PRIEST OF SALES
D. Scott Cole
Based on characters and ideas from
Priest of Sales
By D. Scott Cole
Dorian Scott Cole
Revisions and editions: 1994, 1998, 1999
Contact: Primary Contact.
Travis is on the phone to his secretary making flight arrangements. He is in command, successful, competent, exuding confidence in his every move and word. "OK, and Jennifer, please make sure this time they don't put me behind a bulkhead on the plane. There is no place to put a briefcase, so I can't work."
Kenrick enters, catching the travel arrangements as he nears the office. "So, where are you off to?" he asks pleasantly.
"Tampa. I'm going to go survey the town and see if it is ripe for our corporate clubs; maybe make some initial contacts." He folds papers and puts them in his briefcase as he speaks.
"That sounds good. I wondered when you would hit Florida. It isn't just retirees down there." Kenrick smiles to himself, and Travis briefly returns the smile, and then continues collecting papers. "Have you given any thought to adding more sales people?"
"Yes, I have ads in some regional papers. And, I was thinking maybe about Mark. He needs a change, and it might be right for him."
Kenrick's face darkens at the mention of Mark. "Hmmm. You know, we've had one go around with him and it wasn't good. I gave Mark a nice plumb and I let him suck on it as long as he stays productive - which he is, but just marginally."
"Is he in exile?" Travis says, flashing a disarming smile.
"His potential is.... limited." Kenrick collects his thoughts,
staring at a small mark on the floor, his lips forming an o, then he continues.
"Travis, you need to start thinking a little more shrewdly. We don't want
all these people hanging around forever, hey just aren't productive. And
some old prune face like me doesn't really attract the younger crowd -
the ones that buy all of our products. So if they are like you and have
a lot of potential, we move them up. If not, they're a dime a dozen and
Travis throws his pen at the door. The sparkle in his eye is gone.
GINA'S LIVING ROOM
Gina is lying on the sofa, watching a TV program and fighting to stay awake. The doorbell rings. Gina opens the door, and Travis is standing there. She gives him an incredulous look and lets him in.
"Travis, you shouldn't be here," she scolds as anxiously as a mother bird squawking about an intruder in her tree.
"I know. I need someone to talk to."
Gina waves him in like he is as welcome as the Gestapo. "Sure. Have a seat."
Travis enters and sits, obviously too preoccupied to worry
about petty visitation rules. "I had a meeting with Kenrick today.
Gina flops into a chair, her arms falling over the sides like a rag doll. She is obviously tired and unconcerned. "I've heard that before. That doesn't mean I do it." She sighs.
"I thought about that, Gina. But you know, that's the way Kenrick makes us work it. He controls the number of employees and the new assignments. So he is the one who does the overworking. We're just the people in the middle who make it work." For Travis, this seems to be a revelation.
Gina looks at him as if he has just said that the sky is blue. She shrugs. "OK, but why has this come up now? It didn't make any difference yesterday."
"I talked to Mark yesterday. I told him I could use him for expansion. I told Kenrick today I might want to use Mark. He said, 'forget it,' that Mark was one of the dime a dozen people." Travis falls backward in his seat, as if bowled over by this Kenrick's attitude. "This stinks!" He forcefully waves it all away from himself. His face is a mask of anger.
Gina finally shows concern. "Does Mark want the job?" she asks.
"Probably not," Travis admits. "But what if he does?" He looks at Gina as if pleading for an answer.
"Find a reason to tell him no," she says simply.
Travis rises from his chair and walks toward the fireplace as if looking for something. After a moment of soul searching he answers her. "Gina, I'm not a saint, I can lie, but now I see the importance of this to Mark's life. Mark can do it!" He sits on the fireplace hearth. "But Kenrick has this artificial system that weeds him out. I feel like instead of selling a... a... dishwasher, I'm selling a marketing concept. It's an illusion, it won't actually wash the dishes." He rises from his perch and moves toward Gina as he continues speaking. "We're mixed up in people's lives. Who do we think we are messing up people's lives like that?"
Gina reflects on that for a moment, and then takes a deep breath. "What do you want me to say, that we're all creeps? That our entire system is going to fall down around our ears because we're selective and not everyone can make it? You're letting Mark get to you. Mark and you and everyone else find ways to deal with this."
