Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Making of Window Woman


Linda watched her daughter race up to the end of the line at the zoo.  The preschool field trip had gone well and now they were making a single file line to wait for entry to a show featuring trained tropical birds.   Linda was glad for the opportunity to chaperone the trip and thankful that she got to stay at home with her children as they grew.  Money was often tight but they always had what they needed and wanted, a vacation every year, a nice Christmas and beautiful birthday parties.  Her daughter was one of a kind.  Ever since she had been adopted five years earlier, Linda had realized just how much having a child could change your life.

Back in the line, the little girl at the end of the line soon began talking to the two kids in front of her.  Some unseen force seemed to propel those two kids to the back of the line while her daughter moved forward.  The child repeated the process on the next set of friends talking, circling, and slowly moving toward the head of the line.  By the time the doors to the theater opened, Linda was amazed to find that her daughter was marching in directly behind the teacher, the first patron into the small arena with the prime seat to see the action.  Not one of the children in the preschool class seemed to have noticed the girls clever rise from the back of the line to the front and nobody complained about her cutting in front.

Little did Linda know that the girl she saw at the age of five moving effortlessly through the crowd to become a leader would use that skill throughout her life.  The girl was constantly circling, mingling and gently rising through the ranks to become a centerpiece of anything she did.  That girl was (and is) me.  Window Woman, Gutter Girl, and the sales manager and CEO of CNA Company.

I live in Iowa (please think corn and not potatoes).  Born and raised here, I became proficient at moving through the farming communities and participating in such rural events as "The Corn Carnival" and "Cow Chip Throwing Contests".  Iowa is a place dotted with communities where everyone knows everyone else.  It's a place where John Deere trucker style hats are worn without irony or fashion conscience and rusty Ford pickup trucks are the primary mode of transportation.

Before you cast me as the same bucktoothed, tractor riding, Wrangler wearing farm girl (unless you are into that kind of thing, then by all means feel free.) Let me explain that my more formative college years  were spent in Kansas City surrounded by the Core Four who taught me about the finer things in life.  By using cheap housing and sometimes interesting roommates I was able to forge that same appreciation and carried it back to Iowa with me.  I am a salesperson in every sense of the word.

I drive.  It's the primary function of what I do.  My card may say Sales Manager, my job description may say "in charge of in home presentations and product sales" but really what I drive.  A short commute for me is a location an hour or less away.  Most days the trip on my odometer reads 180 miles or more, 5 days a week, 2-6 hours a day just me, the road and my audiobooks and podcasts.  My office staff seems to never runs out of tiny, backroads towns that nobody has ever visited voluntarily, to send me so 90 percent of each of my days consists of this view through my windshield.  I refer you to the song "Interstate 80 Iowa" by Heywood Banks for more information.  If you have ever travelled that stretch of highway you will be LAUGHING hysterically after viewing that video!

I love people.  I love them the same way that a farmer loves his cattle.  He nurtures and cares for them, provides them with their needs, but, in the end, the farmer has a dark purpose, and that is steak night.  I come into people's homes, comment on their framed photographs of their grandchildren, smile warmly and speak intelligently.  I educate the consumer on what to look out for in the big bad world of home improvement contracting. "Don't worry little calf - - um prospect - - we are here to take care of you." And in the end, I get my steak dinner and my customers get what they want and need and (unlike my analogy of before) nobody has to die in the process.  

OK so that's a little harsh, and most times I get poked and prodded like rump roast at the butcher shop as well.  People are a timid bunch they are afraid to get what they want in case I don't come through for them.  Nobody likes to look like a fool.  So no matter how long the drive, how many cups of coffee it took me to remain awake and alert, how much gas station pizza and individually wrapped snack cakes I had for lunch, how much  my back aches or how early the dog woke me up to be taken out to poop, I pull up to the house, turn on the smile, and start building the trust we deserve.

My company has been amazing to me.  They took me in at a place in my life where I was single, had 2 kids (one of whom was a newborn) and was in danger of losing my house, and they took a chance on me.  The products are superior which makes my job very easy at times, and very, very difficult at others but I really do love people and want to help make their homes comfortable.  (Besides, I make a darn good living doing it).  This collection of stories is meant to share some of the good, the bad and the ugly about what I do, who I meet, and the thoughts that are inevitably running through the minds of every contractor that you have come into your home as well.  

Payne Stewart is quoted as saying "If you can't laugh at yourself, then how can you laugh at anybody else? I think people see the human side of you when you do that."  Welcome to the human side of sales.

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