Selling the Impossible
Suellen was resilient. In fact, she was as hard as a rock, but she was never hard on other people, only on herself. Clearly, it was discipline that had got her through. Everything.
So, after about six months in her sales job, when she had barely made a sale, she was not disheartened. Everyone else was feeling sorry for her and she knew they felt that way. She simply didn’t let herself get tangled up in such emotions. As far as she was concerned, her faith told her that things would turn out okay in the end. It was a matter of faith. And, discipline.
Of course, in the short-term, her commitment was to be severely tested.
She lost almost every prospect she stumbled upon. She lost almost every lead she developed. She lost every customer who was reaching out to make a purchase. She was lucky she didn’t lose her job, as well.
But, she didn’t give up. She would never do that. Discipline.
So, what was Suellen selling? She was selling the impossible. Or, to put it another way, she was selling ceiling fans in the middle of winter … something nobody wanted.
Then, her life became truly bizarre. She arrived at her office one morning to find that her desk, her chair, and the carpet around was covered in frost. Frost. Like the temperature had dropped to 24 degrees but only in her workspace. Maybe, the air conditioner had gone berserk.
Suellen laughed to herself and grabbed a towel, wiping down all the crystalline surfaces. When someone squinted over the partitions, she pretended to be cleaning. But, frost was just the start of her problems.
Suellen was a normal woman. She was 42 years old. She had a good childhood with loving parents who adopted her when she was a toddler of just 3 years. She was liked at elementary and high school. She did well at community college. She was married with no kids.
When she started working in sales, she got a job selling handheld fans … those little battery-driven ones. They were toys, really. It was summer so she did okay. When she got weary of the fan business, she found a job selling air conditioners to hotel and apartment developers. She did well.
Then, she shifted to selling air conditioning systems for entire buildings. That’s when everything went wrong. Her career was upturned. There was nothing she could do about it.
At first, the prospects she attracted did not produce the usual leads. She doubled the number of prospects she contacted, ringing and emailing all day, but it made no difference. Because she was drawing zero responses, her manager put her onto what he called “administrative duties” to give her a break. You can imagine what Suellen thought of that.
After a while, with no commissions and a tiny salary, Suellen asked to be allowed to work on sales again. At that time, a big contract was about to be settled. Everything was in place when the leading salesperson took sick. The manager took a bet on Suellen.
He explained all the intricacies of the agreement, which involved supplying the air conditioning system for a five-story building, and he told her about the main personality involved. That was the CEO of the firm that owned the building. His name was Morgan Highland. Suellen’s boss said Mr. Highland was … okay. But, his tone did not suggest a high level of certainty. He’d been coaching the salesperson who had fallen ill and he knew how difficult Mr. Highland had been. He didn’t want to be too unpleasant, but he thought Mr. Highland was the Devil himself.
Unfortunately, at the very last moment, just before the final agreement was to be signed, Morgan Highland got cold feet and the deal fell through. Six months of hard work evaporated. Everyone on the sales team was devastated.
But, Suellen kept on. There was something indestructible about her. It was unearthly. Strange.
During this period, something else was happening to Suellen. Remember the frost? The meteorological situation at her workspace became rapidly worse. People made jokes about it.
One morning, she found her desk covered in sand and grit. There were two potted date palms slumped into a corner. Maybe a hurricane had passed through. It didn’t touch anyone else.
Another morning, she couldn’t get to her desk. It was draped with dense jungle vines. Someone thought they saw a striped snake in the leaves.
Friday morning, when she got to work, she saw nothing. Her desk wasn’t there. Her chair had gone. Her filing cabinet was gone, too. There was a burnt patch in the carpet where she would normally sit. No-one knew what had happened.
So, by the end of that final, horrendous week, Suellen nearly hit the wall. Nearly. At that moment, when everything was disastrous and the situation untenable, the ultimate shock finally came.
She got an email message on her iPhone. Someone was offering her a job. They actually wanted her. She read the email more closely. They wanted her to be their General Manager Sales. Much higher status, more money, more responsibility. She grasped the chance with both hands.
On the day of the interview, she took an Uber to the firm’s main office downtown. It was a standard Human Resources affair. They mentioned that it was policy for most sales staff to use MercurySays and she was expected to continue that. Otherwise, she could do as she wished. She would be GM Sales, so the decisions would be all hers.
But, Suellen had one question. What would she be selling?
At that moment, the door to the conference room was pushed open and in came Morgan Highland. He was a narrow, small man with a shiny silver-gray suit. Neat. Dapper. Sharp. He was nearer to 70 years than he would care to admit. Suellen was sure she could smell the slightest hint of wood smoke. Strange.
They’d met twice before he pulled the plug on that big contract. The odd thing was that she had a lingering sense that there was something familiar about him.
He glanced meaningfully at the HR interviewers who instantly gathered their documents and left the room.
Morgan Highland sat beside Suellen. He spoke directly to her. “We have been watching your work very closely. It’s impressive. We want you to work with us … for us. We think you can do great things.”
Suellen’s mind was spinning.
Mr. Highland had more to say. “I need to tell you something. You will find it hard to deal with, but it must be said.”
Suellen focused. Disciplined.
The old man took a breath and said: “I am your father. Your natural father. I have followed your career with the greatest of interest. And, now, we have at last the chance to work together.”
Suellen opened her mouth to speak but no words were produced.
Morgan Highland had more to say. “So, I want you to accept this position. You can be sure that your results will improve … in fact, with your discipline, they will go through the roof.”
Suellen was confused: “But, what will I be selling?”
The old man rubbed his lips meditatively, then he said: “Can I explain about the … unusual weather at your desk? The frost and the sand? It’s part of what we do.”