At the end of part one, I’d quit a job selling solar door to door, because door to door sales is a stupid job. After that debacle, I applied to solar companies that had real leads, and who needed experienced sales staff. I emailed five of them, and received a reply from one of the businesses within a few days. They were a small company looking for independent contractors (Commission only). Later that day, I spoke to a gentleman from the company who set up an interview at a mall. O.K. that seemed odd, but you overlook obvious red flags when you’re unemployed. He explained their home office was in a remote part of the city, and this was easier for candidates to get to.
The interviewer was a portly, bald gentleman in his mid to late 50’s. We met at the food court, and I came prepared to talk about my experience. Instead, he spoke about his experience, and how he’d been asked to be the sales manager for the guys who started the business. He bragged about selling millions of dollars worth of solar arrays. I was pretty attentive to his bullshit, and when I asked him if he’d hire me, his response was literally, “Sure, why not. You seem o.k.” With that enthusiastic endorsement I was once again, a proud working man. More accurately, I was now a part of the gig economy. I received no benefits, no salary, no bonuses. Just a paltry commission that would be taxed at the end of the year. But enough about our shitty economy.
“Let me tell you, nothing screams “great job” like training at the sales manager’s apartment. He told me not to worry about bringing anything. Not even pants, Red?”
I got a call from Red, the surly, probably alcoholic guy who interviewed me. He told me the training would be in two days, and at his apartment. Let me tell you, nothing screams “great job” like training at the sales manager’s apartment. He told me not to worry about bringing anything. Not even pants, Red?
When I arrived at Red’s apartment, the odor of old man armpit sweat filled the air like what I imagine death probably smells like. Red threw a packet to me and the other new hire, Calvin, who’s name I just made up, because I can’t remember it. The packet was a glossy booklet featuring the entire sales presentation. The first few pages were standard issue bullshit about how wonderful the company was because of X, Y, and Z. The rest were about pricing, and the awesomeness of solar. We were to go through each page of the booklet with every client.
I had done a lot of self directed learning on solar. How it made sense, and how to figure out if a home would benefit from it. So, I understood this packet, but only because I educated myself. Calvert had never worked in solar, and mind you, was hired by Red, and he had questions about the packet that anyone new would have. Red treated Calpern like an idiot for asking anything, and soon Calgon just stopped asking questions.
Red finished his poorly thought out training, and told us he’d email us our first leads. Later that evening, I was given my first assignment. It was a sales call 50 miles both ways to a city called Ramona. The presentation went fine. However, the couple didn’t qualify for solar due to their marginal electricity costs. I spoke with Calspoon, who had also gone on his first sale call. He confided his lack of knowledge had hurt him. He couldn’t answer many of the questions the client had for him.
For those unfamiliar with solar pricing, the costs are anywhere from 15 to 75,000 dollars. There are a lot of ways to finance, but very few people buy from the first salesperson they meet. I don’t blame them. 15 to 75,000 dollars is a shitload of money. I wouldn’t buy either until I looked at the competition. Caltripe told me he spoke to Red about his presentation, and that Red blasted him for not sticking to the sales booklet. In Red’s view, there should be no openings for clients to ask a question or two.
Calnot was pretty down about it. I gave him a pep talk, and told him to call me if he got stuck. Red called me the next day with a new lead. My second presentation resulted in a sale. I was thrilled, and called Caldiddly to see how his second call went. He told me it went better, but they didn’t buy, and wanted to think about it. I found out from Red the next day, Colsore was fired. In Red’s eloquent words, “he sucked.”
Red was not a pleasant man. His looks matched his personality too. He kind of looked like a butt that had been fed massive amounts of HGH, and then grew into a head. I was getting more frustrated at his bullying, sarcastic attitude. Any questions about anything were answered in such a way as to make you look dumb for asking it. Of course, Red had all the answers. You should’ve done this. Why didn’t you do that?
The job was very hit and miss. A few months in, and I wasn’t making more than a thousand dollars a month. Many of my leads were with people better off paying their electric bills or in their late 70’s and 80’s, where it wasn’t worth the savings solar would give them, unless they lived another 25 years. Red suggested I remind these older clients they were going to be dead soon, and ask them if they had heirs they cared about. If so, they should buy solar for them. He proudly told me about closing many deals with that tactic. Red was class all the way.
Three months in, and there was way too much economic uncertainty for me to stay. Also, Red had become unbearable. I grew to hate that guy in a way I’ve rarely hated any manager before. And I’ve been blessed to work with some all time shitheads. My last sales call for the company summed up my time there. I was sent to a home that only had space on the back side of the wall for solar panels. This was due to shade issues from nearby trees blocking out the sun’s rays. The only way to attach solar panels would be vertically. Something I’d never personally seen.
The client told me he’d already dealt with a few companies, and they told him it was virtually impossible. He wanted to know if we could do it. He glared at me and said-“Don’t lie to me. Tell me straight. Either you can do it or you can’t. If you can do it, I’ll sign. If I sign, and I found out you lied, I’ll sue you. You better not fuck with me.” His hostility blew a hole in my underwear. I told him I didn’t know, but would find out.
I called Red to see if we could do the work. Red told me he didn’t know, but to tell the guy we did, and he would get the answer. I let Red know I wouldn’t lie to the guy. Red told me to do as he asked, and get the client to sign the deal. I explained the client was not going to tolerate it if we were wrong. Red started yelling at me. I hung up, and then text messaged the owner of the company to see if the work was possible. No answer.
I walked back in the house, and the guy asked me what the answer was. I told him I didn’t know, but should find out soon. I sat around for thirty minutes waiting for a reply from Red or the company’s owner. Nothing. Finally, I told the client I’d call him when I knew. I left, and about thirty minutes later got the text from the owner informing me we couldn’t do it.
When I got home there was an email from Red. He was angry. I texted the owner, and didn’t lie to the client like he told me to. Even though he knew we couldn’t do it, he was still ripping me a new one for not lying. It was surreal. We battled back and forth via email a few times, and finally, well, it was pretty much over. I didn’t get fired, and I didn’t quit. It just kind of ….ended. I look back now, and fondly recall how much I fucking hated Red for being one of the biggest fuckbags I ever worked for. It was one of the key points in my employment history that had me rethinking what I wanted out of work. I didn’t find the answer from that experience, but the seeds were planted that day.