Here is the straight dope on Superior Lamp. As far as their product is concerned, it is excellent. Every claim they make about the quality of their lights appears to be absolutely true. Unfortunately, this concludes the truth portion of our program.
I have an MBA and sold insurance for over 10 years. At the time I left my firm, I was managing about 20 salespeople. Our company got a new SGA and he and I butted heads because he was extremely unethical. I had been considering getting my Ph.D. for a while, so I applied to schools, and once I was accepted, I decided it was time to leave my job. They paid me a decent sum of money to keep my mouth shut, but since it was 9 months until school started, I decided to get a job to fill the time.
Now I normally would never work for a churn and burn straight commission sales company like Superior, but I figured it was only temporary, what could it hurt.
My experience started much like everyone else, I paid $399.99 for tubes and training materials. However, before I took the job I asked some questions of Tara Pasca and Barbera DeNiro, the two ladies who interviewed me.
What I asked:
Do I have a protected territory, and if so, when was the last time someone worked here?
What they said:
Your territory is protected, and no one has worked in your area for about 15 years.
Accounts are protected, territory is not. I discovered I was competing with 2 other salespeople and we were stepping on each other's toes. Superior has a sister company called Maintenance Engineering. I asked my manager, Bob Horneff about them and he said they were a rival company. I found out later that they are both owned by the sam parent company. Also, there had been at least 8 other salespeople in my territory in the last 5 years or so, with either maintenance of superior.
What I asked:
Are there any benefits.
What I was told:
After 90 days, you get $400 a month to cover health insurance and other issues.
This $400 was a bonus check based on performance, not a monthly stipend. I would not have cared either way, but why did Tara Pasca have to lie to me?
The truth is Superior will tell you whatever they think you want to hear in order to get you to sign up. Another tell tale sign was that while I was training, I spoke on the phone with some guy named Brad (Brett?) and he asked me if I was married. I stated that I ad been maried for over 5 years, but had recently been divorced. His response was that my wife had probably left me because I didn't make enough money and wasn't financially secure. He then said, and I quote, "By using the Superior System you cna create a foundation of financial sucess that will help you win her back," Say what? I quickly told Brad/Brett goodbye, because once I got off the phone I laughed so hard I almost peed myself. I can't believe I actually heard that come out of another human being's mouth. I haven't smoked weed since high school, but at that moment I was sure I was high.
Once I started the job, it was pretty much what I expected. Unlike some of you (and I feel sorry for everyone that depended on Superior for a good income), I knew what kind of crap and lies this job would be. Superior is basically a pyramid scheme, in which those guys who got in early make money off of everyone else. They have a group of managers in New Jersey that sit in their offices making phone calls all day. They sell to established accounts over the phone after a salesperson has done the legwork to open them. When you start, the will not tell you which accounts in your territory are already superior accounts, so the New Jersey Managerial Crew can line their pockets without having to leave the office. This is bad for salespeop b/c you cold call a business thinking they are a new account and, when you find out they already use Superior Products you look kind of dumb, like how can you be my salesperson and not know I am a loyal customer. It really handicaps the field salespeople. Also, if you sold to an existing account that another salesperson had made a sale to in the last year, the other salesperson got the commission. Two of my biggest sales netted me no commission due to this. A huge manufacturing company had been deciding to relamp their whole quality control area and had used superior before, so they bought about $25,000 of product from me in one sale. I was expecting a $7000 commission and got bupkus. I screamed and yelled to my manager to no avail. The second time I got screwed out of an almost $2000 commission at a foot clinic.
On a side note, those trainers they send you are a scam. Do you really need one after the first visit? The only reason they come is so you do all the work setting appointments and they make sales. Now I know you get matching funds during the week they come, but I didn't catch on to this and used my best leads for when the manager came. It was only after I thought about it that I realized what was going on. See, they throw so much crap at you even a guy with a lot of sales experience that should be used to this BS got fooled. Now my first trainer was a great guy. I will not mention his name because he is the only person in the company I liked and the only one that told me the truth. He was quite possibly the best salesperson I had ever seen, and the most unethical person I have ever encountered. Also, on a side note. I noticed that some guy named Ken Henning (I think) posted some stuff on here defending superior. I never met or heard of this guy. I suspect he isn't even real (just kidding). Anyway, one of the testimonials is a guy named Jerry from Alabama. Jerry is an alcoholic. I met Jerry and had the displeasure of working with him. The first time they sent him to me, he didn't show. I found out later it was because he was out on a bender. The second time, he was a day late and obviously intoxicated when we went out to work. He actually fell asleep while I was in the middle of a product demo. Now alcoholism is not funny and alcoholics need help, not insults. My concern is that the company knew about Jerry's problem and did nothing to help him. They continued to send him out to sell and train other salespeople. Him on the road in the state he was in was a danger to both him and other drivers.
They called me every morning, every lunch hour and every night during the weekdays to encourage me to sell, sell, sell. Superior is one of those organizations that uses the crack the whip approach to "motivate" their salespeople. I made ok money ($1000-1200 in a good week, $400-500 in a bad one, usually fell somewhere in between). It was peanuts compared to making over $200,000 a year at my previous job, but I didn't care, I was off to the world of academia in a few months. This comapny does not care about the long term success of their salespoeple. They want to get that $399.99 from you, get you to open a few accounts so the managers can establish a long term relationship, and show you the door.
