Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: letters from friends

Ten lessons I learned

I met Andrew twice, once at a conference in Berlin in 2013, then again at a conference in Vilnius in 2014. I have lost grip with the Oceans Network since then, and I am not too sure he is still in the loop either. But sometimes his posts come up on my personalized newsfeed and I thought it was worth sharing his last one – upon his permission. The title is ‘Ten lessons I learned as a door-to-door salesman‘. Here we go.

I recently completed 100 days as a door-to-door vacuum salesman. My main goal was to learn salesmanship.

It’s no coincidence that the mascot for the sales profession is the mighty rhinoceros. This is because of its tough, thick skin.

During the 100 days, I knocked on thousands of doors, and was told “No” at about 99% of the homes that answered.

Door-to-door vacuum sales is a seven-day workweek with each day lasting 12-14 hours. One Saturday in March lasted 18 hours.

Not everyone who signed up had rhinoceros skin. During the 100 days, 120 people quit.

Starting out, it was heart-wrenching to work 80+ hours and not even earn a paycheck. For the first few weeks I thought about quitting every single day.

I began with virtually no selling experience, yet developed skills to the level where I was I was the top salesperson in the division and then was promoted to be a Team Leader, which meant that I would go into demonstrations and help close deals for others.

I’m not the best salesman by any means, but I’d say that I learned priceless lessons on communication, psychology and human nature that aren’t taught in any classroom.

The fact is, there’s a steep learning curve, but once you’ve climbed it, you’ll do alright.

The following chart shows my growth during the 100 days

Day Range……………Number of Vacuums Sold
Day 1 – Day 25……………..11
Day 26 – Day 50……………12
Day 51 – Day 75……………22
Day 76 – Day 100………….36

It wasn’t easy, but I believe it’s a skill anyone can develop with enough determination.

With that, I wanted to share some of the best takeaways from my experience.

#1. The best salespeople are effective teachers who enthusiastically demonstrate great products to their clients. Effective salesmanship isn’t about being sleazy and manipulative. The lying/high pressure/pushy sales people sold less because they wouldn’t listen to people, lacked empathy and broke rapport. People buy from people they like and trust.

#2. Many ‘No Soliciting’ signs are put on doors by husbands who don’t want their wives to buy merchandise when they’re gone. About 40% of my sales were from houses that had those signs 🙂

#3. Being inside people’s homes gives you a more authentic experience of a person than meeting them in public. Most people were great and would often share food and life stories with me. One Ethiopian family taught me a folk dance and wanted me to marry their daughter. Another lady gave one of the newbies on my crew a pair of new pants and shirts with a belt to help him dress for success.

#4. People from India are the world’s best negotiators. Whenever I entered an Indian home, it was like a baby gazelle slathered in barbecue sauce walking into a den full of hungry lions.

#5. When dealing with strangers, who you are and what you look like speaks volumes louder than your words. The majority of people you briefly meet are judging you by your body language and appearance before you ever say anything. Because of that, everything you say is being filtered by their instant judgment. Paying attention to clothing and hygiene gives you the best chance of making a positive impression. Nonverbal communication is vital to getting into a complete stranger’s house and selling them a $3995 product in 2 hours.

#6. Instead of saying “No” directly, many people will tell white lies and half-truths because they’re not interested or are trying to protect your feelings or give themselves an easy out. This happens about 99.9% of the time when trying to sell people vacuums, but also happens frequently in normal day-to-day interactions.

#7. Women are a lot cleaner than men. However, the women who were the exception seemed to take it to the extreme, and their houses wouldn’t be just dirty, it would be like touring the National Museum of Dirt, Dust and Filth. In terms of cleanliness, the women from Romania, Germany, Guam and Puerto Rico took the most pride in good housekeeping.

#8. Many people are bored/living the same day over and over and over and having a vacuum demonstration may be the most excitement they’ve had in weeks or months. Surprisingly, sometimes people who live in cities are more isolated than those who live in rural areas. Sadly, for widowed older folks, you might be the only social interaction they’ve had in weeks or months.

#9. The majority of the time in door-to-door sales, strangers will mirror your emotions. If you think everyone’s being rude or negative towards you, take pause and look at the common variable in those interactions.

#10. The youngest person who got a vacuum from me was an 18-year old girl who worked at Bed Bath & Beyond. The oldest person was 78 who told me she wasn’t going to buy one many times and then surprised me with a check when I had packed up and was headed out the door.

Now, I’m gonna use that experience and head off onto my next adventure! Stay tuned 🙂

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Something like this

Queridos amigos,

I’m honoured and yet nervous to accept Lorenzo’s invitation to write in his blog. I’m supposed to tell you about my first month in Northern California. And first time in the US… (!)

