Prior to attending Monroe, The Calculator Company’s sales school in East Orange, New Jersey,* I harbored doubts as to whether the life of a professional salesman would be my calling … after all, going from scruffy beat poet to suit-and-tie office machine salesman was a bit of a stretch.
Following that week in the city named after the sunrise sphere of a fruit, I knew my time at Monroe would be a brief flirtation, not a career.
“Oh well,” I thought, “might as well make the most of it … especially since you need the money!”
“Plus,” I romanticized, “this Monroe experience will give me a ringside seat from which to observe, and learn from, the world’s greatest spectacle, the marketplace … a rough environment where people are tested, made, praised or discarded! It’ll be something like a contemporary version of Chaucer’s tales!”
Like much hyperbole, that thought had, at its core, a nugget of truth, to whit … if you want to see the best and worst of people, just watch them bartering for price, watch them manipulating for advantage and especially watch them when it comes to their own pocketbooks.
When I arrived in New Jersey it sure didn’t look anything like its motto, “The Garden State” … not by any stretch of the imagination. East Orange and its neighboring cities looked like the mothership of the worst, meanest parts of Oakland.
In fact, it was nothing short of heartrending. How could it not be? As I watched the scenery pass by I mused, “Pity the impoverished residents imprisoned in those ghettos. Pity the doomed kids trapped in its schools. And pity poor us if our shuttle bus breaks down!”
Monroe’s corporate HQ occupied a city block behind a high, stone wall. It lacked only a moat to make it a true Medieval castle. As odd as it appeared to me though, when I considered its surroundings I figured the wall made sense. And something else became perfectly obvious as well … namely that any definition of “success” could never include a life spent working behind that wall surrounded by that depressing dystopia.
“Only a stark raving mad lunatic could consider ending-up here an enviable end!” I reflected.
In spite all of that, the sales school itself was chock-a-block with useful insights and sensible lessons for the aspiring salesmen. Many of the maxims and techniques I learned helped me over the long decades that followed my matriculation … but none of those lessons were as fascinating as, made as much sense as, and were as elusive as the Introductory Benefit Statement, or the I.B.S.
The I.B.S., in short, was the holy grail of sales techniques. Its goal was nothing short of the seemingly impossible … turning a “cold sales call” from a rude interruption into an eager welcome within the first few seconds!
“Wow!” I thought, “now that would be some trick!” and I kept hearing about it for several days. Various instructors would extoll the merits and virtues of the I.B.S. but fail to give a specific example of one. Finally I’d had enough and started pestering a tutor for his favorite I.B.S.
“Well, I don’t really have one,” he sheepishly replied.
“You don’t have any I.B.S.es?” I asked somewhat astonished.
“Nope. I haven’t been able to come-up with one yet!”
It was like Shakespeare saying he had a great play about a prince of Denmark but just hadn’t been able to write it yet!
“Hmmm, a workable I.B.S. would be nothing short of sales dynamite if someone could come up with one!”” I pondered. “What a great notion! Hmmm!” … and I pushed it into my subconscious to see if it’d take root. “
*I’ve not returned to East Orange, NJ since those long ago days in 1971. I’m sure it’s civic life has improved greatly since then, although I have to admit that I’m not inclined to go back there to see.
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