Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

Rich Flashman –

the salesman

RICH is dead pleased with himself. Fresh out of college and he landed this job as a salesman. "A junior representative," as he prefers it to be called.

The money is decent and then theres the car, the Ford Mondeo – the smart one with the CD and the spoilers and the cloth seats. It gets a bit messed up visiting farms – but thats the way it goes. You cant sell without getting out and seeing your punters. "I know my patch inside out," claims the salesman, proudly.

Not that many farmers are that pleased to see him. "Were less liked than tax inspectors," he laughs, sitting in the bar of some hotel on another overnight stay. The salesmans telling the young barmaid the story of how he got bitten by a Border collie on his first day. And – sinking his pints, watching her – hes got things on his mind other than selling agricultural products.

There are a lot of overnight stays in this job. Lots of long, boring evenings in hotel rooms. SKY films marked "miscellaneous" appear prominently on the salesmans bills.

The junior representative is full of ambition. He, like his all-time hero Richard Branson, is going to conquer the world. Hes read a book called How to be a Winner. He wants to be a winner.

"Closing the deal – thats what its all about," he tells his mates. Anyone would think Rich was trading millions of pounds of stocks and shares. In fact, hes selling an obscure form of (largely unnecessary) cattle feed supplement manufactured in a small market town.

And, if theres one thing the salesmans learned most about since starting the job, its route planning. He can tell you the precise mileage from any two given points in his patch, knows the A and B road network like the back of his hand and, in most detail, where the best places are to eat.

He sits in country pubs at lunchtime, deliberating whether to have a starters or a dessert with his scampi (juniors have a lunch budget of £7 and that wont cover three courses). He goes for the icecream then, with an hour-and-a-half before his next appointment, pulls into a lay-by, loosens his Next tie, and has a nap.

The salesman prides himself on having good interpersonal skills. He reckons the word "persuasive" best describes him. "A cocky little git," is what farmers say when they come home to find him sitting in their chair, drinking coffee, chatting familiarly with the Missus and patting the dog (the name of which, of course, he always remembers).

The salesmans very familiar with everyone. He remembers to ask how middle son is doing at college, how that badly-drained field is standing up to the wet weather and whether its a good year or not for jam-making. Its almost as if he cares.

Then, seamlessly, he moves on to the subject dearest to his heart and his wallet – cattle feed supplements.

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