Salesmen Save the World

In 2012, the Earth came close to annihilation. Unfriendly aliens invaded our planet. At first, their ships looked like angular moon shards high up in the atmosphere, but as they came closer we all saw what they were, and we cowered. Even in the daylight, they blotted out the sun. Heavy horn blasts, like apocalyptic trumpets, reverberated up and down the coast, a kind of unholy hell for the remainder of humankind that had not already ended their lives in fear of abduction.

The ships coasted down into the lower atmosphere of the planet earth, much like we were told they would in movies and television shows. In reality, it was much more frightening and intrusive. We felt that we, as a civilization, had endured a violation that shook us to our core.

The ships' presence in our atmosphere had the nasty side effect of disrupting any and all radio and cell tower signals across the planet. We picked up our phones to dial our loved ones, and the call might go okay for a while, but then we'd be hit with a burst of static. Sometimes, the cell phone would ignite suddenly. Many people had half their faces blown off. Soon, we were relegated to using Twitter and Skype and social media for all our communication. Even that became a chore. Less and less of us were emerging from our bedrooms in the morning. It seemed clear that the beings were abducting us, little by little. Months had passed since the first ships appeared, and we hadn't seen a single alien. Our internet connections fizzled out, and before long, it was like we'd been hit with a massive burst of electromagnetic radiation. No one could get through to anyone else. It was chaos, pandemonium.

One group, however, survived the onslaught intact. Sales teams from various IT and copy supply vendors endured. For some reason, their phone equipment wasn't affected. They were still able to make calls, and they were doing quite well. We began to treat these random sales offices - MicroMenders, Mr. Copy, Staples, Pacific Toner Group, Copy Supply Incorporated - as a kind of save haven for the rest of us. The existing sales teams had not only been able to continue calling potential customers around the globe, but they continued to - at their own peril - visit various companies, strong-arming them into buying copier leases, paper reams, toner cartridges and various IT related products. They were the only humans who dared venture our into the open. They were fearless and cocky, and our only hope.

Most of the sales people were young guys who had majored in business or finance in college. Some of them were former high school football stars whose attempts to make the big time had failed. They were unusually bold, inventive, intuitive, sensitive, and they had a heightened awareness of their surroundings. A few girls joined the sales teams as well, and they stood out with their uncanny ability to teach others to transform pushy enthusiasm into a primal force. One thing was for sure: in the backdrop of this terrifying alien invasion, the sales teams of the world were a kind of grotesque but vital Ubermensch.

Many of us joined the sales teams for protection, and used their headquarters to sleep and eat in as well. We had to wear suits and ties every day, and shower often, and dump cologne on ourselves, despite increasingly short supplies of water, clothes, and luxury items. 'Get the sale!' we were instructed. 'Get it at any cost.'

We had a helpful manual handed out to all of us that we used on potential clients. We were all forced to memorize many, many scripts. Among them:

"Can I speak to the person in charge of your ____ department?"
"Who would that person be then?"
"Can I get your full name and address? An email address would be great."
"Can you give me the serial number on the side of your copy machine?"
"Is he not in the office, or....?"
"Well, how about his direct line, then? You can give me that, right?"
"What's his schedule?"
"Who do you use for ordering supplies? Would you mind explaining why you use them?"
"Is there something I can do to help get a yes or no from you today?"
"I'd love to meet with you for fifteen minutes and discuss ways we can improve your business."
"Did I do something to offend you? I'm just trying to make your life easier, guy!"

Ok - so, the aliens invaded in March of 2012. The sales force was acutely aware that their fiscal quarter was up soon. That awful reality (of an under-performing quarter) loomed much more dreadfully over them than those massive, groaning ships up in the sky. By now, there were probably more sales people than non-sales people on the planet. All of human-kind went around in suits and ties. Hair gel was becoming dangerously obsolete. Perfume aisles at the mall were all but empty. Teeth whiteners ran out. We all pushed our sales on the remaining, struggling businesses on earth, and they, in their desperation to have us run supplies to them, acquiesced to our every whim. The problem was, companies were going out of business as their staff were abducted, relegating businesses to skeleton crews, or worse. Just as we ran out of earth companies to supply great, inexpensive office products to, a miracle occurred.

Chad was the price sales guy. He was super sharp, but relaxed looking, and that false appearance of lethargy was Chad's trojan horse when entering a business with the intent to secure a sale. Chad turned the tide for human-kind. He managed to hack into the aliens' communication relay. As a result, all the copy salesman, toner salesmen, IT product salesmen and office supply salesman on earth were able to start direct dialing the aliens to drum up business. With Chad's guidance, we were able to build radiation proof phones that allowed us to dial into just about every chamber on the ships overhead. None of us had been up there, but we began to construct maps of the ships' interiors, based on signal calibrations and pings and other complex calculations overseen by Chad.

