Jun 4, 2009

The Phone and I...

I think I've mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with speaking on the phone. Actually it's more of a phobia. Have I told the story of how it developed?

When I was young--probably 8 or less, I dialed the phone to talk to my grandparents. I say "Hi Grandpa," and he replies, "Jane?"

"No, it's Skerrib."


"Put Grandma on the phone."

Lady's voice: "Hello?"

"Hi Grandma it's Skerrib."


Long story short, they were someone's grandparents, but not mine. Not sure if it was a wrong number or what, but my mom got on the phone & helped sort it out, and they all laughed about it. I would probably laugh if it happened today, but combine my age at the time and my nervous-type-ness, and I was mortified. Suffice to say it was a while before I wanted to talk on the phone, and I think several years before I actually dialed a call for myself (Pizza Hut).

Ironically enough, I worked in a call center for most of my college years. I worked for Bank of America, and I actually started out as an Outbound rep, calling customers to get them to apply for home equity lines of credit. Now that I think about it I'm wondering how I got through without blowing a fuse. That's, like, daily anxiety for me. Anyway, I was terrible at it, but before too terribly long we Outbound folks merged with the Inbound folks, and instead of waking people up on Saturday mornings I was soon helping to open accounts for people who called me. This was heaven in comparison. My numbers (and consequently my commission checks) weren't fantastic, but my customers liked me because I wasn't pushy. I'd listen to their needs and upsell when a particular product would benefit them, but mostly I just helped them do what they'd called in to do--open an account.

This is why I suck at sales. Over the years I've done a surprising amount of sales work. There was the bank for 3 years--still one of my longest-held jobs. There was selling cell phones, in Circuit City, for Cingular, over the holiday season of 2001. They gave me all the crappy shifts--like Monday mornings--but I didn't care. I didn't have a cell, so why would I try to push one on anyone else? I don't think I sold even one phone. My brother sells phones now, and he's really good at it. He also has a kick-ass phone, and when I call him I get to hear music instead of ringing. So he can show off for the people who come into the store, and make them want all the same cool tricks & stuff as he has.

Let's see, I know there's more in there somewhere...well, whatever. I think to do sales well you must be able to separate work from your real self. I never fully believed in the stuff I was selling, and I could never quite compartmentalize it like that, so I always felt a bit disingenuous. I was saying "Hey you should buy this, it's good," but really I was thinking, "Please I hope you don't hate me for trying to sell you this, but I do hope you buy it 'cuz then I get some commission." Sales is inherently about getting you to spend money on stuff you may or may not need or use. Problem is, I am inherently for saving money and not piling on the stuff, so it's a fundamental difference in philosophy.

Once I got into grad school and secured my co-op job doing nerd work, I decided that, as much as was within my power, I would never do sales again. No retail, no foods (upselling shakes & grilled onions at Fuddrucker's), no home-based marketing stuff. None. I don't even go to many of the home-based marketing parties. It's nothing personal, I just get nervous about anything sales-y, even as a consumer.

So yeah, phones...sales...phone sales...not my gig. These days I function somewhat-reasonably when it comes to the phone, but for the tougher calls I often have to wait for a day or moment when I feel particularly brave. Then I make the call and accomplish whatever it is that needed to be done, and then I give myself a congratulatory lecture: "Hey, you did it--good job! But honestly Skerrib, must you really make these things so difficult? Go eat a piece of fruit [or ice cream, depending on the difficulty of the call]."

So no, I won't sign up for your awesomely-awesome opportunity, no matter how low-key and sure-fire it sounds. I might go to your home party, but only if there's food, and even then I'll have to think about it. And I won't do street witnessing, no matter how much you guilt me about getting out of my comfort zone. But that's another post...


prochaskas said...

Oh yes, me too. It's even hard for me to use the phone to call a friend. And this summer I've given myself the task to find a therapist (in case of another major episode / crisis -- better to have someone in mind than have to do the research in the midst of the crisis), which is going to involve a lot of phone calls and, given how many bad therapists are out there, lots of frustration, despair, and disappointment. Oy.

Heidi said...

I hate home parties to. I don't go to them. I make up an excuse. Guess what I'm doing now? Well . . . kind of. I found some stuff (from a friend) that I think is super cute. I bought a bunch for myself and then realized if I signed up I get a discount on stuff for me. I also got a TON of stuff (most of which I was thinking of buying) for dirt cheap for signing up. That's about as far I was going to take it---until people started asking me if I was hosting parties. My first one is 6/16.

I'm not a big "phone" person. I love e-mail for that reason :)

Smiller said...

You are eight pounds of awesome in a five pound bag--phone or no phone. That's what I have to say about you.