Technology had made it so we could buy and sell memories. Someone else’s experiences could be yours and your experiences could be theirs. You could sell your law school education, your vacation to Costa Rica, or your crazy spring break. These memories could serve as a down payment for your purchase for another’s backpacking trip through Europe, backstage pass to a concert, or a date with a famous performer. Experiences had become a commodity, like cars, televisions and laptops. You went to a dealership, they downloaded the memories you wanted to sell, scrubbed them of personal information, cleaned them up a bit, and resold them at a large profit. And of course, while you were there, they pressured you to buy another’s memories. The thing about buying memories though, is that they change you. Someone once said, “we are our memories.” If that’s the case, who are we if we buy someone else’s?
About a dozen men sat in folding chairs in a large, bare conference room. The men wore dark suits with red or blue ties, each holding a styrofoam cup, filled with coffee, steam wafting off the tops. At the front of the room, in front of a dry erase wall, stood a man wearing a blue pin-striped suit, silk white shirt with french cuffs, ruby-encrusted cufflinks, a red tie, and black winged-tipped shoes. The man was Phillip Allen from corporate in Chicago. He wasn’t happy.
“Today is October 27th. Does that mean anything to any of you?” No one said anything. ”Do you know what it means to me? It means there are four days left for you to meet your sales quotas. Anyone want to guess how close you all are to meeting them? Anyone?” Allen looked around the room, pausing to make eye contact with everyone in the room. A few looked away.
“Your goal for the month is here,” he took a dry erase black marker and wrote a line near the top of the board. “Being that there are only four days left this month, you should be here.” He drew another line just two inches beneath the first. ”Do you know were you are? Does anyone want to come up here and draw a line showing me where you all are? Anyone?” Again, a long pause. Again, Allen looked around. Fewer eyes met his this second time.
“Well, since there are no takers, let me show you.” Allen drew a third line well below the first two. “This is where you are. You are not 95% there. You are not 70% there. You’re not even 50% there. You are at 45% where your numbers should be. You know what 45% means? It means that instead of me taking my sailboat out on Lake Michigan I am stuck flying down here to Miami to teach you what you should already know. No one other than Mr. Montgomery himself from the Mother Ship comes to my office and tells me I need to come here and fix the problem. You know what I tell him? I tell him, you want me to fix it? Let me fire them all. Because if they can’t sell the best product out there, then they don’t deserve to stand in our showroom, drink our coffee and pretend to be salesmen. 45%? Are you kidding me?” Allen starting raising his voice and stopped himself, before he starting raining down obscenities on the men in the room. “But Montgomery, who is much more patient and caring and generous than me said no, let’s give those fellas another chance. Well, fellas, here’s your chance. In the next five minutes I’m going to teach you everything you need to know. Is there a Wally Vegas here? Wally?”
Wally had sat all the way in the back, avoiding eye contact with Allen, sucking one Halls cough drop after another, doing his best not to let the cough which had dogged him for the last three weeks interrupt Allen. He liked Halls because they had a “Pep Talk in Every Drop,” with encouraging sayings on each wrapper. Sayings like “It’s yours for the taking,” or “Get back in there champ,” or his favorite “Dust off and get up.” He was reading this last phrase over and over when he heard his name for the second time. He perked up and meekly raised his right hand.
“Ah, Wally? You are Wally, right?” Wally nodded slowly. “Are you sure? Because You don’t seem sure.” Wally squeaked out a quiet “Yes.”
“Well well, Wally. I finally get to meet you. On my flight over I was thinking how exciting it would be to meet you. Any idea why I would be excited? Any idea, Wally?” Wally shook his head “no.”
“I was excited to meet you because I wanted to see what type of person who calls himself a salesman can have only met 24% of his monthly quota selling what we sell. I mean, slap a tie on a chimpanzee and he could outperform 24%. You better hope no monkeys have escaped the zoo, Wally. Because right now I’d take a baboon over you. But this is your lucky day. It’s your luck day, Wally, because in the next five minutes I’m going to make you a salesman. ” Allen turned his back to Wally and wrote on top of the board the phrase, “Know what you’re selling.”
“Rule 1. ‘Know what you’re selling.’ What are we selling Wally?”
Wally stammered. “Memories?”
Allen laughed an angry laugh. “See, that’s your first problem, Wally. You don’t know what you’re selling. Yes, they are memories. Other’s memories. But that’s not what they really are. That’s not what you’re selling. You’re selling dreams, Wally. That’s what all of you are selling.” Allen wrote down “dreams” on the board and pointed at the word as he held the marker in his hand. “You’re selling dreams. Someone want to fly to the moon? You sell them that dream. Someone wants to know what it’s like to score the winning touchdown in the National Championship? You sell them that dream. Anything they want. Anything they desire. Whatever it is, we have it and we can make any dream come true. We sell dreams. Not memories, but dreams.”
That reminded Wally of another wrapper he had saved in his pocket. “Inspire envy.” He would have to look for it later.
“Rule 2. ’Know who you are.’ Who are you Wally?” Allen didn’t wait for a response. He turned around again and wrote below that, “dream makers.”
