It was awkward. It was uncomfortable.
He was uncomfortable.
I was embarrassed.
He looked embarrassed for me.
I’m talking about the time I worked for GoodLife Fitness in London, Ontario, a business that’s known to be shameless when it comes to cold calling potential recruits. If you ever get yourself on GoodLife’s call list, you’ll get calls for months until you finally breakdown and sign-up.
But this particular experience has stuck with me for years.
“It’s a great day at GoodLife, Emily speaking,” I answered the phone with the expected greeting (My boss wanted me to add, “How can I make you smile today?” to the greeting, but I drew my own line at “Great day at GoodLife.”)
As I picked up the phone that day, my manager was on the other end, a frantic tone in her voice. She was on the cusp of making her sales bonus that month when she realized that one of the new clients she signed up forgot to sign his contract.
She was on her way and was giving me a heads up that she was sending me out and about to collect his signature.
“Where am I going?” I asked.
“He mentioned he was going to the dentist up at the university this afternoon and wouldn’t be able to make it in to sign until tomorrow, and since tomorrow is the first of the month, I need that signature today,” she said.
“So you want me to go to the dentist to collect a signature?” I asked, with an obvious tone in my voice that could be translated to, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Yep,” she replied. “As soon as I get there, I’m sending you.”
I still remember approaching the front desk staff at the dentist.
“Is Mr. Jones here?”
“Yes, he’s with the dentist right now. Are you his daughter?”
“Nope, I just need his signature.”
As I stood there, contract in hand, chasing down a groggy, frozen-mouthed patient, high on Vicodin, about to get a root canal, I knew this was not a company I wanted to work for.
In fact, I knew at that moment that I was not meant to be an employee. Period. Having someone breathe down your neck all the time? No thanks. Especially when requests involved outrageousness like the dentist office situation.
As for the new GoodLife recruit, as I shoved the contract in his face, he looked at me the same way I felt when my boss told me what my adventure was for the day: “Are you fucking kidding me?”
I know I had just turned this man off GoodLife for the rest of his life, but he signed the paper; we were, after all, talking about a membership that was only going to cost him $10 bi-weekly.
He signed the papers, and I don't think I ever saw him at the gym.
But more than anything, at that moment, I knew I would never work in sales.
Ironically enough, I work in sales today.
But it’s a far cry from those GoodLife days. It doesn’t even feel like sales.
A client once told me what he loves about the School of Fitness is that it doesn’t feel like a business lives there. I think that’s the beauty of a fitness facility where you have a personal coach, and where clients and coaches are friends and hang out socially after a hitting workout together.
Asking for money is never a ton of fun, and getting clients to sign contracts isn’t the most satisfying part of my job, but it’s sure a lot easier to ask a client for money who I had drinks with the night before than showing up unexpectedly when he’s under local anesthetic to shamelessly grab a signature just to make my monthly number.