I landed in San Francisco at night, 6pm Pacific time, a couple of days before New Year’s Eve and was first a bit afraid by the dim lights outside on my way to Berkeley. It turned out that Berkeley is pretty safe – though a few days later a guy was shot inside the wagon taking the same train at 7pm.

For about two weeks I was alone in this beautiful wooden house, reminding of that of Charmed witches’, as my sister pointed out. Our fourth flatmate Goose, a black cat, didn’t arrive yet either and I could hear people walking upstairs (technically our neighbours), so I just did what Europeans think Americans do (or at least I thought so)… introducing myself to the neighbours and inviting them for dinner – since I’m not so good at baking cakes.

In Florence I had met these wonderful people living in Berkeley, Dan & Naomi, who invited me to join their New Year’s Eve celebration with some of their friends… namely camping in Marine county, north of San Francisco. Don’t tell anybody, but I was excited when I saw the park rangers from Yogi. We slept in the middle of the forest, confessed our resolutions around a campfire, I made sure we had the 12 grapes a la española 36 seconds before midnight, we froze and heard apparently a bob cat at night. The next morning, first day of 2016, we hiked around the coast of the Pacific ocean!

Sunday after New Year’s I attended the yearly Econ conference, aka ASSA meetings. I went to pretty amazing seminars, including one by Andrea Matranga, who finds convincing evidence explaining why the Neolithic Revolution happened independently at different points in the globe. Below is a groupie picture of Joseph E. Stiglitz.

It was a smooth start, combined with lunch in Chinatown, San Francisco. I had never had such authentic and delicious food from everywhere in Asia before coming to the Bay area.

I also met a good friend of my brother, Adriana, of Serbian origin, whom as you can imagine, made it even more special for me. People ask me how it feels to move all the time, and it’s these occasions, meeting what you can feel are good friends of your siblings, that you feel you’re home despite or thanks to the fact that you’re moving. Few weeks after my arrival I get an email for an incredible boat trip along the Bay! My brothers’ present! Crazy… I could almost touch the Golden Gate bridge.

The academic year at UC Berkeley started only after Martin Luther King Jr Day, January 18. Finally the city began to be populated with students, my flatmates included, classes and seminars started and I found my favourite working space, the Doe Library and my Stammkaffee, the Free speech movement Café, dedicated to Mario Savio, a key activist for the Free speech movement. I quickly met my new friends in Berkeley, a group of material, nano-material, computer engineers, historians & philosophers, a lawyer, a neuroscientist, an economist from all over, Japan, Finland, Brazil, Italy and Germany… “the point is”, like Sheila would say, we cooked together Brazilian vegetarian lasagna (without lasagna pasta!),  Sushi, tortilla española, we had our ‘saideiras’,  our session in the Planetarium and shoes soaked in the Pacific…

I’m enjoying it a lot… I’m working a lot too, and getting extremely useful feedback from my mentor and Professors – amazing people (!) -, attending seminars several times a week that are so close to my topic, it’s very enriching… At lunch a good friend tells me about her lectures with Judith Butler ‘Undoing Gender’. Sometimes I also go and talk to my friend Tyrannosaurus…  It’s such an amazing place to be!

I’ll close with a Japanese poem, an excerpt from ‘Adagio ma non troppo’, by Sekiguchi Ryoko:

On our first meeting, always and only once, the doors facing the street turn this way, and as if left open and released, I run across the street

Love,

阿雫

 

PS: Read in Japanese Kanji, not Mandarin.

PS2: The tall, gray building is Evans hall, the Econ department. It reminds me of la Rive Gauche in Paris… just as La Tour Montparnasse, it has the most beautiful view in UC Berkeley – from the 6th floor you can see the Bay, SF, and everything, except herself.

Palle a canestro

From: Mindaugas
To: Lorenzo
Topic: Eurobasket
Date: 16 settembre
 

Ciao Lorenz!
Come stai? Sei ancora in Canada?

Ti scrivero un email questi giorni.

Stasera vado a Lille a vedere una partita di campionato Europeo. Lituania gioca contro Italia. Purtroppo devo ammettere che per la prima volta nella storia di pallacanestro questa nazionale Italiana ha più talento della nazionale Lituana. Vedremmo se hanno anche le palle.

Mindo

Estratti privati di comunicazioni ferragostane

From: Lorenzo
To: Dani
Topic: Gestione nostro B&B e review per Sarah
Date: 12 agosto

ciao old sport.

aline ha lasciato questa recensione per voi: Nous avons voyagé en Italie, et avons passé trois nuits dans l’appartement de Lorenz à Florence, c’était vraiment génial. Nous avons eu l’occasion de rencontrer son colocataire, Daniel et sa copine Anna, qui ont été très chaleureux. Ils nous ont préparé un dîner succulent alors que la tempête grondait et s’abattait sur Florence. Nous avons eu l’occasion de boire un verre avec Anna et ses amis. L’appartement était très beau, confortable et bien placé . La chambre de Lorenz est parfaite. Nous espérons pouvoir y retourner et goûter encore et encore au gingerello que préparent Daniel et Lorenz.

io di recensione ne ho lasciato una molto positiva per lei.
invece di sarah e amica cosa scrivo?

