Not so great moments in (salesman) history

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I was complaining to a friend today about this blog I know that has no subject. It was really annoying me. Of course, it was my blog that I was talking about. She said, “I really like reading it. It’s entertaining. Seinfeld was about nothing.”

On this blog I’ve written about writing (interesting to writers), working in sales (mostly amusing anecdotes), and books. In truth, I know the formula that can take a good blog to great, but the subject still eludes me. It’s a big commitment. I regularly read a blog that started out being about USC Trojan Football. Now, it’s mostly about the reality TV shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (check it out HERE.) It’s very funny, but now this poor guy has to watch every episode of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Lest I step in to a topic I can’t step out of, I’m going to continue treat this blog as a landing page for my readers and a place for them to get to know me and my writing.

A quick update on the “epic” relaunch of my book. Over 18,000 people now have The Grandfather Clock and there was a couple of nice bumps in paid sales after the free promotion. Since then, people continue to buy and… just as important… leave very positive reviews. In fact, I got one 1 STAR review, entitled “BOO!” The person complained: “Finally realized that it is part of a series and that is not made clear up front.” I thanked them for their feedback and explained that the book stands alone, but that it’s part of a three book series. Two other people came to my defense and the reviewer upgraded me to 3 STARS. Of course, now it looks like people jumped all over this man or woman for a 3 star review.

My wife commented that she wouldn’t know how to handle bad reviews. She does a lot of group programming and takes the surveys people fill out to heart. She’s a perfectionist and everything she does is outstanding. I make up for not being a perfectionist by having a thick skin. I’m in sales. I make a lot of cold… frigidly cold… calls. The vast majority are uneventful, whether they end in a new account or not. But there have been a few over the years that have stood out:

One of the funniest was the guy whose only response was to hold up his hand and say, “No soliciting.” He said it twice and when I tried to leave a card he pointed at it and said, “That’s soliciting!” I had a product he used and couldn’t purchase in quantity anywhere else, so the bad news was that he was going to buy it. Two months later he sold the business and the new owners are a great new customer.

"What do you mean there's no soliciting?"

“What do you mean there’s no soliciting?”

One of my most frustrating accounts was a busy place that was poorly run. The manager liked to yell at people but he never tried it with me. He had difficulty grasping the concept of a calendar, so I decided he needed to be taught a lesson… buy on schedule or don’t get your delivery. He blew up. They literally started mixing different products to make something that they thought was something else. It was completely bizarre. When he tried to threaten to take his business elsewhere, I told him that it was his only option.

My all time favorite was when I was working with one my supplier reps, a young German guy, very likable with a great sense of humor. We were having a very good day, making lots of sales. We walked in to this guy’s shop and I extended my hand to introduce myself. His hand was 6 inches from mine on his computer mouse. It did not move. I talked to him for what had to be a full minute, with my hand extended. He never shook it. It was a short conversation to say the least. Literally thousands of calls over nearly a decade, and I’ve had maybe 5 bad experiences. People are usually so nice, it’s amusing when they aren’t. My colleague and I still laugh about that guy who refused to shake my hand. Hell, we might even go back and see what happens the second time. Maybe I’ll bring cookies.

These are long days lately. The morning is madness getting two little ones going in the right direction, work all day with the phone constantly beckoning, and then back to the madness of two hellions in the evening. I write from about 10:30 to midnight and literally fall asleep writing. I’ve found entire paragraphs of mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm where I’ve passed out with my hands on the keys. The followup to The Grandfather Clock is on schedule for a summer release. Stay tuned!

-Jonathan

Buy the book: HERE for under a buck.

Email me at jkilewrites@gmail.com

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My Interview With Creative Loafing, Tampa Bay’s Weekly Entertainment Magazine

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Just a quick post to share my interview with Creative Loafing, the Tampa Bay area’s weekly entertainment magazine. Want to know where I got the Nazi conspiracy idea? Do I really have a grandfather clock? How on earth is a guy with a degree in Economics and a background in sales a fiction writer? Find out below. If you have any comments on the interview, drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com or post your comment below. Here’s the LINK to the interview or click the logo below.

Creative Loafing Logo

If you’ve read my book, The Grandfather Clock, please leave a review HERE or click below:

I've got great reviews, but I need more!

I’ve got great reviews, but I need more!

Thanks for reading!

-Jonathan

The Worst Job I Ever Had

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This was really a movie? With Johnny Cash?

This was really a movie? With Johnny Cash?

Back in college I had the worst job ever. It was so horrible, I’ve never minded a day of work since. That includes telemarketing, selling life insurance, and a two week temporary gig sticking labels on a brochure for the Pork Producers of America. During the blistering summer of 1994 I sold educational books door to door1000 miles from home in the suburbs of Minneapolis. My first hour on the job I was stopped by the police (something that happened 3 times), I was threatened with attack dogs and guns, and offered everything from cookies, to Amway to a tour of Mrs. Yoder’s bedroom. After 8 weeks of door to door hell I missed my freeway exit and drove my Ford Tempo through 8 states back to Tallahassee where I slept on couches for six weeks and ate Burger King until the dorm opened.

For this reason, I respect people’s effort to get the word out on their product. My Facebook network is loaded with people selling stuff. Face creams, art, books, houses, school fundraisers, mission trips to Honduras, and political candidates. It doesn’t bother me. I see it and breeze on by, and I think nothing less of them. Now that I’m about to have a book out, Facebook is a natural place for a first-time-author to get the word out to people. Hell, I have books from a dozen friends that I’ve never read. I’m hoping a few friends go, “He wrote a book? I gotta check that out.” Maybe they’ll buy it, even read it, or recommend it. I don’t expect to get rich off my friends.

