$8000 buys lots of lipstick or, What to do when the man answering the door has a shotgun in his hand!

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Me with the object of my competitive desire, the Mrs. Albee Award

That’s a lot of lipstick!

or, my first job involving a shotgun.

When I count AVON SALES as one of the 25 jobs people sometimes suppress the rolling of their eyes, but I see it.  And I understand it. On and off, starting in High School, I’ve returned to AVON again and again. My mother had to sign my first contract because I wasn’t old enough, and I believe she may have suppressed a little eye-rolling too.

It was my second sales job, after I sold metal social security cards which were nifty but not practical because people wanted to see your actual paper “card.”  Those cards cost me $1 and sold for $3. This is the way to get your kids interested in sales, offer a good margin and let them keep the money.  People that owed my father thousands of dollars on big plumbing jobs were pretty happy to buy a metal social security card from his adorable amblyopic-eyed daughter. The metal cards taught me to ring the doorbell; Avon gave me something to sell.

My first territory was one where I could walk (not yet driving), and housed some folks in later years like Jon Bon Jovi and The Boss. The houses seemed like they were miles apart and the maids and the Dobermans kept me from leaving my shiny little catalogues.  After a couple of these rejections I realized I should attempt to sell the AVON directly to the maids themselves. I also knocked on a couple of doors of sleeping people, and one guy opened the door with a shotgun in his arms to politely tell me “no thank you.”  Years later I would meet his wife at our local grocery and have her say “You should have seen the look on your face!”

The positive reinforcement doled out at Avon meetings was a drug to me. They would post the top sellers, and they had a unique way of categorizing them so that everyone had a chance to be one.  This, combined with my affection for the geriatric population who swarmed to the meetings like they had never seen a bowl of hard candies, taught me a lesson that would serve me well over the years: take advantage of all the training/support you can get from your management. And always have some candy dishes strategically placed around.

A highlight of the meeting was always the presentation of The “President’s Club” statues (Mrs. Albee Award),  named after the first Avon lady and received by the sales reps who sold $8000 or more in a calendar year, at a lovely annual luncheon.  Eight grand equals a lot of lipstick!

I learned, at a young age,

  • Knock on every door-don’t pre-judge who may or may not want what you are selling
  • Stop talking when you’ve closed the sale
  • Servants to the wealthy need lipstick too
  • People with shotguns will remember your face with photographic consistency.