My Medical Device Sales Career
Larry put down his phone, frankly he felt like throwing the company issued phone at his company car sitting in his driveway. No wonder, he thought to himself, Dave wanted me home this morning to receive his call. He then thought about Dave, his bosses boss....actually his former bosses boss, and that strong, firm handshake. The type of handshake that immediately startles you and feels electrified, like a bolt of lightening transcending from your hand, up your arm and then rocking the sensors in your head. No matter how many times Larry would prepare himself for THAT handshake, it always took him by surprise. It was a firm grasp that most strong leaders seem to have.
It was a handshake he knew well and was always eagerly waiting for him as he ascended the steps to the stage at the National Sales Meetings over the past 7 years. Yes, that electrifying hand shake, it was as if he was almost lifted to the stage by it. More lesser handshakes would follow Dave's as Larry would walk down the long line of office based management with his hand extended to receive their praise. There he was, center stage, shaking the many hands of congratulations from senior management. His ears were filled with the deafening applause from the envious sales crowd below, who were now all standing to their feet clapping, there were even a few shrill whistles in the air! Wow...heart pumping exciting, I love it! It's all about me right now and I love it! Larry thought to himself as he turned to face his crowd of peers with a huge beaming smile upon his face.
How proud Larry was of his top sales accomplishments! The President would personally place the shining Gold Cup in his hands and speak loudly yet unsuccessfully above the noise of the crowd to give him his personal congratulations on winning the President's Award. He would be placed in the middle of the half circle of sales management, all would face the crowd, all would smile, a brief flash and click of the camera from the professional photographer. A memory, A Kodak Larry ruefully thought to himself now. More poetic than he cared to think about given the demise of Kodak, a once strong creator and leader of an industry that now has passed them by!
Larry really thought that call from Dave was going to be a different call, one to be joyous over, one to remember for a lifetime. Well, he chuckled to himself, I will remember that one for a lifetime, that part was accomplished, just not a memory I want to have. His thoughts inadvertently went back to that handshake, the leadership handshake. He remembers lining up on that award stage and all the handshakes, the other top managers who would try to copy that hand shake as he went down the line, but you could just feel that they were trying to fake it, fake the grip, overdo the arm pumping and it almost felt embarrassing. Larry thought to himself, Didn't they know that no one sees them as a leader? Yes they had the job title but no one in the company saw them as a true leader. Larry laughed to himself, they just didn't have what it takes to create that bolt of lightning, they were not strong leaders and somehow no matter how strong that handshake, well it came across as almost a desperate plea, I am too a strong leader, look how I can squeeze the hell out of your hand and pump your arm like I am trying to get water from a dry well! Larry's thought actually brought a small knowing smile to his lips, but it fell away quickly as he remembered the call he just ended, or more accurately the one Dave just ended. Dave always seems to get the last word in any conversation. Funny, as Larry's mind bounced from one feeling and thought to another in no particular order, The President had that bolt of lightning handshake too.
He wanted that promotion so badly, Certainly THIS time it would be his. He really should have been promoted to that District Sales Manager job when Chris was promoted to it 4 years ago! He liked Chris, in fact he had been his buddy in sales training class. They were hired in at the same time 7 years ago. In fact, Larry won the coveted Most Likely To Succeed Award after the one month training program was completed. Hell, he even won the Sales Rookie Of The Year that year! He made an immediate sales impact in his new territory, what a mess he had inherited; those sales numbers were all his for sure! What a surprise that his buddy Chris got the promotion, the company even had to relocate him and his family! Larry handled it OK, it was a little weird at first losing his buddy. Chris made it clear that their relationship had to change, he was in charge. Larry put on a good face and just put his head down and kept rocking those sales numbers.
Yet, There he was, THINKING he was getting a different type of call from Dave this morning, but Dave's style did not lend itself to wondering what direction a conversation would go. After a quick, "Hi Larry, how are you doing?" Dave quickly got into the meat of the discussion, "After careful consideration Larry, I have to regretfully inform you that the sales promotion is not yours. You are a wonderful sales person and a HIGHLY valued employee. There are just some areas that we feel you need for added career growth before you take that next big step. We will make sure that Chris will work with the new manager to build that into your Yearly Performance Plan before he leaves on his international assignment."
Thud...there it was, Larry was passed over again. But wait, Chris had already sent him to so many leadership training programs and all those books! Larry remembered all those company issued books on sales management and how happy he was when he was promoted to Field Sales Trainer years ago. In fact, Larry had trained more current sales employees in the field than anyone else in the company! Larry remembered the countless names and faces of his trainees, they always did the best in the corporate sales training class. By god that shows sales management ability! What are they thinking? I know how to train them and give them the foundation to be successful. Me, yes me....I am the one who made the difference in their career. Larry began to feel a rage building up within him as he thought of all the work and time he invested with his company to only be treated this way!
Then in the midst of his growing rage a thought came to Larry that made him feel sick, I posted those huge sales numbers year after year not only winning my Presidents Awards for me, BUT GETTING CHRIS ON THAT STAGE TOO as the number one Sales Manager in the USA!! Larry sat down hard on his living room couch as he lowered his head and reached up with both hands to cradle it in disbelief. He was now visibly shaken. A terrible thought then washed over him like a bucket of cold water, Chris got his recent international promotion on his back! His fricken sales numbers got Chris promoted to the next opportunity. What the hell? Did Chris throw him under the bus? He was only thankful that his wife was at work and the kids were at school. Larry was 35 years old and the realization of where his career might be headed brought him to tears....tears he would never admit too.....ever.
He was now fully stretched out on the couch, still in his business suit with his black dress shoes still waiting for him by the front door, ready for him to jump in them and begin his day of selling. He shook his head from side to side in disgust as he remembered feeling anxious that Dave's late morning call would give him a late start in the sales field. He felt like an idiot, so concerned about his business, no their business he got for THEM. No wonder Dave insisted on him being at home at his desk when he delivered the bad news, maybe he thought I would go tick off a customer if I was in-between sales calls. After giving that a thought, Larry thought he probably would have ruined a sales call feeling the way he does at this moment. Good thing he is home. In fact, Larry decided his feet were not going to even slip into those dress-for-success black shoes waiting for him by the door today, he might not even work at all the rest of the week.
He was still sprawled out on the couch with his right arm perched across his forehead. His thoughts began to turn towards his future and his next steps. How could this be? I was planning to go out this morning and sell more of their crap with a new promotion and now I feel....I feel..I feel lost. Damn it, I am 35 years old, if I leave this company I will have to start all over in the sales field with an another company for at least 3 to 4 years showing them I can move the number....and then I would be almost 40 years old! No one gets promoted for the first time after age 40!
He removed his arm from his forward to look at his watch, 10:00 am in the morning. He sighed and wondered, What just happened, what did I do? No, what didn't I do? I have done everything they have asked of me and I did it well! I not only did it well, I rocked it for 7 years, always the top dog, always performing, always getting that damn handshake!
Copyright © by Linda Hertz, All Rights Reserved
The Call, a Chapter from What About Larry? A Book about Leadership
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