Xavier is a former Credico Account Manager and Team Leader from Chicago, who was forced to move from office to office as the industry shifted around him.
He shared with us what it’s like being on both sides of the interview process, as well as his experiences of selling in dangerous neighbourhoods, and how he would ultimately become disillusioned when he came to understand the reality of ‘ownership’ in the business.
COULD YOU PROVIDE US WITH A TIMELINE OF YOUR EXPERIENCE WITHIN THE DIRECT MARKETING INDUSTRY?
I was first interviewed in mid-May. I applied for the Job on a Monday, had my first interview on Thursday, and got the job on Friday. I started the following Monday, where I started on Xfinity. In July, my manager just left and never came back, so we moved offices and started on the Sprint Campaign. I was on this campaign from July to December, where I then moved with my leader to Atlanta. From December to April I was in Atlanta working on the Sprint campaign until the Coronavirus hit. I then went door to door, when Sprint told us to stop selling, with government phones and The Pharmacy Wholesale Club. In my final two weeks we moved back to Sprint, but it was door to door and not street events. I then decided to quit in mid May, a few days before I was in the business for a whole year.
HOW DID YOU INITIALLY APPLY FOR THE JOB?
I initially applied for the job on ZipRecruiter in May, right after my college classes finished. I got an email the next day to set up the interview, where I then went from my college apartment in Champaign, Illinois all the way to downtown Chicago.
AT WHICH POINT IN TIME WERE YOU FULLY ABLE TO GRASP WHAT YOUR JOB ACTUALLY INVOLVED?
I was able to fully grasp what the job actually involved a year into the business. When I was conducting Zoom interviews, almost all of the people I interviewed said this was not the position they applied for. I then saw the ads that we were posting, and saw how misleading they were. I then decided to watch the Slave Circle documentary, and that is what truly opened my eyes to what I was doing in the business.
WHAT DID YOUR INTERVIEW INVOLVE?
My interview involved a preliminary interview with the CEO, Ben Streames, which took only about 10 minutes. It was just Ben asking me surface level questions, after which he said I would get a call back at 6 PM if I was selected for a second round interview. I got the call later that evening and had my second round interview scheduled the next morning at 10 AM. The second interview entailed another sit down with a Jr. Executive, Danny Wakefield, who would end up being my leader. It was an interview of just the background of the company (no mention of Credico), He then went into detail about the difference between direct and indirect marketing, and dove into the client portfolio and the basic sales systems that included the 5 steps of a convo, 8 great working habits and PPA.
It was after this page in the interview packet where he went in depth of the training program and how I would start off in Walmarts selling Xfinity, and how I would be an executive manager in a year and make over 6 figures. He then spoke about some examples in the business and answered some frequently asked questions. On the FAQ page we spoke about pay, and how there was a base of $360 a week. If I made over $360, I would be paid that amount, and if I made below it, I would be topped off at 360. Also, it was at the end where I was told I would be working Monday-Saturday from 9-7 as an account executive. I actually still have the interview packet and the script that we got when we would interview as leaders.
HOW DID YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED?
I kept myself motivated because I actually was making OK money. I was motivated by the idea of running my own business and making a ton of money while being able to do whatever I wanted.
HOW DID THE JOB AFFECT YOUR CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS?
The job actually didn’t affect my close relationships. I still hung out with my friends on the weekends because I was not a sheep, and thought the people in the office were lame. I wanted to spend time with my friends and Danny never tried to stop me.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL WAS THE BIGGEST LIE THAT YOU WERE TOLD?
The biggest lie I was told was that I would have my own business. Once I found out that Credico would own your business and all of your money I immediately quit, because that is the only reason I was in the business.
WHAT WERE THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE OFFICES YOU WORKED IN? WHICH WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT AND WHY?
The key difference was being under a Regional consultant and soon to be VP, to being under a new owner. The difference was that Matt, the regional consultant, was very tough on people, was on top of everyone, and would push people to sell, which actually helped me perform a lot. In the new office, my leader who became an owner in Atlanta where I helped him open up, was very passive and not hard on people. He also wasn’t very good in the field.
WHICH OF YOUR SALES IN THE FIELD STANDS OUT TO YOU AS THE MOST MEMORABLE ?
