bright light. Sunrise colors. Dusk colors. A significant shape stands on the field of vision. Bright pink orange. Oranges. Pink shape. The triangle orange. The shape stands triangular. Triangle of color.
I envision the node matrix. But for now my little node has shot lines that did not connect,...I'm shooting into the great gray expanse that is 3M. Looking to hook my brain to theirs.
Meanwhile, I move on to study the selling zone.
Jan 31/95 Briefcase in hand, burgundy. Bill Rossman is smooth selling all the way. His weathered face smiles: A flash of silver teeth, a smokers scent, cazzsh cowboy boots... cool and casual. We talk. We talk sales meetings past and future, follow-up, this 'n that action point. Sue Remes is ringing in my ears " If you're not gonna follow-up don't ask anybody to do it." Bill is the leader of this crew. The others drift in, make comments. They need a CSR, they like their new digs, want access to sales leads, ... Bill says he's got a customer for me to meet...
Feb 7/95 Morning after the annual minuteman pro-sports banquet ... a tidy affair to be sure ... I'm charcoal suit chillin' in anticipation for another glance with 3M personnel. Some of our sales people... It's a boy thing. Maybe 1% female in the crowd. I'm here for one reason. I hate this shit and I guess it shows.
The scene is suit mannequin alien icon representations, the human is lost in the form Forest and the trees you might say. Cheezy sports art and signed baseballs are fund-raiser chunks of material on white linen tablecloth over a square outline of tables around which ex-jocks purchase beer or mixers.
Mr. 3M Purchasing is less than friendly so I move on to another customer rep. A "point of display" man -a plastic bird feeder designed to look like a hungry, welcoming cat - all mouth and fangs and stupid text to amuse bored grannies and school boys. I'm sure it will sell like candy. This is my most successful connection so far. We spin. I ask a few questions, find some humor, ask about the business opportunity - but not too deep - keeps the salesman in the loop, mention some things, don't remember what, I'm gone...
At my meaty little dinner I'm talking with ad-agency Greg bound for volley ball. He's cool but I'm probing way too much. She... he... I'm asking... searching for clues and knowledge about the base of purchasing decisions. The power to decide. The influencers of the decision are not the person. The influencers are not just logical constructs. But we are not friends enough. Not enough trust exists. I must seem opportunistic, trying to get somethin... Greg reacts visibly... he has shared, I have taken. And this shatters, I've somehow played to hard this time around. Gentle next time.
Today Feb 20 something. The sold zone drifts on solid dead stuck air harboring cigarette lung exhaust. She is there sitting. Frost colored hair. Steeple steel gray. Voodoo candles burning white holes in her eyes. The tin man structure sits left with belly protruding slightly-- no shirt could fit right in this situation. He listens, I listen. The Ex-leader but leader still talks over top of her to counteract the fact that he asked her to tell the story. Talking takes place. 'Mere appears to be some level of communication.
Cold call Tuesday. Kathy my first lady cool and purchasing all the way. I says, she says. It's a dream A string puppet show across the telephone banquet. Pink and white sugar frosting; squeeze-gun formed in eloquent star nozzled decorations. She plays it exact and I'm the novice. It feels like dating - or asking for one anyway. My brain is rejection ready. But Kathy works professional and straight-up without the grease, nothing slippery here.
Walking into Kathy's company gets me thinking pink wedding gowns on
dolled-up girl. Blue mirror building, open space and in good taste. I'm
seven minutes late, reception opens with no one there, ghost town tumble
weeds blow across my feet. I find my way. Kathy is coot and relaxed. Professional.
She's not stressed, not pressed. I'm a little less than sure-footed. She
leads with questions about my company, capabilities, old knowledge, scattered
facts, remembers someone, has misperceptions ... I'm explainer's average
guy. We connect, she is good to me, respectful and helpful in this land
of Oz. I'm beginning to appreciate my environment... a micro version of
life in all its' glory spinning the infinite vignettes of passion and paradise
and broken glass and starvation and love and greed. Like a dream.
Section 2: Myth
There is an incredible myth system forming; sometimes like a garden organic, intertwining thick as Louisiana swamp moss, and sometimes replicating in crystalline additions, growing notch by notch like wild salt crystals or deep sea coral. Sales is a land where truth is veiled in fog, the fog of melting-pot nations and underworld dim brown lights. Slight of hand, selective representations, continuums of deception, and marketing speak are ever-broiling in competitive chemical reactions boiling.
Darcey Rosegarden sputters vehement disgust for the leader of a sister company who directs his staff to call on her clients. She's got a letter from her client reading:
The He-Leader says she is not a loyal sales rep and that she asked her client to send this letter because she is in trouble. She says the client initiated the input. Our CEO says something else.... Another sales rep in another time and land breaks on through until "We can't tell them that" is ringing, ringing in my head.
