I was having a bit of fun at lunch today, sharing work horror stories with a friend. We covered the usual range of bad bosses and horrible cow-orkers and then we got on to interviews. I’ve complained about job interviews before but one area I’ve never really gone in to is what it’s like to deal with vendors/salespeople.
I don’t like to judge by appearances but I have this crazy idea when someone is trying to sell something to a corporate client, particularly when the contract crosses into the millions of dollars, they might make a fucking effort to appear professional. I don’t go with a vendor solely because their guys dressed the sharpest but I’m never keen to go with someone who comes across as a total gimp.
Another thought is that a vendor should not come across as a criminal. Just another one of my prejudices. I know it’s shallow to make judgements based on how someone sounds but I figure when you’re planning to drop a few million you earn the right to be judgemental.
A personal favourite of mine was a guy who talked with a heavy East London accent, telling me about “dis fing” and “dat fing”. For fans of classic British TV, think Arthur (Arfur) Daley on “Minder”. He’s extolling the virtues of his technology and all I can think of is “Holy crap, can’t you even be bothered to take the time to pronounce ‘th’ properly?”
Then there was the day I met Apu. I have a very bad habit of equating nearly every experience in my life with something I’ve seen on The Simpsons. So when I was seeing a presentation from an Indian guy who had EXACTLY the same hair as Apu that took all of my focus. I didn’t remember a damn thing he said. All I was thinking the entire time was “Dude, you have the same haircut as Apu.”
Let me make this clear: He didn’t sound like Apu (He never said “Thank you, come again” once). He didn’t have the same features as Apu. It was just the hair. I became slightly obsessed about it. Did he realise it? Was it on purpose? Had anyone ever told him? Did he think it was a good idea to have the same hair as Apu? Does he not have friends? Does he not know anyone who cares enough to say “you have the hair of a fucking cartoon character! Get it cut!”
Actually, even if the hair was nothing to do with Apu it was still a worry. The thought of this guy lovingly sculpting a massive bouffant each day did not make me trust his judgement. But the idea that he might be deliberately going for the Apu look really weirded me out.
I guess what I’m say is that if you can be easily caricatured, I’m not sure sales is the career for you. Ideally a sales person would be remembered because of their professionalism. Not because they look like a cartoon character or Chopper Read.