“Wally, you’re a dream maker. All of you are dream makers. You make others’ dreams come through. Whatever they fantasize you turn into a reality. Salesmen may only meet 45% of their quotas. Dream makers far exceed any quota you put in front of them.” Allen turned back to the board. “Rule 3. ’Get out of the way of the product.’” Allen put down the marker. “That’s the last rule. This product should sell itself. It should fly off the showroom. We shouldn’t need you, any of you. Get out of the product’s way. Make your pitch about the product, not about you, or about your tired suit, or about the quota you need to make, or about anything other than the dreams themselves. So that’s it, Wally. That’s it, people.” Allen fixed his tie, and pulled on the end of his shirt sleeves.
“This is your one and only chance. You go out on that floor and sell dreams. Because if you don’t, there are a lot of people out there, salespeople, real salespeople, who would kill for your job. Folks who are tired of selling the Buicks and the 3D TVs and the washers and dryers and are chomping at the bit to be in your shoes. I won’t be coming back, fellows. Don’t turn it around and there won’t be any more pep talks. It’ll just be you on the unemployment line wondering how you blew it. Next person who comes in through those doors Wally, he’s your customer. You don’t close the deal, you lose your job, Wally. That simple. How about that for incentive?” Allen paused for a second and looked around the room.
“And the rest of you are not far behind. I want you selling, and not just selling, but selling the bigger dreams, the bigger the better. Someone wants to spend the weekend at Miami Beach? How about a week in Disney? Or two weeks in Maui? Or a cruise around Europe? Maybe experience traveling to the moon like an astronaut? Someone wants the memory of someone who has a bachelors? Why stop there? Why not a law school degree? Or medical school? And a residency? Upsell, upsell, upsell. You won’t meet your quotas selling two nights at a Hampton in Naples, Florida.”
Allen took one last look around the room. “I’ll never see you again. Sell, don’t sell, it doesn’t affect me in the least. But if you want to pay your bills, you want to have a job to come to, then you take what I say to heart and act like salesmen.” And with that Allen left. Wally finally raised his head. As promised, he was given the opportunity to sell.
A man wearing gray slacks, black leather shoes, and a striped dress shirt walked into the showroom. He looked up at the video screens displaying vacations and events from around the world. The floor manager walked over to Wally and told him to take care of the customer. Wally nodded and walked toward the man. He reached into his pocket for another cough drop. The wrapper read, “Turn can-do into can-did.” ”Can-did,” Wally thought to himself.
“Hi, I’m Wally, how can I help you,” Wally held out his hand and offered a weak handshake.
“Tim. I’m looking to buy a memory of a vacation.”
“That’s great. We sell those. We sell lots of those. Maybe the moon?”
“The moon? I was thinking of something less exotic.”
This was going to be harder than Wally thought. ”Well, what did you have in mind?”
“Somewhere with water, lots of water. I want to go diving, snorkeling. Do you sell those type of vacations?”
Wally had no idea. ”Sure, we sell those. Diving. Snorkeling. Lots of water.” Wally pulled out his tablet and typed in those words. Turns out they had a bunch of those vacations available for download. Who knew.
“Just one thing, I don’t know how to swim. Is that going to be a problem?” Another salesman had been eavesdropping. He was one of the few who felt sorry for Wally.
“Excuse me, I overheard your conversation. I’m John. I work with Wally. As Wally pulls up a few vacations on the screens above us,” John helped Wally do just that, “let me tell you one of the benefits of these vacations. Everything that happens in them becomes part of you, part of your memories. Therefore, not only do you not need to know how to swim or dive to purchase a trip where the person was swimming and diving, but after making those memories yours, you now know how to swim and dive. You could leave this place not only with the memory of swimming through a sunken ship in full scuba gear, but you can go walk over this afternoon to a diving center, pass the certification test with flying colors and go diving on your own without a concern in the world.”
“Really? I always did want to learn to swim and scuba, but the water, it’s always scared me a little.”
“Not anymore. You can buy the memory of a seasoned swimmer and diver. Not only will you no longer hesitate to go into the water, you’ll feel like a fish when you’re out of it.”
Tim smiled. ”One last thing. There’s this girl. I told her I was going on this trip. I didn’t mention I was buying someone else’s memory. She thought it was so cool. See, she’s a diver.”
“You’ll have a lot to talk about when you see her again.”
“What’s the most exotic diving trip you have?”
“Wally will help you find one. Once you two are done, he’ll walk you over to Tony so he can prepare a payment plan that meets your needs. Thanks so much Tim, and enjoy your trip.” John grabbed Wally’s shoulder, “That’s how you do it. Ring it up as your sale. A few more of those and you’ll earn job security.”
A few weeks later Tim ran into Marilyn, the girl he was trying to impress. He told her all about the trip, about the ship wreck, the coral, the fish, how deep he had dived. She suggested they go the beach the following week and snorkel.
“I had no idea you were so into the water.” Marilyn commented.
“Yeah, I guess I don’t really talk about it.”
“Yeah, like never. And I’m still mad.”
Tim looked confused. ”Mad about what?”
“I asked you to send me a postcard. Two weeks and no postcard?” Marilyn said, smiling.
“Oh yeah, about that. Never really came across one. You don’t find too many postcards these days.”
“No I suppose not. Well, now we have a hobby in common. I couldn’t imagine being away from the water. I’ve been snorkeling since I was five.”
Of course what Tim didn’t know was that Marilyn, up until a few years ago, was scared to death of the water. She had bought a lifetime of memories from a former olympic swimmer. Of course, Marilyn did not remember her child hood fears. As far as she knew, she had been born to live in the sea.