Now I'm walkin' around in Egypt circa 2000 BC. The myth system is created over the ages by anyone anytime. Changing and adding to the myth structure by shaping gods and god events is everyone's business. The spiritual pool grows daily and morphs into new, living stories. The myth-maze so complex, segmented tubes of junkyard proportions, never settles into one visible framework -somebody is always throwing another junked section of muffler-pipe myth maze onto the pile:
The orange dust of Egypt slips away, but the myth structure remains. It is dark in the abandoned mall space of our mind. I can't ever quite see who's involved. "...he plays totally by the book." "Who do you know?" These structures seem to have rolled in above the normal linkages. A new front bringing a change in the weather, sent by the corporate gods from the land of thrashing doves with the smell and sight of torn feathers floating in air. So the current regime gets their message. The guidelines are handed down to be superimposed; one huge transparent cloth with the requirements drawn in thick black across it. The cloth covers our local homies, i.e. Our normal contacts in the local hierarchy. They peep up and wiggle around under the translucent sheet of guidelines. They confer and make peeps and meeps and messages. They look rather comical under there peep-peeping next to one another.
The sales myth moves in waves across to customer shores, black water in between. Cold calls and competitive hustle leave anxiety's sweat in pits across the metro. Seems like the same old capitalism.
I get a strong sense that the sales process is intentionally screened
and hidden; and when the screen lifts there is nothing there... Sales people
master these acts of camouflage. I speculate that there is very little
behind the screen in the first placeÖthere is no refined process ...
but we are kept from the view with the greatest of intention. Reluctance.
No show the zone. No take us to their world. No showin' us. We never see
the sales call. We must trust in the magic, the "salesmanship"... but
these are preconceived notions drawn form selected data fed to we by the
filters of past biases. The process does exist. 'Mere is both process
and myth, both integrity and 'smoke and mirrors'.
Section 3: The Structure of Selling
The sales myth takes on new tales with every phone call. The data suggests a more game oriented depiction. Competitive hustle, solution selling, scheming. Feed the babies born of selling parents. Buy the cars that flash smiles from all that. Not much color, just divine edges with welder's flash. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick; like blade-runner acrobat:
b. Model Openness = statement recognizing that they do not know all the details and are open to revising their understanding (model) of the situation. ex. "It appears to us that..."
c. Decision Space = statement recognizing that certain choices are totally within the addressee's locus of control. ex. "... [it] is your call."
Upon further review it becomes apparent that these statements alone do not convey the integrity message. It is their interaction with one another and with statements of fact that convey integrity. There is the rhythm of one hundred honest drummers in this balanced network:
Note that Candor is preceded by Model Openness in all cases except one paragraph that directly follows a Model Openness/Candor combination. These 'based on what I know, here's what I think' combinations are cool-o-mondo hey? Try one out next time you want communicate openly!
Feb 17/95 The facts are the same - flats, squares, white males sales. The new leader stands at the head of the table ... same old.
The homie to my left slowly emerges as the most interesting study. He's got a flat spot on his head which is not even vaguely covered by his remaining whitest white snake strands of hair. Skin fluorescent pink halo seems to accentuate the frame for me. On and on goes the meeting - it's the first sales meeting they've had here. Thought processes are weak, life is low; trying to revive, amp up the frequencies that spontaneously fire and travel short, random directions in this group consciousness ... lost little wavelengths in a field 98% dead ethereal substance.
The flat spot forms a lens through which I'm looking ... I see the flat spot outline connect the group dot-to-dot, I see right through the actual flat spot and into the soft, damaged tissue, pink and arrested, battered and weakened by "the forces of destruction" i.e. the prevailing system of management. I see flat-line thinking on a chalkboard in the shape of the flat spot. I see myself in a flat spot mirror weeping. What do we do here? The life spirit and ability have been crushed out through negative appraisals...can we help them? Can I find a way to help management accept their responsibility?
A result of the competitive sales process = dent head
And they just stand their lookin' at me like I'm 3M or somethin'.
Where does the tire meet the road? At the mainline. The gravity of this whole scene comes through when one realizes that sales and customers are the life force of the company. Bill hits them with all the impact his words and expression can give. Iím not even in the room and I can feel the words trying to sink in. "You are not working hard enough, youíll have to do better, our peopleís livelihoods depend on you. Without more sales...we are losing money, I've cut back on temporary help so far, but I will have to put people out of work if sales don't come soon.
|CyberCorpse, Exquisite Corpse © 1999|