The most memorable sale was when I was helping a lady in Walmart lower her Xfinity bill by around $200, and she started crying because she said she was going to use the money she saved to help pay for her daughter’s college.
DO YOU FEEL THAT THE INTERNAL PROGRESSION SYSTEM WORKED SIMILARLY TO HOW IT WAS INITIALLY SOLD TO YOU?
Yes, I was told that I just needed to build a team of 4 plus 1 and hit a wire of $7,500, so that was the target I was trying to hit. That was a part that they did not lie to me about.
HOW DID SWITCHING OFFICES AFFECT YOUR LIFE AS A WHOLE?
It affected my life because I was leaving my friends and family behind in Illinois. I was not around my friends anymore which meant I spent all of my time with my leader and another co-worker, because we lived together when we moved. I lived with a person I hated and my life was always around the business, which I grew tired of. I spent my time in the office, in the field, or in my room watching TV or playing video games.
WHAT DIFFERENCES DID YOU NOTICE BETWEEN HOW YOUR MANAGERS PRESENTED THE ROLE AND ITS ACCOMPANYING LIFESTYLE TO NEW RECRUITS, COMPARED TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE?
The manager presented the role as a life changing experience. He said you would be making 6 figures and have financial freedom, and you could do whatever you wanted and live the life you always dreamed. My experience, having lived with the manager was quite the opposite. My manager probably made a total of 10k in the 6 months I was with him in Atlanta. He was broke and couldn’t afford much, and never took a day off. He shared his office with his promoting owner, Obi, and Obi controlled everything my manager did. My manager really had no power or money, but always presented the role as a dream.
HOW DID YOUR LONG TERM GOALS CHANGE DURING YOUR TIME IN ‘THE BUSINESS’?
My long term goals never changed, it was always to become a VP and move to California.
WHAT TRAINING WERE YOU GIVEN TO INTERVIEW AND RECRUIT NEW REPS?
I was given a whole packet, with a script of what I was supposed to say when I first met the person. From the walk out, to the actual interview packet, the ride back, and how to “bottom line” the person to ‘fear of loss’ them about getting the job. My whole job was to learn the script and just master it word for word. When we first met the person, we were to make them leave the office first to show “control”, and then to pass them and beat them to the elevator to show “urgency.”
In Chicago we would walk the interviewee to the Target down the block on State Street. In Atlanta I would have to DRIVE my interviewee to a Chick-fil-A. Sometimes I would have to drive a co-worker and his interviewee, and even my manager and his interviewee to the Chick-fil-A as well. This part of the interview was called the “walk out,” and we started off the walk out with the same sentence in every single interview. It was “First and foremost, I just want to say congrats! This past week, we had 800 applications for the position, brought in 75 first-round interviews, and only a handful of candidates were brought back today, so you definitely did something to impress, do you have any idea what that would be?”. After this we would ask them questions about their resume, what they were looking for in a company, why they were leaving their current job, and what they looked for in a job. We were also trained to ask how they got there, because transportation was a huge part of the job.
Once we got to the Target/Chick-fil-A we would start the “interview”, which was just a script we were given when we were promoted, which we had to memorize and were expected to remember verbatim with every single interview.
The order of the interview is:
1. The History of the Company,
2. The Marketing Mix (the differences between Indirect and Direct Marketing, and why we choose to be a Direct Marketing Company),
3. Our Advantages, and why clients choose to work with us,
4. The clients we work with, and what we do for them (Brand Awareness, Customer Service, and Customer Acquisition),
5. The Basic Sales System, which was embedded into your brain (5 Steps to a Convo, Pitch Pace Attitude, and the 8 Great Working Habits),
6. The Training Program, what each role entails and what the roles are,
7. The Three Philosophies that Separate us from Other Companies (Progression From Within, No Seniority, Opportunity to Grow),
