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Picking A Candidate Is A Dirty Task. And it SUCKS.

by | Mar 9, 2020

I used to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners.

Door-to-door.

It was a tough sell. First of all, you had to get over that hurdle of knocking on the door of a complete stranger, and asking them to fork over an ENORMOUS amount of money ($1,200 back then) for something that basically cleans your floors.

Sure, they trained us to NEVER call it a vacuum cleaner; it was considered “A complete home-care system,” complete with attachments and whoosits and whatchamacallits that would also clean your drapes, and hard-to-reach places…even your mattress! It was an impressive machine, no doubt, and I did believe in its quality, 100%. But that price tag was steep.

Sales came easily to me. I was personable, friendly, and helpful. Most importantly, I saw the Kirby as being able to transform my customers’ lives, and my failure to help them get one into their houses was a failure to help someone.

The Kirby Company was almost cultish in how they trained their salespeople: we had morning meetings every day, in which we sang songs, and recited a pledge. It was all to get people motivated to knock on a bunch of strangers doors and push a machine in there that they had no idea they needed, and it was our job to tell them what they didn’t know, and probably didn’t even WANT to know.

We were equipped with air filters, little white pads that we’d pull out and SHOW them how filthy their mattresses and couches were – a little shame went a long way. They gave us print outs of “ubiquitous mites,” disgusting creatures that are apparently crawling over every surface of everything in your house. They were ubiquitous, after all. Fear was a motivator there.

But rule Number One was…

…probably the MOST important: Never, EVER, under any circumstances, criticize the vacuum cleaner already in their house. Whether it was a top-of-the-line Electrolux (also in the same pricey pantheon of home care systems), or if it was a run-of-the-mill Hoover, you were never to tell the customer “Oh, you bought THAT? It’s a piece of crap.”

Why? Well, not only would that be extremely RUDE, but it was like telling the customer “You know what? Your judgement SUCKS. I can’t believe you paid money for that. What a chump.” It was much easier to open their minds to the idea of buying YOUR expensive piece of crap by praising their judgement and complimenting them, rather than telling them they made a huge mistake.

Fast forward to today: I am no longer selling vacuum cleaners, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned there. I am wary when salespeople come at me with a hard sell, telling me that unless I buy THEIR product, my life will be ruined.

But here I am, daily, being pelted and bombarded by nameless and faceless “people” on social media…

…telling me how STUPID I am for having chosen to support former VP Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee for President. See, I originally invested in the Elizabeth Warren model, which was FANTASTIC, but it didn’t have enough “man-power” to keep running…all of the juice was being sucked up by the other “popular” white male models.

At the end of the day, people are making choices that are most relevant to their needs AND their circumstances. Maybe they want to get rid of the dirt, but they simply cannot afford a “complete home care system” that will do everything from shampooing their carpet, to cleaning their drapes, to cleaning their mattresses. It’s not that those things aren’t important to them; they’re just realistically UNABLE to pay for all of it.

One month, I sold 32 Kirbys in the upstate NY town of Poughkeepsie. It was a really long drive up there – a few hours – and we sold a ton of those Kirbys to folks in an area that wasn’t pre-approved…these folks hadn’t been screened. And MOST of them were genuinely impressed by the demonstrations we performed of the Kirby Home Care System.

But more than half of those sales were NO GOOD – they didn’t have the credit necessary to afford them. So we had to go back into those homes and remove all of those Kirbys. As it turned out, many of those folks would have been better served with a run-of-the-mill MODERATE Hoover that would get the job done with the dirt, and was within their means.

As a salesperson, yes, this was disappointing to me, because that meant that I couldn’t collect my $100 commission for each of those sales. But, as a human being who claimed to want to HELP these people, how could I criticize them for voting AGAINST my Kirby? They wanted to get rid of dirt, but they couldn’t afford a REVOLUTIONARY piece of equipment like the Kirby – all they could afford was a Hoover.

Did I own a Kirby? Hell no – that thing was way too damn expensive.

Would I have bought one if I could afford it? Yes, definitely. But I didn’t even have carpet, so I was just using a good old broom to sweep my hardwood floors, and I’d have to wait until my budget allowed me to clean my mattresses and drapes.

Cleanliness and purity are excellent goals to have for your home. Nobody who ever saw one of my complete presentations was happy knowing that there were unprecedented levels of filth and ubiquitous mites they were living with in their homes. They DID want to remove it, no doubt. But where we often disagreed was the means with which they would do it.

Would they plunk down $1,200 to attack the mattresses, drapes, sofa cushions, and shampoo their carpets? Or were they only interested in removing the surface dirt that most people could see? Many would not spend the extra money.

You see, waging a revolution on the dirt in their homes represented a level of commitment most people just did not have. In their day-to-day lives, commuting to-and-from work, raising their kids, and dealing with life issues consumed a lot of time and energy they did not have to expend on a regular, thorough cleaning of their home top-to-bottom, in order to fully root out the dirt and grime.

Likewise, the word “REVOLUTION” often associated with the Sanders campaign, is loaded with images of war, chaos, and confusion. Right now, it’s all many people can do just to make it through the day, and through the week. Revolution requires commitment, and sacrifice. It is an upheaval of the natural order of things, turning things upside down in order to achieve a rebalancing of society.

Things like Medicare 4 All…

…canceling college debt, and the Green New Deal are things that MANY Americans are in favor of, but they are concerned about how to pay for them. Some estimates are in the tens of trillions of dollars. The difference between this and the Kirby? We had a set price for the Kirby. It was high, but not astronomical. You knew what $1,200 looked like; nobody knows what $60 trillion dollars looks like.

And, while some say that eliminating tax loopholes for corporations, and new taxes on Wall Street would pay SOME of the cost, there are no illusions about where the BULK of these proposals would come from: Middle Class taxpayers, already overburdened by taxes.

And, on top of that, you have aggressive supporters telling you that unless you pick THEIR guy, you totally suck and will never live a happy, grime-free life, because their guy is the ONLY guy who will get the job done, and they’ll just stay home unless you support them. That’s no way to sell ANY product. That’s how you shut it down.

You want to sell me something? Fine, I’ll listen. But when you start insulting my choices and judgement, attacking me personally, you not only help shut MY ears from what you’re saying, but you are damaging the product you are selling – and suddenly, an AMAZING (but expensive) product like the Kirby becomes associated with your hard-sell, heavy-handed tactics. And I’ll just look elsewhere.

It’s too soon to say whether America wants a “Complete Home Care System” or just a plain old boring vacuum cleaner.

But what IS clear is that they want to sweep the filth out of the White House, and maybe just a good old broom will get the job done.

 

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