Lorenzo

From: Dani
To: Lorenzo
Topic: Re. Gestione nostro B&B e review per Sarah
Date: 13 agosto

oh che carine.

Questa cosa che i francofoni scrivano tutte le recensioni in francese sbattendosene che il mondo nel frattempo ha scelto un’altra lingua mi lascia sempre perplesso.

Bah senti, ste due neozelandesi non è che ci abbiamo fatto impazzire. Con me non hanno mai parlato, anzi penso non avessero proprio idea di chi io fossi, ma io non ho fatto nessuno sforzo per cambiare la situazione. Lasciavano la loro traccia per casa con luci accese e vasca da bagno oleosa.

Anna dice “Friendly guest and easy to host”, ma con faccia scarsamente convinta.

Non so, non vorrei creare un caso. Magari di che sono ok ma senza sbilanciarti in apprezzamenti eccessivi.

Abrazos.
Daniel et sa copine

P.s. quando ho visto la mail ho erroneamente letto nel subject “review per salah”. Questo per farti capire quanto questa ferita sia ancora aperta, ma ne parleremo…

From: Lorenzo
To: Dani
Topic: Ultime recensioni online
Date: 23 agosto

Danielone,

penso che Tahira abbia lasciato la casa ieri – tutto bene? buona review? – e Alba arriverà oggi. Ho chiesto a Nele di aprirle casa verso le 16.00. Potresti solo controllare che da qualche parte della casa ci siano lenzuola pulite che lei potrà usare? Grazie,

Lorenzo

From: Dani
To: Lorenzo
Topic: Re: Ultime recensioni online
Date: 24 agosto

tranquillo sugar daddy, ci hanno pensato Anna e Nele.
Tahira and friend sempre molto sorridenti e anche ordinate, vai con gli incensi.

take care take care

From: Lorenzo
To: Daniele
Topic: Note qua e là
Data: 9 settembre

Old sport,

Tutto bene a casa?
La produzione del gingerello procede?
Alba si è comportata bene?
C’è qualcosa che io possa fare per farti felice?

Lorenzo

From: Dani
To: Lorenzo
Topic: Re. Note qua e là
Date: 10 settembre

​Ti rispondo in ordine sparso.

Alba molto bene, tipa in gamba

Il gingerello. Abbiamo un litro di alcool in preparazione, metodo quasi-classico con lievi note di limone e menta. Ho creato hype tra i miei colleghi e dovrei riuscire a piazzare altre bottiglie ma siamo un po’ a corto.
Matteo preme per riunire un consiglio di amministrazione al tuo ritorno per decidere strategie e prospettive future.

La casa va benone. Ada è tornata in gran forma, ha pulito casa tutto il giorno ed adesso tutto brilla ed è in ordine, quasi come quando pulivamo tu io o jonas. Nele costante.

As for me, il curvitt [squadra di basket dove giocava Daniele, particolarmente nota negli ambienti sportivi locali per la sua attitudine alle provocazioni e ad atteggiamenti anti-sistemi] è morto e questo è stato un brutto colpo, anche se tutta la lega uisp sta tirando sospiri di sollievo. Voglio fare un altro surf trip.

Silvano [il vicino] chiede sempre di te, quando torni e che lazzarone che sei, sempre in giro. Di noialtri non gli frega un cazzo.

a bientot

Dans mon jardin

Valentina mi scriveva tre mesi fa:

Ho lasciato il lavoro dopo gli esami e sono felice. A un certa succede che ti interroghi su quello che vuoi fare e su come lo vuoi fare e ho capito che quello che stavo facendo mi faceva vomitare. L’ultimo tassello dello schifo di Bxl [Bruxelles, nota del redattore sottopagato di questo blog] è andato a farsi benedire e quindi posso godermi finalmente quello che mi piace di questa città e di me stessa senza problemi.

Sono dura a morire e ho capito che preferisco lavare i cessi piuttosto che vedermi in un ambiente che non mi rispecchi. Ho un sacco di progetti e ora mi sto preparando per la mia prossima avventura in Marocco. Andrò lì con una bella ricerca e uno stage coi fiocchi. Poi vederemo. Non voglio fermarmi. Ho sta maledetta abitudine di mettere radici ovunque. Vorrei seguire il vento e andarmene a destra e sinistra per un pò.