Travis throws a pillow at her in mock reprisal, and paces
furiously. "Damn it, Gina. How can we put people through this - overworking
people and destroying their dreams. Is this what managers do? What are
we the supreme seducers? The
Travis sees pain in Gina's eyes. He is immediately sorry for his words.
Gina replies in a whisper. "Yeah. Yeah, sometimes this is what we do. No matter how much it hurts us or how much we think it is false and unrealistic, we keep pumping them up. It doesn't make any difference if we're the nicest people and the best managers, we still have this job to do." As she continues, her voice becomes powerful and adamant. "Because somehow, aside from right or wrong or any other concern, we've got to keep things going so we all survive."
"Are we seducers?" she asks, her voice now full. She rises from her chair to appeal to Travis face to face. "We're sales people times ten. No matter what happens, we seduce our people into running the race every day, giving everything they have, even if they're exhausted. And when all is said and done, the people who work for us wouldn't have it any other way. They are also the winners."
Travis shakes his head, unconvinced. "I don't know, Gina, this really opened my eyes. I keep asking myself, what am I doing to make it right?"
Everything Travis has said has made sense, despite her counter replies to him. Kenrick has balanced the equation so that everyone puts in maximum effort forever. She knows that she tries not to overload others with work, but Travis is right: everyone gets more than his fair share, and there is no doubt that Kenrick is the culprit. But what can any of them do? "If we're not part of the cure, then we're part of the problem," Gina suggests.
"Yes, exactly." Travis heads for the door.
"Thanks, Travis! I haven't been depressed for months." Travis waves back at her, and keeps walking. "You're not going to leave me like this - where do you think you're going?"
Travis turns, sporting a devilish grin. "I'm going to grab a handful of friends and go out and get stinking drunk and bemoan our fates and commiserate until dawn. Then I'll put my smile back on and go do my job."
Gina gives him a perplexed look.
"Irrational acts are the only way to handle irrational demands." he replies to her silent question.
"Wait, I'm coming with you."
BEAU MONDE HEADQUARTERS MEETING ROOM
The room is full of staff members, including Kenrick, Margo, Mark, Tracy, Troy, Gina, and Travis. Travis is speaking to the group.
"So for the foreseeable future, I'm going to spend most of my time in the air, and I hope to have every major city in the U.S. hit by one of our sales people within the next twelve months. If you know of anyone who wants a sales job, please send them my way."
The group claps as Travis finishes and takes his seat. Kenrick rises and stands before them.
"Speaking for us all, we wish you the best of luck, Travis.
You have certainly done a magnificent job." He leads the clapping for a
moment to its conclusion. "Our last speaker, and certainly not the least,
is our long time physician and adviser, and sure to
"My topic today is very related to beauty, and is one very close to me personally. It's directed at the people I work with, of course. I'm talking about stress and the specific effects of overworking."
Margo switches on a projector and a picture of the backbone
appears on screen. "The process of wear begins early.
"This system isn't especially effective, and for most of us we lose more cells than we gain by around age twenty."
A picture of a body, and cells multiplying, comes on.
"At age thirty five, our entire body has become like our spine. For one
The group is attentive, but not that interested. Kenrick is smiling.
Margo continues. "Fortunately we all have terrific support systems in today's world that allow us to take full advantage of our body's healthy years. Vitamins, exercise, rest, sex, companionship, and proper medical attention all help. But if we get too caught up in our jobs and forget these things, we pay a price for the richness of a full life. Right now, today, is the time, especially for you, Travis, to make sure our jobs don't take too much from us."
Kenrick's smile fades and his brow furrows.
An image appears on screen showing mechanical things in motion and corresponding body sites. A fraying cable used to lift a block is shown next to nerve and muscle fibers. A water hose with mineral deposits clogging it, next to a beating heart and blood vessels. Old, dirty oil draining from a machine, next to it a cell.
Margo is oblivious to Kenrick - she is speaking to each of her people. "Stress hastens the dying process. It simply means we overwork our physical bodies, either through repeated activity, lack of rest, or too much mental stimulation. The symptoms show up as physical problems that won't go away, and depression, lack of energy, and even death. Let me show you."
