After Stan left, Bill became a different man. He smartened up, lost weight, took his role seriously and welcomed the fact that I was making him up to twenty appointments a week. But to be fair I only had him to look after and I could have made him forty!
The weeks passed and suddenly Gary was handing me a copy of the Post Office Gazette.
“Turn to page nine.”
I did as he asked and there it was. “Postal Sales Representatives Wanted. All regions.”
I read the article carefully. It mentioned that it was at PEC grade and was open to all Executives of that grade, but also to Postal Officers with the relevant service and experience. I liked that last bit. I turned and looked at Gary.
“So what happens now? I write a letter of application and send it off?”
Gary just smiled.
“No. Write the letter of course but bring it with you on Wednesday at the interview.”
That caught me by surprise.
“This Wednesday? But that’s the day after tomorrow.”
Gary nodded in agreement.
“Yep. Dave will be here at 11.00am. We’ll see you at 11.30 in my office.”
I was suddenly nervous. I’d been looking forward to this for weeks and here it was just forty eight hours away.
“But what do I need to prepare? What questions will he ask? What…?”
I didn’t have time to finish the sentence. Gary interrupted.
“Just be yourself. Listen, you’re better prepared for this interview that anyone else who’ll apply. You know what a Sales Rep needs to do, you know what we expect. You’ll walk through it.”
Forty eight hours later and I was sitting in front of Gary and Dave. And the grilling began.
They acted as though I’d never met them before. It was all very formal and lasted for ninety minutes. They asked a lot of questions about the Butchers Shop and seemed impressed that I’d run my own business at the age of just nineteen. They wanted to know how it all happened. I said that Roy had decided to emigrate to Australia and given me the opportunity to rent the shop for a year before deciding if I wanted to buy it. Not a complete lie as Roy could have been hiding anywhere in the world and Australia seemed a likely option. Then Dave asked a question that took me completely by surprise.
“Where do you see yourself in five years time?”
I thought back to five years before. I was a Butcher working in a shop in East London getting up to all sorts of skulduggery. If I’d been asked the same question back then the answer would have been easy. I always thought I’d have a string of Butcher Shops all over London, “Joe’s Joint” would be a household name and I’d be raking in the cash. It suddenly dawned on me, that ambition was never going to happen. My life had changed and possibly the trade I loved wasn’t going to be a part of it anymore. So I did what I always did in those situations. I came out with a load of bollocks!
“Well, I’m confident that I’ll be sitting right where Gary is at the moment. I’ll be a Sales Manager with my own team of Reps. Five years is a long time. I might even have your job by then Dave!”
They both smiled. I knew I’d said the right thing. If there’s one thing that these people liked was confidence and ambition. I was giving them both in one statement.
The questions continued for another thirty minutes and then Gary handed me a biro.
“Sell me this pen.”
It was just an ordinary Bic biro. So there was nothing special about it. Nothing that would make him want it. It wasn’t the pen I had to sell. It was the NEED for a pen! The sale began.
“What do you do for a living Gary? What’s your profession?”
“I’m a Salesman for Mothercare.”
I wasn’t expecting that answer but continued.
“What exactly do you sell for them?”
“I sell Mothercare Prams and Pushchairs to Stores all around Europe.”
“Do you try to make it as easy as possible for your customers to buy your products Gary?”
“Yes. The easier it is, the quicker I can get their order and the more money I make.”
“Do they have to complete an order form? Fill in some paperwork? A contract maybe?”
“Do you fill out the paperwork for them? To speed up the process?”
“Why is that Gary?”
“I don’t have a pen.”
I offered Gary the Biro.
“Buy this one. It does the job perfectly and will help you make the customers job much easier and quicker.”
Gary took the pen.
“Thank you. I’ll take it.”
It was an easy sale and not too difficult, but it did prove I knew the sales process. They both sat back and began to bring the interview to a close. Dave asked the question that I’d been waiting for.
“Okay Joe, I think we’ve covered everything. Are there any questions that you’d like to ask us?”
I’d promised myself I’d ask a certain question when the time was right. Now was that time.
“Just one. Have I got the job?”
The two of them looked at each other and both began laughing. Gary couldn’t help himself. The formality went out the window.
“I fucking knew you would ask that. I fucking knew it. Yes you’ve got the job. You start at Management College in just three weeks!”
I got confirmation the following week, offering me the position of PSR (Postal Sales Representative). My grade would be a PEC (Postal Executive “C”) grade.
I kept wondering, would this now be my new career? Was Butchery just a thing of the past? Only time would tell…