Bxl non è mai stato il mio grande amore, ma non è mai stata bella come negli ultimi mesi. Mi sono liberata di zavorre e relazioni tossiche e sento di vivere come un cane solitario felice di esserlo. Sì, mi sono chiusa abbastanza ma non vivo questo come un dramma. Penso sia fisiologico. Avevo bisogno di me e mi sono presa egoisticamente tempo per i miei progetti e le mie ambizioni, mettendo da parte altro che non fosse funzionale al mio benessere.

A una certa so che dovrò includere il mondo di nuovo nella mia vita, ma sento che non sono ancora pronta.

L’altro giorno, mentre ero nel solito caffè sotto casa, Valentina mi ha mandato questa foto assieme a un messaggio molto breve e bello.

giardino marocchino

E’ il suo giardino in Marocco. Buona domenica.

Italian numero uno

Ho scoperto che Dani, il mio adorato coinquilino assente da terra toscana da ormai tre mesi, ha passato il fine settimana in Bulgaria per andare a trovare Anna, la sua ragazza. Gli scrivo una mail per chiedere informazione e questa è la sua lettera di risposta.

Ti racconterò di una succulenta conversazione con il tassista, 5 minuti dopo essere atterrato in terra bulgara.

T: < Italian? Ah numero uno!>
D : <eh, yes…>
T : <you here for football?>
D : <no, i’m visiting my girlfriend>

dopo poco:
T : <here sofia alcool girl very good, italian numero uno>

faccio un sorriso di circostanza, non capisco, poi si spiega meglio

T : <very good girl and alcool no problem. I drive all night you to drink and girl sex sex!>
D: <no thank you. no really, i’m here to see my girlfriend>
T: <you italian, no sex?>
D: <yes, but with my girlfriend>

seguono 10 minuti di silenzio durante i quali percepisco tutto il suo disappunto.

Learn to fly

This morning I sent some random songs to Martin – namely: Francesco Guccini’s Cirano and Andrew Bird’s entire repertoire. Touchingly, this is how he replied:

Mi piace molto Andrew Bird, mi ha fatto pensare a questo proverbio conosciuto nella mia scuola internazionale a Grenoble:
if you want to touch the sky
fuck a duck and try to fly.

For now old friend, it’s time to leave

After two years, Thomas left Victoria. Before the final goodbye, he wrote her a romantic letter.

Atunement

Atunement
Musical movement
And the way fall comes in a crescendo of leaves.
There was a time we listened to this music without Youtube.
When brownness was not death,
And branch cello’s were not bare,
But alive with music.
This was when you sat
Below the tree in autumn, and heard the beat below
Your feet, and the type of tuning the leaves made for the next day.

Atuned, both you and treetops,
You suddenly hear this musical movement, and hearclearer, the seasons, and reasons, for change.
The Creator (el maestro) and you.

TLA, Thomas Laboucan-Avirom

All’improvviso

Un bel messaggio da Fabio, che ora vive in Cina.

Ciao Lorenzo,

ho appena letto il tuo messaggio su skype. Faccio un sunto: da un mese e tre settimane sono passato da dire ogni cosa in inglese senza riuscire a capire le risposte e ad articolare anche la minima frase ad addirittura fare pubblicità in cinese alla scuola di inglese dove lavoro in maniera regolare da qualche settimana. La lingua è una roba difficile, per ogni carattere imparato e memorizzato ce ne sono altri 10, 100, 1000 che ancora non so. Pazienza, ora sto cercando di arrivare a dicembre e superare gli esami, per ora a quelli di medio corso, ho passato due sezioni su quattro, per dicembre spero di superarle tutte. Per il resto, sto insegnando inglese in una scuola vicino all’università, al momento non mi lamento ma appena trovo un altra scuola con una paga superiore mi sposto, ma non prima di gennaio. Ho visitato un bel centro di ricerca e analisi politica (Chinapolicy) ma cercano abili bilingui e io ancora non lo sono. Ogni tanto seguo gli incontri di Thinkinchina, un think tank informale di studenti delle università Beida, Tsinghua e Renmin. Non ho ancora considerato il Phd ma ci sono buone borse di studio, quindi spero di fare la scelta quando ce ne saranno ancora. Per ora a Pechino mi sto trovando bene, ho intenzione di rimanere fino a fine visto studentesco, che scade a marzo, salvo imprevisti o novità. Passare da Gallipoli, Trento, Nimega, Penang e Sheffield, non proprio delle metropoli, a una megalopoli del genere (20 milioni di persone) è qualcosa di assurdo, c’è gente ovunque, letteralmente. Per il futuro, non sono ancora convinto della Cina al 100%, vorrei ancora provare qualche altro paese asiatico e sto valutando dove mi conviene spostarmi. Tu raccontami di Firenze e tieni presente che da Marzo fino a data da definire potrei (condizionale d’obbligo) essere in Italia. In bocca al lupo e un abbraccio.

??????????