Mark is leaning forward with great interest. On the screen the fraying cable becomes magnified and rocks back and forth over a pulley.
"All mechanical things wear and break from use. Our muscles
and nerves are no different. Overuse without allowing the body time to
repair, causes muscles to thin or to tunnel. Mental stress causes muscles
to stay tight, or spasmed, causing the same
The cable frays apart and the block falls with a resounding thud. Mark jumps. Kenrick notes Mark's reaction and the other's intent interest. He turns on the lights and turns off the projector.
"Well, that's certainly interesting, Margo, and thanks for your presentation."
"It's almost over, just another picture or two," Margo asserts.
Kenrick is not about to let Margo continue. "Well, we all certainly know how to take care of ourselves. And you know, it's the quality of life that is important, not the quantity. So we get a little tired occasionally, but it's worth the effort."
"I would like to see this. I'm new here," Troy protests.
"This is really interesting. I can give it a couple of minutes," Mark adds anxiously.
"I wouldn't mind seeing it myself," Gina says, almost demanding that it continue.
"Well, I'm outvoted." Kenrick smiles graciously, as if he is about to do them some great favor. "Margo, please continue with my blessing. I'll hold down the fort." He walks to the exit and turns off the lights, but instead of going out, he slides into the background. The projector comes on. The water hose expands to fill the screen, showing the passage through it nearly completely restricted with mineral deposits.
Margo continues happily with her presentation. "Water contains minerals that sediment out and grow like stalactites inside pipes. As a result, the pipe becomes clogged and will no longer pass water. The blood vessels in our bodies have a similar problem. Certain minerals cling to the walls of the arteries and plug them." She points to deposits that have grown into blockages.
"Some things accelerate this. For example: high blood pressure, which can come from stress from living a full life, tends to cause roughness in the arteries that accelerates deposits. These deposits not only make it harder for the body to replenish itself, it also makes the vessels brittle and much more easily broken."
The hose breaks with a loud crack, allowing water to flow everywhere. Mark winces.
"When this happens, it is usually in the brain and causes a stroke... brain damage." Margo surveys the group and sees by their rapt attention that it is sinking in.
The screen changes to a machine with dirty oil, side by side with a cell.
"The oil in a machine we can change, so it gets fresh oil to make it run smoothly. But the individual cells of our body, we are powerless to clean. Over time, our cells succumb to buildups from by-products of cell activity. This includes formaldehyde, a preservative, which stops cell activity." The screen goes blank, as if to punctuate the end.
"We are all victims, to some extent, of stress. It's part
of living, and it takes its toll on all of us. But sometimes it hits some
harder than others, burning us out physically and mentally. As your physician,
I can help. If you are having continuous
She smiles lovingly at them all. "Remember, beauty starts
on the inside. Good physical and mental health is the foundation of beauty."
Travis is putting away notes from the meeting. Mark appears in the doorway.
"Mark, hi! Come on in."
"Do you have time for a word with me?" Mark asks, a rare smile on his face.
"Sure. Anytime." Travis is glad to see Mark for once, thanks to his smile.
"I've been thinking over what you said, and you're right. I've been blaming others instead of taking control of my own life. I think it is time for a change. I would like to help with the expansion." He smiles at Travis like this is the greatest moment of his life, and Travis is a major contributor.
Travis dies. His smile goes hollow, and for a moment he is speechless. Finally he finds the courage and the words to say it. "There's no really easy way to tell you this. I already put your name forward in a staff meeting. The consensus was, right now is not the time to put you on the road. So maybe in a few months."
Mark immediately switches from gratefulness to fighter. "But now is the time! I know it," he insists. "Travis, don't put me out to pasture, I can do the work and I need the challenge. Margo's presentation made me see what all this negative stress is doing to me, and it's all because of the situation I've kept myself in. Travis, give me a chance."
"Mark, this is tearing me up. I really want to, but I can't. What we need to see is just a few months of consistent performance out there and I think I can swing it."
Mark studies him for a moment, then turns bitter. "Well, I'm not going to beg." He turns and quickly leaves Travis's office.
Next: 10 Disintegration