Mini Story: The Sales Training

Pammy is a fictional character but the event is something that really happens, not as infrequently as we tend to imagine. The idea of this story is based on my talk with my friends on the sales training they had been to. It goes like this:

Pammy lives with her husband Tan and their son Sam in New Jersey. Her husband originally wanted to become a physicist, but couldn’t resist the allure of the Wall Street. So fifteen years ago, he became a financial analyst there. Pammy has never worked–she has never worked outside of her home. If Pammy works, whatever extra money she brings back home will go into the extra tax they have to pay and the family ends up with the same amount of after-tax income. So what’s the point?

Pammy grew up in Macau and came to America when she married her husband. Her parents are very traditional and she knew from early on how to please her parents by not talking or asking questions. She’s not an introvert and could communicate very well at home. However she looks an introvert when she’s not with her family or her friends.

Her son Sam grows up and leaves for college. Now to find herself something to do, she becomes a sales assistant at a branch office of a big company. Her English is still no good after many years of living in America, but the company is eager to expand its presence in the Asian communities in the greater New York region and her target clients are mainly Asian immigrants. She will do cold calls, make non-solicited visits to small businesses, conduct sales events.

“Pammy, how’s your training class?” The manager of the Asian team, Jina Chia, asks. The reason Jina asks is because Pammy didn’t say much in the training class even if the instructor presses her for self introduction and for sales plan.

“You really need to speak up, exert yourselves, be positive, present an energetic image.” Jina says.

“I was frightened out of my wits. Everybody in the training class was like I wanted to do $100,000 sales for my first year, 100 cold calls each day, 30 visits and events a month. That sounds too astronomical to me. What if they can’t do that much sale?” Pammy said.

“That’s what I have been saying, Pammy. You are not positive. You have to be more assertive, more optimistic, more active. Learn from your American colleagues.” Jina pats Pammy’s arm. Jina’s mother-in-law cooked some sticky rice cake, which Jina brings as her lunch. She insists that Pammy have some to boost her spirit. When Pammy is about to leave the office, Jina walks her to the door and then to her car so that they can talk.

The next day, Jina came to see Pammy and told her in a rush,

“Mike just comes in from the headquarter. He used to be the manager of the Italian team in this office ten years ago. He suddenly wants to have a special sales meeting with all the new trainees here. You are one of the only two trainees from our Asian team. I want you to… you know… Remember what I said yesterday and perform your best in front of him. It is important.”

The sales meeting is held in the conference room, with Mike and ten new trainees. Jina Chia and another manager also come in and sit next to Pammy.

After a brief presentation on the rosy prospects of the company, Mike starts to let each trainee to talk about his ambition and his target figure. The cute Italian boy, who looks like he just traded his high school graduation gown for his suits, talks about his plan to work on his extended family and his even more extended parish. His sales figure is minimum $120,000 for his first year. Pammy gasps incredulously, but Jina squeezes Pammy’s hand and smiles at her to calm her down.

Then Raj, the Indian American, who looks like a nerdy engineer and speaks very fast, starts to talk about his plan for the Indian community. The biggest Bollywood event will be held in the Metlife Stadium right next to the Hudson River and he has an insider track to the event organizer. Utilizing this event, he can reach millions of Indian diaspora in the world as well as anybody who likes Bollywood movies. His sales figure projection is $120,000.

When it comes to Pammy’s turn, she feels that she is going to faint, not only from the fear of public speaking, but also from the dizziness of the figures she has to come up with. She has no relatives or parishioners or movie events to rely on. What is she going to say? Anything less impressive than what has already been said will disappoint Jina Chia.

“I am going to reach half a million prospective customers through the organization of …” Pammy pauses for breath and Jina nervously stares at her, “the international organization of, how am I going to say this, the organization of Lingzhi. For three generations, from my grandma’s time, we have been cultivating, supporting, spreading the spirit of Lingzhi.” Pammy says. She feels that she has never said so many English words all in one breath before.

“Wonderful. Lingzhi, what a name!” Mike says. “Half a million customers. I hear you. Good job, Pammy. This is what I call diversity. With diversity, more customers.” Mike says and waves his happy hand in the air and proceeds to the next new trainee.

“What is Lingzhi?” Jina asks Pammy quietly, “Are you crazy? It doesn’t sound right.”

“It’s a herb my grandma took. It boosts immune system and it grows in Tibet. It’s a kind of mushroom plus fungus. At least half a million people consume it every year.” Pammy says, feeling relieved that the worst is over.

“You can’t just say wild things like this. This is corporate America and have some respect.” Jina says. She aspires for the managing directorship somewhere, if not in the New York region, or the West Coast, at least in Southeast Asia, in which area the company has been growing steadily. Pammy’s new antics can have unforeseeable consequences for her future position on the corporate ladder.

Just when Pammy thinks everything is over and Mike is getting ready to get up and leave, someone says something which Pammy doesn’t understand. Her English is not good enough to catch everything. The meeting ends and Mike walks to the door, but doesn’t exit. Instead he comes back towards Pammy, “What exactly is Lingzhi? I think I heard it before and I have notes somewhere that I can dig up, but just tell me a little bit more about this organization.”

“It’s the most wonderful organization the world has ever seen. It helps people, motivates people, energize people. An old person comes to Lingzhi and leaves like a teenager. That’s the true spirit of Lingzhi. I can send you a report on it if you are interested.” Pammy says and feels a sharp pain on her leg, where Jina kicks her very hard with her sharp shoes.

“Hear that, Jina?” Mike smiles towards Jina’s direction. “Give your report to Jina as soon as you can. I want to read it. Good job!” He leaves the room quickly without waiting for any response from the two women.

“Can you stop? I am going to kill you and chop you to pieces. I want you to boast your sales projection and say something reasonable just like the other trainees. That’s the corporate way. You boost your spirit with a higher than achievable number to motivate yourself. What did you do? You come up with this wild goose to frighten me.” Jina says to Pammy.

“I can’t come up with anything to say. You didn’t tell me he’s coming today and I didn’t prepare anything. I talked with my mother back home yesterday and she says something about Lingzhi my grandma is taking. So that’s why I come up with this idea. I have another idea about Portuguese pirates leaving big bunch of treasure buried somewhere in Southeast Asia, for which half a million people have joined the treasure hunt project.”

“Oh, shut up. It’s rubbish. Lingzhi or Portuguese pirates.” Jina says impatiently.

“By the way I don’t understand. It’s all wild goose to me. I mean relatives, parishioners, Bollywood events. They are as wild as my Lingzhi. How come my goose is not acceptable while their goose is praised?” Pammy says.

“Oh, Pammy, you just don’t understand, do you?” Jina says and sighs.