Why Everyone Should Learn How To Be An Indie Author Even If They Plan To Publish Traditionally, Part 1

This will make a LOT more sense after you read Sunday’s Monday’s barn burner post (I’d usually post something this long on Sunday but this Sunday’s Easter; no bad blood), but bear with me.

One of the best jobs I’ve ever had was a manager at a Fortune 500 company where I was a branch manager at the local level. It was a service business, and as part of my training I had to spend six weeks in each job in the branch. Six weeks being a receptionist answering the phones, six weeks being a technician, six weeks being every job in the businesses, which was termite and pest control.

Glamorous, right?

It’s Florida, so we have different kinds of termites that eat our houses. We have drywood termites and subterranean termites, and my company also sold pest control, so those were our three basic products. We had drywood termite technicians, we had subterranean termite technicians, and we had pest control technicians.

Okay, so I had to spend six weeks each one of those roles, then six weeks as a service manager over those jobs. Then six weeks as a sales person, and if the branch had a sales manager you would do that job, too, but typically branches didn’t have sales managers so when the time came, you’d work side by side with the manager to oversee the salespeople.

Over the course of six months to a year, you spent quality time in each job you’d be responsible for as a manager when you were installed in your branch. Now, like anything else, if you wanted to put forth a mediocre effort in a job while you learn it for a day or two, you can. But if you’re in a role for six weeks with measurable results, you can’t fake it. You have to do the job and you have to be good at the job. If you do a bad job of answering phones one day, it might make for a headache but it’s not the end of the world. You screw it up for six weeks (or screw up data entry or screw up updating people’s accounts), and the world as you know it comes to an end.

When I finally went into my sales phase, I was supposed to sell for six weeks. Each salesperson was trained to sell every type of product we offered, so you had to know all the products, but you were expected to cross sell. That means when you would go on a pest control call, try to cross sell the termite services. And vice versa.

Everybody had their territories, and as a trainee (and a future manager) nobody was gonna let me in their territory – nobody wanted me messing up their gig or taking their sales commissions – so I got a crappy territory assigned to me.

Spending six weeks in each job meant I needed to be successful in each job. There were no free rides just because I was a future manager. I understood it as, if I didn’t make my sales goals, I might not be a future manager. I told my wife, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to sell the volume they require, so if I’m not on track to hit my numbers, you may not see me much because I’m gonna work 24/7. I’m gonna stay as late as necessary and work as much as necessary until I make my numbers, and if I don’t make my numbers, everybody there is going to know I went down swinging.”

I was supposed to generate most of my sales myself, but I got a lead on my first day because it was in that crappy area they assigned me. It was for the least priced service we offered, pest control. Commissions on a contract like that would be about $50 or so, and nobody else wanted to run the appointment because it was over an hour away from the branch and the area was known to be, well, not a great neighborhood. Run down. Economically depressed. The salespeople really wanted to go to the more affluent areas that had money to spend on our services, especially the expensive termite services. Those averaged $1500 or more and could net a commission of over $300. They didn’t sell a lot of those in economically distressed areas.

So I got the lead.

My attitude was, well, it’s better than nothing, and I was excited to be running a lead. The existing sales staff was kind of smiling behind my back as I headed out the door. I didn’t care.

When I got to the house, it was in a lower middle class neighborhood, or upper lower class, I guess. It needed work. The whole area did. But I went in and I talked to the guy and his wife, and  he’s explaining what his problem is, and I said “Okay, we have to do an inspection.” Inspect the whole house, like the company policy says.

I start checking his house and I get ready to make my calculations, and I realize I don’t have my price sheet with me. Oops. So I wasn’t exactly prepared to sell to him and his wife because once I was all done inspecting everything, I needed to pitch them what the cost of the services would be. Pest control was a set amount per house. $29 a month or something, but you could go as low as $25 a month to make the deal. Maybe as low as $20 a month in a really bad deal, a house where they had no money. Like this place. But with fumigation services, you had to put a tent on the house. You had to measure the cubic feet of the structure to calculate how much gas was needed. That was all on a price chart. For subterranean termite work, you had to measure the linear feet around the house and price the job from the chart. So I could wing it with the pest control, but not for the other two. I couldn’t afford to guess and price it wrong, because, you know, losing money in that deal would hurt my ability to do my six weeks properly. They didn’t want me to sell stuff that lost the branch money.

The branch gave us radios, though, so in the middle of the inspection I quietly snuck outside and asked the branch if somebody could quote me the prices once I got the measurements figured up. I didn’t wanna guess wrong and I didn’t want to embarrass myself – my boss would see the contact (if there was one) when I got back to the branch. And I didn’t want to lose credibility with the homeowner by going in and saying I forgot my rate card.

The word comes back to sit tight, the branch manager is in the area – he’ll come by with a rate card.

I’ll be pitching my first-ever deal in front of my boss. Great.

Just what I wanted.

TOMORROW: PART 2. See ya then.

8 thoughts on “Why Everyone Should Learn How To Be An Indie Author Even If They Plan To Publish Traditionally, Part 1

  1. Can’t wait to read how this turned out. As much stress as the idea of succeeding in every job for six weeks must have been, I understand the thinking behind it. It makes for better managers.
    When I managed convenience stores, I was a very hands on type of boss. Yes, I did the paperwork, the ordering, and the banking. I also inventoried the milk cooler (which was always as cold as crap), took the garbage out (not a nice job on any day), I cleaned the toilets, dismantled whole displays, cleaned and put displays back together. I worked overnight shifts after being the boss all day mere hours before. I took money covered in blood. I held people’s hands while they cried and told me how they couldn’t afford to get meat for their kids. All of this is a long winded way of saying that doing EVERYTHING made me a better boss because my staff KNEW I didn’t consider myself above them. I was their equal. (Not to mention it gave me a range of experiences that has enriched me as a writer)
    My very first day I was supposed to be trained by a fellow co-worker. She called in sick, and a t 5 am, my boss came and unlocked the store and informed me that she HERSELF would e training me. Damn, no small amount of stress there! But she became my mentor and a solid friend that I dearly miss to this day.
    I can only hope your pitch in front of your boss turned out half as well. I look forward to reading the rest of your story.
    Carolyn
    https://dragonquillca.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

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