Sales Fails: "My manager got demoted to sales rep, then quit in spectacular fashion"

Tero Vesalainen/

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When I was in my 20s, I worked for a cell phone company. Before people got their cell phones directly from carriers, there were a lot of middleman type companies. Our company had lots of locations, but we mostly worked at kiosks inside malls. The money was okay, but I was young and at the time, it was a pretty good job. 

I had a manager who I really liked. He was honest, laid back, and a pretty cool guy to hang out with outside of work. But apparently, upper management was under a lot of pressure to make their numbers, and they started coming down hard on all the managers below them. This was during the Great Recession, so things were tough, and we were definitely feeling it.

After a few months of management getting on everybody, they announced that they were replacing our manager (the one I liked) with a sales rep from another location. The sales rep had high numbers, but people who worked with him said that he constantly lied to customers about what they were getting, and was basically succeeding because he was so dishonest.

Well, management promoted this guy, but instead of firing the manager I liked, they demoted him to sales rep. And when the new manager took over, he called a team meeting that we held in the middle of the day at our mall kiosk. The new manager was there, as well as the old manager, who had just been demoted to sales rep and wasn’t happy about it. 

The new manager started out by giving us a speech talking about how things are tough but we can pull through etc. It wasn’t bad, it was just a bit corny. But the whole time he was talking, the old manager was mumbling things under his breath, basically calling this guy a liar and saying “bullshit.” He kept getting louder and louder. I tried to give him a look, like “He can hear you,” but the former manager didn’t seem to care.

Finally, the new manager stopped his speech and said, “Is there something you’d like to say?” And the former manager says, “Yeah, actually there is. You’re a liar and a scumbag and there’s no way I would ever work for somebody like you.” Then he flipped him off and walked away, and shouted “Wooo,” as made his way across the mall. Everybody was stunned. We all looked at each other like, “Did that just happen?” I personally worked one more shift and quit too, so I don’t know what happened to the new manager. But the old manager became a successful high-end restaurant manager and is doing quite well.  

Anonymous             Location withheld 

The worst Fail I can remember didn't happen to me, but I witnessed it as a coworker. About fifteen years ago, I graduated from college and got my start in sales selling financial services. It was at a small but legit company, and getting through the interview process hadn’t been easy, so I was glad to have gotten the job. 

I had been at the company for probably a year when we hired two new sales reps. Since it was a small company, hiring was kind of a big deal for us. One of the reps was supposed to be incredibly smart. He had finished his undergrad and gotten his MBA in some really short period of time, and he had kind of presented himself as a brilliant financial whiz. 

Anyway, he started working for the company. Right away, he seemed to have a hard time with the sales side of things. He wasn’t very good at building relationships. He was just a bit arrogant and a bit of a know it all, even though he hadn’t really done anything professionally yet. But one of the things my bosses were unhappy about was his car. He drove a run down old compact car, and they didn’t want him going to client meetings in it, so they suggested that he get something more suitable.

So a few weeks later, he pulls up in the parking lot with a nice Mercedes. It was used, but it was a higher end model and only a few years old. He had definitely bought the car to appease our bosses and he told us as much when we asked about it. 

Well, a week or two later, the bosses called him into their office and fired him. They didn’t think he had what it took to close deals and they weren’t seeing anything from him to indicate that he was capable of learning. The poor guy had gone out and bought a car he couldn’t afford just for the job, and they’d pulled the rug out from under him. He was stuck with a big car payment and no job to pay for it. 

Anonymous             Location withheld 

This happened to me in my first year in sales and it taught me an important lesson. My first job out of college was at a bank, selling financial services. It was pretty entry-level but I was good with clients (or so I thought) so after starting off as a teller, they put me into a sales position. 

One day, a guy came in with his wife to talk about taking out a home equity line of credit on their house to do some repairs. The guy was tall, heavyset, and had a goatee. He came in wearing a leather vest with a bunch of different patches on it. His wife joined him. She was friendly but didn’t do much talking.

So we went into a closed office and started talking. The guy seemed to have a good personality. He was joking around a bit in a very hokey way, so I figured I could be more casual with him. We went through some of the early paperwork and started talking about the options. 

Then, while we waited for his credit report, we went back to casual conversation. And I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but he mentioned his motorcycle. So without thinking, I pointed at his vest, which had a bunch of random patches on it, and said, “Hells Angels?”  

He kept smiling for a moment, and I thought he was just thinking of a funny comeback. Instead, he said, “You know what son? I don’t think that’s funny at all.” Then he turned to his wife and said, “C’mon, we’re not doing business with this smart-ass,” and got up and left. Honestly, I thought I was going to get fired, but I never heard a word about it again. Lesson: never make a joke that has any chance of backfiring at all! 

Anonymous             Location withheld

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