In 2013 I had a seven month dry spell between jobs. I was desperate for anything, and that’s exactly what I got-something desperate. Bryon, a friend from college, was starting a business, and was looking for salespeople, and hired me. His company rented solar power to home owners. I knew very little about solar, but I needed a job. My only condition was I wouldn’t go door to door. He told me not to worry as he had telemarketers pre-qualifying homes.
Bryon told me he’d train me at his home, unpaid, and I was OK with that since he was taking a risk on me. When I got to Bryon’s house for the first training session, he was distracted with his wife, child, phone calls, dog, and work. He was ill prepared to teach me much, and the night was a bit of a waste. He did show me a diagram of how the business was going to succeed, and to his credit, he drew a fabulous design on his whiteboard. It was a real A+ drawing, unfortunately the diagram had nothing to do with actually selling or learning solar.
We got together again a week later. Bryon taught me how to calculate electricity rates versus the cost of renting solar. I asked him why someone wouldn’t just own as opposed to renting solar “Because it makes no sense for them to own,” he told me. I said. “Well what if the customer asks about the differences?” He said, “They shouldn’t ask. Don’t worry about it.” Then he gently caressed my neck. No, he didn’t, but he might as well have for how patronizing he was. Nearly every query was met with “you don’t need to worry about that.” Well, that worried me. We adjourned after two hours, and he asked me to come back the following week.
“The towing company, like all towing companies, known for their discount pricing and excellent public reputation, wanted 430 dollars to release my car.”
In between visits I memorized Bryon’s sales pitch verbatim, and did a ton of research on my own. I wanted to know as much as I could about solar and how to sell it. My third training started off inauspiciously when the internet connection in my laptop failed. Bryon didn’t offer to share his home connection so I looked around and found an unsecured Wi-Fi. Twenty minutes later, my laptop was fried. Bryon’s attitude was an “oh well” shrug, and a “sucks for you,” look. Training number three was now over. The important lesson of the day? Don’t ever use an unsecured WiFi. Also, Bryon needed work on his “Oh well shrug.” It lacked commitment.
When I got back to my apartment complex, there was yellow tape surrounding the parking lot. All the spaces were being painted, and no parking was allowed for 24 hours. It took me twenty minutes to find a place for my car. Oh, this was mid-July during a heatwave, where temperatures reached 105. I think I forgot to mention that.
The next morning, I went to retrieve my car, but it was nowhere to be found. It was gone from the place I parked it the day before. I had found a space to park on the side of the street near a row of homes. There were no signs indicating you couldn’t park there, so I figured, my car had been stolen. Either that or maybe it took off for a better life and decided to look for an owner with superior prospects. I wouldn’t have blamed it
I ran back to my apartment to find my insurance paperwork, and see if I had coverage for a stolen car. In the midst of checking, it occurred to me the car could have been towed. I checked a local sheriff’s directory of impounded cars and saw that indeed, I was towed. The towing company, like all towing companies, known for their discount pricing and excellent public reputation, wanted 430 dollars to release my car.
When I arrived at the tow yard I saw the traffic citation on my car. According to the ticket, the place I parked was considered too close to the street, and a possible traffic hazard. Even though there were no signs, I later found out this is something a sheriff can determine on their own, especially if funds are low for the county coffers that month.
At this point I started to add up this little side show from my shiny new solar job. $430 dollars for the tow debt, $225 for the ticket, add the $150 to get my laptop fixed, and….I was out…let me see here…I’m doing some math with a calculator I have by my side.. A fucking shitload…that’s actually what the calculator says. And it’s right.
I called Bryon, and told him about the car and expense. His reply was,”ouch, buddy.” Ouch buddy indeed. I was touched by his warm response. After bleeding my savings to get my car, pay the ticket, and get my laptop back, I was fairly certain I was fucked in the ass. A term I just coined.
So it was desperation time. I had to make money and fast. I called Bryon, and told him I wanted my first sales lead. He said he had nothing for me. Oh, he had leads, but they were all going to experienced sales people. He urged me to go door to door. Told me he thought it would be an excellent way to start. My thought was it would be an excellent way to lose my dignity. Bryon pumped me up to do it with nonstop encouragement. The words “buddy,” “zero down” and “hey, why not” were used a lot. I gave in. The truth is I had no other options.
I picked a street that was fairly quiet. I was already having enough trouble with the idea of going door to door, so the idea of walking past kids playing, and neighbors casually talking, filled me with dread. Fortunately I remembered it was 2014, and kids only play together online, not outside, and neighbors hate their neighbors even more than they hate door to door salesmen. I was in the clear.
My approach to the first house I decided to knock on filled me with the type of self loathing that can only be described as “a lot.” I saw a car in a driveway with the garage door open. I cautiously walked to the door, wiping the sweat from my brow, and knocked on the door. I tapped at about a beginners level for people knocking on doors. Nothing. I knocked again, a little harder. Nothing. I got my courage up and rang the doorbell. I saw someone walk to the front of the house. They went behind the curtains, looked at me briefly, and then walked away. Awesome. I could leave knowing I tried. I was kind of fuming inside as I walked away from the house doing the one thing I told Bryon I would not do. And there’s good reason. A grown man going door to door selling anything might as well be wearing a sign around his neck that says “I failed at life. Ask me how for tips.”
Despite my distaste for what I was doing, I still felt strangely compelled to see it through. At least for a few hours. I had spent so much time getting prepared for the job, and nothing to show for it. I felt I had to at least give it one chance. Either that or maybe I wanted to see how much humiliation I could take. So on I went. I walked a few more blocks, walked to a few more houses, got a few people to answer, and briefly spoke to some of them about solar. Not one of them gave a shit.
After about two hours of canvassing, I had done what I set out to do-confidently fail. I got back in my car, took a gallon of spare gasoline I keep in the car, carefully uncapped it, poured it over my body, and lit a match. Actually, I did something smarter. I drove home, and promptly called Bryon to quit. Then I took a big picture look at my three weeks working in solar. I went to a few trainings, spent an inordinate amount of time memorizing a sales pitch, and spent countless hours in self directed learning. After all that time investment, my income went down $750 dollars. Not bad for three weeks work.
You would think after all the failure I’d gone through, I’d have called it a day working in the solar industry. Not so. I was determined to salvage something positive from the experience. The one thing I did get out of this misguided enterprise was useful knowledge on the benefits of solar courtesy of the self learning I’d done. Now I just had to find a company with real leads willing to give me a shot.