At first, the aliens answered our calls with confusion by clicking and chirping. After a while, though, we wore them down. Some of the aliens, particularly those in what appeared to be the interrogation and experimentation ships, just promptly hung up on us every time we called, but we were instructed to call them every thirty seconds, every day, until they talked to us. This aggressive approach worked. It didn't matter that they didn't speak our language. We made a few modifications to our sales guide, and it worked beautifully.

We extrapolated that one chirp and two clicks meant yes, and several gutteral clicks to mean no, and based on that (again, Chad was a genius) we could tell if they were agreeing to our terms or not. All through our onslaught of aggressive, prompt service, we continued to come up with all kinds of ways to break through to the decision makers on the ship. Among our new scripts:

"Can I speak to the decision maker in command of this vessel?"

"Can I ask you a question? Is there a reason that your species doesn't appreciate Value and good service?"
"Is there a military administrator in charge of operations who I can discuss our terms with?"
"We have a wide range of box cutters, scissors and letter openers that might be really useful for some of your interrogation chambers? Whaddaya say?"
"It sounds like you're real busy. How about this.. I'll call back in five minutes and we can discuss some great deals."
"Hi, is this [click] [chirp]2 [click] [click] on Ship 128? Hi, yeah, we spoke last week? Have you come to a decision regarding our great service plan?"
"How about I arrange a time to drop by your ship to discuss your options?"

We assumed that their ship was not only full of IT products like servers, routers, telephone cable, fiber optic cables and the like, but we were also pretty damned sure that the aliens had copy machines all over the ship. We didn't have any proof of that, but we figured - hey, everyone needs to make copies. Everyone needs toner. Everyone needs a service contract. After all, if something breaks down, would you rather have a quick, reliable vendor? We were sure our alien overlords needed a vendor like that. We were so sure that we began dialing their ships around the clock on our special phones, pushing our sales tactics on them so aggressively that their ships began to overload.

On one particularly successful day, we managed to push thirty copier leases, seventy cases of toner, and a box of hand wipes over to the Mother Ship over the African continent, all for a really competitive price. Consequently, we started coming up with ways to invoice the aliens. We hadn't actually shipped anything to them yet - we hadn't figured out how. That didn't matter. We had managed to get half the ships flying overhead to commit to a three year service contract, along with brand new equipment and a lifetime subscription to "Office Weekly."

At the end of that day, several dozen ships flying over Australia began to spark and heave. Some slid right into the ocean, and the ships that remained took off into the upper atmosphere. We still managed to reach them, though, and before those ships finally gave up and left for the cold reaches of space, we managed to get the names of about 15 overlords on other vessels who could make decisions regarding paper and copy supply purchases.

We did not back down. The earth was, now, essentially a planet of salespeople. Many of our own force who were abducted and brought up to the ship continued evangelizing for our products and services right interrogation chambers. One particularly successful sales associate managed to get his abductor to order four cloud storage service contracts, right there on the cold metal table. The abductor was so taken aback with the human's unflappable aggression and shining white teeth that he blinked his giant glassy eyes a few times, threw up his pale, scrawny appendages, and let the human go free.

From there, it was just a matter of time before we had sales people wandering all over the ship, striding into every dark orifice and cocoon-like chamber and pushing some poor alien engineer to buy 10 reams of A4 sized paper. In addition to the abductees who were able to turn the tides on their abductors and service the ship, we continued to call each ship throughout the day.

Before long, our nonstop calls busted their networks entirely. We didn't really understand what was happening, not even after most of the ships either crashed into the earth or flew away, but it seems our approach had - oddly - resulted in 'scaring them away.' We were crushed that many of our customers were flying the coop - we even had a huge meeting discussing ways to maybe chase the customers out into space and get them to renew their contracts. Before we had a chance to start looking into cold stasis technology, we realized that the invasion had officially ended. The earth was free.

Some of the sales force remained and did their best to reach the departing alien ships, with little success. Most of us, however, abandoned the sales offices and went back to our regular lives. We stopped wearing suits. It took us a long time to see things normally again. It wasn't so much the invasion that had left deep grooves in our brains, but rather our adjustment from a life based on sales numbers to a life based on living.

Nobody really knows what happened to Chad. Some say he was abducted and ended up running one of the alien ships himself. A lot of the salespeople had faith that he would return in a ship like a golden chariot, clutching a stack of freshly signed contracts and a wide smile on his peerless, youthful face. Most of us knew better, though. We were thankful for the office supply sales community for saving us, but now we realized we had more in common with the aliens than we could have ever guessed. We just wanted to be left alone.


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