8. The Commonly Asked Questions, which included the pay and the schedule.
Once we finished the script of the interview we would do our “first close” which was very important. We had to say:
“Now (interviewee’s name) really quick, here’s what I consider to be one of the biggest obstacles in this first position. Hey (interviewee’s name), we have found it incredibly necessary that whenever people first start in this stage, they are not only willing, but they are excited to put themselves in situations that make them uncomfortable, that are very much outside of their comfort zone, because they understand that it will enable them to grow. Is that something that you would be excited to do? Why? Hey (Interviewee’s name), you know what? I think you are right, genuinely, I think as long as you are willing to get out of your comfort zone and as long as you are willing to get out of your shell. I think you could succeed in that first stage of our business, but (interviewee’s name), I think every single person that we brought back for a second round interview could do just that. But (Interviewee’s name), the reason why we are only offering 0 to 1 or 2 positions today, the reason why (interviewee’s name) we had 800 applications this week, is we want to find who is the person in the lobby today that in 2, 3, 4 months can be teaching, training, developing and managing a team of 5, 10, to 15 people who look up to you, who replicate your actions. I mean is that something you’d be excited to do? Do you think you could develop yourself to be that type of leader? Why? Hey (interviewee’s name) with what we do, you saw the days, you saw the times, you saw the hours, it’s definitely a big commitment. Is this something you’d be excited to commit so much time and effort to at this point in your life? Why? Cool (interviewee’s name), do you have any questions? Cool, we are now going to go back to the office.”
This is verbatim what was in the packet that we had to learn. Lastly, we had the walk back where we would “fear of loss” them, and put them on the back foot to make them fight for the position. We said:
“Hey (interviewee’s name), what’s going to happen now, is you are going to go into that lobby, and you are going to fill out this questionnaire. Point number one (interviewee’s name), is that there’s going to be a section that asks if you have any questions for a hiring manager. I would definitely encourage you to think of some questions, and I would encourage you to think of some questions to ask that would get a manager excited to sit down with you. Second thing is (interviewee’s name), while you are filling out this questionnaire I’ll be giving some type of a recommendation to the members of the hiring team as to why you deserve a third round interview over all the other candidates that we are sitting down with today, some of which (interviewee’s name) have more experience than you, and have master’s degrees. That won’t necessarily be held against you, but when I’m speaking on your behalf what do you want me to say? Hey (interviewee’s name), if I told you that everybody else says the same thing, what’s something else that you can give me to separate you from everybody else. Alright, (interviewee’s name) well it was great getting to know you, do your best and (interviewee’s name), if for whatever reason things don’t work out, in the next 3 months I’m going to open up my office in ___, if things don’t work out maybe we can set something up there…”
This is where we would part ways with the interviewee and go into atmosphere, and about 15 minutes later the manager would come grab you out of atmosphere to ask you about the person, and then bring you into the office and say how you said great things about them and give them the position. That is how we did it in Chicago, but in Atlanta we would have them leave and we would call them to tell them they got the position. The Chicago method was much more effective because people started a lot more when you walked them out in person and gave them the position than they did when we offered them the position over the phone, because most people would not even answer the manager’s call to accept the position. During March-May of this year we did zoom interviews, and about half the people left the call mid-interview and blocked my number.
That is what we had to learn for the interview process.
WHAT WAS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE THAT YOU FACED DURING YOUR TIME IN ‘THE BUSINESS’?
The greatest challenge was making sure I was protecting myself whenever I was in the field. While on the Sprint campaign, we went to the worst neighbourhoods in Chicago and Atlanta. In Chicago, I went to places like 79th and cottage, 59th and Ashland, Lake and Pulaski and Madison and Pulaski. I witnessed somebody get stabbed multiple times on 79th and Cottage, only 5 ft away from me. Also, when in Atlanta I would set up at the train station, 5 points, that was very dangerous, so dangerous that I actually witnessed somebody get shot and killed in broad daylight only a few yards away from me. It was an insane work environment where I had to carry a knife on me whenever I went to the field, and had to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn’t get mugged.
WHAT DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO LEAVE?
All it took for me to leave was to see that everyone I was interviewing on Zoom was saying this wasn’t the position they applied for. I was done feeling stupid, and i decided to watch the Slave Circle documentary. After I watched that documentary I left a couple days after.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ANYONE STILL UNSURE ABOUT LEAVING?
I would say to open your eyes and watch the Slave Circle documentary. Also, to really open your eyes to your surroundings and see how the managers are actually living, and also to look at how many suits the manager has and how often they wear the same two suits. My leader had the same suit for 10 months, and then bought a new suit when he opened up a new office. Those were the only ones he owned. Look for the red flags and ask a lot of questions about the business, and if they are trying to put it back on you or switch the topic, it’s time to leave.
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