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Sales Blog - Horrendous Hygiene

By Steven J. Schmidt (5/27/09)

I have to talk about the elephant in the room. At some point in our careers, we've had employees that we have worked with, that have poor hygiene. They might have had bad breath, or they may have possessed a distinct smell coming from their armpits or other parts of their body that may resemble a toxic waste dump. Unfortunately, I've had one too many co-workers with these problems.

Years ago, I was working for a cable company and I was the sales supervisor for the sales team. One part of my job was to develop reps by taking them out into the field and training them to get sales. This involved pretty much everything from gaining their attention, turning objections around, and then of course, closing the deal.

One afternoon I was training a new sales rep whom I never met before; I was not involved in the hiring process because I was not there for his interview. So, we met at the office and we talked for a little bit, and then decided where to go out into the sales field to go door-to-door to sell cable subscriptions to non-customers.

I knocked on doors for about an hour and made three sales in that time frame. The sales rep then decided that he wanted to give it a shot and knock on a few doors himself. While we were walking door-to-door I noticed something smelled in the air, but I just figured that maybe we were near a waste land.

The sales rep was actually able to get his first customer interested. The sales rep made her laugh with lines like, "Look, ma'am what we're selling, well, you know ya need it! I mean, c'mon ya know ya need it!" I have to be honest with you guys, it even made me laugh.

The customer let us in to her house, and asked us to sit down. However, something started to smell really foul, and I looked around for animals.

The sales rep asked the customer, "Do you have any animals, ma'am?" The customer replied, "No, but I was going to ask if you brought any dead animals with you or maybe one of you stepped in some dog poop?" We both checked our feet, and we did not step on anything. As I was checking my foot, I lost my balance (probably from the stench) and fell to the ground. I was perfectly fine and the sales rep, helped me up.

As he reached down to give me his hand, I felt a gust of wind come up that smelled like a combination of someone playing three hours of full court basketball games every day and not showering for a week, mixed with moldy cheese and the breath of someone who just kissed a horse.

I jumped up so quickly, you would have thought someone yelled "fire." Making matters even worse, the customer was looking very uncomfortable and asked, "Do you think you guys can call me back because I do not know what that smell is, and I need to figure it out, because I have company coming over?" We politely said yes, left, and thanked her for her time.

After we left, I had a talk with the new sales rep. I told him, "First of all, I just want to say that you are a natural, and your pitch was flawless. You will make a lot of money in sales, but please do not take this the wrong way, but in order to be successful at this job, you need to have good hygiene. It's not just a reflection on yourself, which should be enough, but a reflection on the company that you represent. Plus, it'll help you get a sale, and by the same time, bad hygiene, as you just saw, could jeopardize a sale, as it just did."

So, even though it was a very interesting situation to say the least, you can and should always turn a negative into a positive. Notice how I complimented him first, and then I criticized him. As a sales rep, please do not let this happen to you, and be mindful to keep clean hygiene!

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