Poetry for Salespeople, Part 1
Listen to/Watch entire show:
Poetry for Salespeople, Part I<br> By Marc Porter Zasada<p> IF YOU WORK IN THE MODERN METROPOLIS, you have to find your poetry wherever you can. If you color hair in a North Robertson salon, I suppose you can think about beauty every day. Studio heads can revel in those multi-page spreadsheets, and cops can rent L.A. Confidential. But what about...salesmen? <p> In my day job, I sometimes sell 'technology solutions' to corporations. Sometimes, I find myself dropping into another shiny office building in another glass-and-steel precinct of the city -- downtown highrises or nameless, sun-baked office parks strung along Jefferson, and I can testify that of all professions, salesmen are most denied a lyric world view. <p> Yes, I've seen those motivational posters: lions prowling the Serenghetti at sunrise, cheetahs stretching long bodies on the chase. But I'm no predator. No, I need some new imagery, along with a celebratory poetry for urban salespeople -- something better than ---Hit the ground running.' Me, I find a kind of ceremony and fecundity to our work -- like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. And like classic verse, every sales meeting has to climax in a "Moment of Truth." So something agricultural might do the trick. Most of our work takes place in air-conditioned offices, so how about a short Haiku, like... Seeds sown in winter.<br> Green shoots break through frozen earth:<br> Our Moment of Truth. Take a recent Thursday afternoon. One of our team, with his own kind of poetic diction, tells us that a prospect is "hot to trot," and three of us don sportcoats to converge on one of those apparently soulless commercial zones a few exits past El Monte. <p> Immediately, the urban man begins looking for the poetry. I remember how much I enjoy arriving in the sterile, highly-lit conference rooms of glittering-clean buildings. I recall how I relish the round of handshakes, the ritual offer of coffee, the scattering of business cards like, uh, seed corn across a bright lacquered table. <p> Once seated, I always wait for that fecund Moment. <p> Today, however, the temperature is definitely chilly, and I see we're getting the Cold Stare from three Taiwanese engineers. We boot our Powerpoint show, and our man starts talking -- but 20 minutes in, he's still getting the Cold Stare. Each time he pauses for a response, all we hear is the whir of the air conditioning: Talk. Pause. Whir. <p> At last, our man ventures a direct question, and one of the engineers is forced to reply, in poor English, "I am sorry. We do not understand why our boss continues us to need these products."<p> If you remember my Haiku, we've hit that Moment of Truth. Joyfully, I rise. I walk to the white board. "It's not about products," I say, "it's about process." And sure enough, ten minutes later, two of the engineers have cracked smiles. <p> Green shoots break through frozen earth.<p> If you haven't been there, perhaps you consider this a trivial and unpoetic Moment. Maybe you find it hard to see us as heroic farmers. You doubt if Stravinsky would set the scene to music. <p> But I say we urban salespeople earn both our epic dignity and our fertile bluster. Few in the metropolis risk new projects without the urging of others. Take away salespeople, and your natural caution would prevail: each of your businesses would hoard its little stash of money like an icy pond in the center of your overly-cooled conference room. Your shiny office buildings would lie fallow. Winter frost would triumph. This piece is adapted from an essay which first appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Copyright -- 2004 Marc Porter Zasada, All Rights Reserved. Next Week in Part II: More Poetry for Salespeople<br>
Click the Full Details link to view the complete transcript. Tapes are not available.
Engage & Discuss
BROUGHT TO YOU BY