But now I’m faced with the question, by plugging my book on Facebook, am I annoying? Is this the door-to-door sales of the 20-teens? Sure, someone is going to find it annoying. It’ll be offensive to the same people who hate dolphins and feel the need to express their anger at the people who play Candycrush (whatever that is). If you’re that easily annoyed, you should probably get off social media because social media is inherently annoying. So, yes, I’m going to plug my book on Facebook, sell 10 copies and be done. It will probably stoke a dozen conversations around town where I end up going on too long about “the novel I wrote,” like it’s Satanic Verses or something from the Oprah Book Club. I’ve spent a year working on this thing and if you’re going to show me pictures of your new dog, I’m going to talk about my book.

Don’t forget to sign up for updates on the left-hand side (that way you don’t have to keep checking back obsessively, like you’ve been doing). Drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com.

 

5 Ways Writing Fiction On The Side Has Helped Me Succeed In My Day Job

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Life is full of unintended and unexpected consequences. For instance, I was so excited at the notion of potty training our son, I did’t think about how it could make life harder. What could be bad about no more diapers? What no one told me is that any trip with a small potty-trained child has as many bathroom stops as a bachelorette party. (My wife is really really smart so we waited until after we took a trip overseas to potty train my son, thus avoiding repeated trips to the aft lavatory.) What are you talking about, man? Potty training?

No.

A few years ago I started treating writing as my second job. At the same time, I was cognizant that writing should not take away from my paying gig, so I did all of my writing at night – not even a quick peak at lunch. I’m in sales, so stealing time from my work is stealing from my own wallet. A funny thing happened. My numbers have risen sharply. Nearly record levels in the company. Writing has had a huge impact on my day job and here’s why: 

1. Writing is exercise for the mind. Words are important, and in sales they are critical. Success depends upon choosing the right words, reading the customer, and understanding their position. I sometimes have an hour or more drive before a meeting. Since I started writing regularly, my brain fires up faster. I never have enough time to write, so when I get the opportunity to open the laptop, I need to start writing right away. I don’t have 15 minutes to “figure out where I left off.” My brain is ready, I’m better at choosing what to say, and when to not say anything.

2. I’m faster at communicating effectively via email with customers. Duh. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days and editing a 65,000 word manuscript has made me faster. I am better at saying what I want to say more succinctly. Effective writing only comes with practice and having written over 200,000 words in the last two years is damned good practice. I’m communicating better with my customers.

3. Grad School in my car. I love music. But working from my car-office, I need more than good music to get me through the day. I discovered some great podcasts – all free. An hour spent driving and not learning something is a missed opportunity. I’m on a path to independent publishing so I’ve listened to probably 100 hours of podcasts on self publishing. I’ve mentioned them on this blog before (https://selfpublishingpodcast.com/ and http://rockingselfpublishing.com/  are two, but there are other good ones as well. I also like Yo Pro Wealth (http://yoprowealth.com/) and Side Hustle (http://www.sidehustlenation.com/) for the entrepreneurial side of things. If I could take all of the time I spend in my car and get an MBA, I might, but using this dormant time to learn has made working more fun. And like #1, it keeps my wheels turning so my mind is quick during the sales call.

4. Motivation? No problem. I used to manage a telemarketing operation. 24 calling stations, 75-100 young employees asking for donations. Keeping a bunch of college students motivated to get told “no” 90% of the the time isn’t easy. The same goes for being an outside sales rep. Once the kids are fed and dressed in the morning, there’s no one there to tell me to get to work, and no one to notice if I slack off. Since I’ve been writing, I’ve become more effective at using my time. I need to get the most out of every hour. I’ve developed better habits during the day, because I want my work to be done so that I can spend the night writing. I hate logging in to the office database at night. I never think about my motivation level anymore. It’s a given. When I’m working, I’m working smart.

5. Creativity. When I write, I have a tendency to fold myself up inside my head, bouncing around ideas. I not only think about what happens in the story, I think about what the reader knows and when. In truth, I’m selling the reader on the plot. My editor is always saying, “Show, don’t tell.” The same goes for sales. I was working with a supplier rep recently and one of the selling points in our presentation was an up-front signing bonus. I had a strong suspicion that the customer didn’t want to be bought. I said to the rep, “Let’s not mention the signing bonus. We’ll sell him on the product and the service. We use the signing bonus later when he’s on the verge.” In sales we want the customer to know ALL the great things about our product, and we bombard them with selling points. We call it “Show up and throw up.” Honing my communication skills through writing has helped me understand how to think about the narrative in the customer’s mind. He only knows what I tell him, when I tell him, and the timing and sequence is HUGE. Like a good book, you hook them, then you spend some time developing the idea, and then you make a great close. Every customer is different, so why use the same approach over and over? It takes creativity to make an impression.

As soon as my son was reliably using the toilet we had our daughter. I don’t think it was two weeks between his last “accident” when we were back into diapers. As with writing and selling, practice makes perfect. I’m the Peyton Manning of diaper changing. I can change a diaper on a running child, blindfolded. My first book is coming out soon (very soon). My daughter is 20 months old. By the time she’s 3, I expect to have 3 books out. I’m saying this because it’s good to set goals and make them public. So… next year, remind me when I declare our house to be diaper-free, that I should have 3 books out too.

Thanks for reading. You know the routine: sign up at the left to get blog notifications. If you like this post, forward it to your friends. Email me at jkilewrites@gmail.com. A proof of my novel The Grandfather Clock is on its way to me. Final final edits and formatting, then it will be DONE. Stay tuned.