My first non-training manager was Jim Woodward (Woodruff? I can't remember). I suspect this guy had never sold anything face to face in his life. He honestly believed that you should sell to everyone you see, 100% of the time. He basically thought either you were talking to someone not qualified to buy, or you didn't close hard enough. I actually had a day where I had 6 sales calls, and closed 5 sales. Instead of congratulations and good job, his response was whay didn't you close the sixth guy. What did I do wrong? It is beyond his scope of understanding that some people just do not buy. When it was time for me to go to early orientation at my doctoral program, I told Jim that my grandmother had died, and I needed Friday off to go to the funeral. He told me to take my lights with me and try to work at least half a day cold calling. Now most of the stuff Superior did I expected took with a grain of salt and laughed about. This pissed me off. I was furious. And my grandmother wasn't even dead. The callousness of these people.
My next manager was Mark Fried, a decent guy, just not that bright. Mark kept trying to convince me that my goal should be to become a manager. Now I am an experienced sales guy, so I know that managing only meas that in addition to all your sellind duties, you have to be responsible for the success of other salespeople too. And since Superior would hire anyone with $399 that could fog up a mirror (inside joke at the company), I didn't relish the opportunity with the same voracity thatMark did. When my time at Superior came to an end, I called Mark and gave him 2 weeks notice. He was confused and said this was an unusual act. I though anyone with any level of maturity gave notice before they left a job. I guess Superior drives so many people to just quit they weren't used to someone trying to avoid burning a bridge. Mark asked me what I was going to do the next two weeks. I told him I would keep selling. He said fine. I made quite a few sales that week, but got no commission check. I called Mark and he said they were going to withold all commissions for 150 days. Now why didn't Mark tell me this in the first place? This was typical of Mark, he left out important information that most people with brains would realize needs to be mentioned. I half assed it through the second week (I think I made like 2 sales in 5 days) and waited. After 150 days, I got no money. I called Superior and was not allowed to talk to any managers. I was bounced back and forth on the phone between Marlton and Fargo and given the runaround. It was only after I mentioned that magic word, LAWYER, that I got my money.
One last thing. As you may or may not know, Superior want you to wear a suit and tie on every sales call. I worked in the deep south. How many sales do you thnk I would make to factory supervisors and maintenance managers weraing grease stained overalls and mesh hats (before mesh hts were cool). How would I look in a coat and tie with my s**t eating grin trying to sell expensive lights? I wore what is known as a Southern suit (khakis and a polo shirt). Most of these guys I suspect only manage salespeople and have not actually sold in a long time, as their advice and strategies are very out of date e.g foot-in-the -door techniques and backdoor selling. Also the typical keep closing until he throws you out.
However, the manager that I liked warned me that when I went for my office visit, I should wear a suit or I would "get in trouble." For those of you that didn't make it this far, after you have $6000 earned in commision and have been with the company at least 90 days, they fly you to Marlton, New Jersey to see the office. I was surprised that they paid for almost everything. So I took a few suits to the cleaners, packed my bags and away I went. I was supposed to arrive on a Monday morning and leave on a Thursday morning. Now I am normally a very casual dresser away from the job, but I was meeting these people in a business setting for the first time, so I traveled while wearing dress pants and an oxford shirt. When I was met at the airport, the guy who met me asked me why I wasn't wearing a suit. I said I was traveling and I though I would change at the hotel. He informed me that we were going straight to the office, and would not go to the hotel until later. I told him (can't remember his name) that I could change at the office. He "suggested" that I change in the airport bathroom so I could look "presentable at the office." Its not like I was wearing swimming trunks and flip flops, mind you.
Based on all this formality I though the offic would be a big deal. I walked into a scene from Boiler Room. The offices were part of a large office complex, and literally looked like the offices in the movie Office Space or Wall Street. I didn't meet anyone important (except for Paul somebody who was the VP of Sales I think. He gave me my check for $349.99 back). I was lead to a cubicle, given a rolodex, and script to use on the phone. They had me watch some other guy do a call or two, and then left me to my own. So I sat there, for two and a half days, by myself in a cubicle, wearing my suit, calling my customers to try to get them to rebuy. The discovery of the fact that I was expected to make this trip every month and sit there in my suit with my rolodex horrified me. It lead to me quitting after seven months instead of my planned nine, just because I couldn't take another trip up there. I spent two months in Morroco instead. My typical day in New Jersey was this:
8:00-lunch Sell Sell Sell
Lunch In an Italian Restaurant
After lunch-quittin time Sell Selll Sell
Dinner In an Italian restaurant.
I like Italian food as much as the next guy, but enough already.
Superior Lamp has a business model that is designed like an oligopoly (thats a form of government that has all its power in the hands of a few people. Its like a dictaorship, but with 3-8 dictators.) A few people get rich of the wotk of many. This is why their turnover is so high. No one seems to understand that if you try to build mutually beneficial long-term relationships with your customers, you will be more profitable inthe long run than with quick churn and burn sales. Treat your salespeople like humans instead of cattle and they will perform better. Now the few getting rich may not see more money, but the company as a whole will do better both financially and reputation wise.
It is sad becauyse Superior has an excellent product, they just have no idea how to properly market or sell it. Final example: if one of my customers had a defective bulb and wanted to make a warranty claim, they could not get one replacement bulb. The company foces them to order 6. This will kill a potentially successful relationship. I refused to make my customers order 6 bulbs to replace one, so I often had to eat the cost of a bulb myself.
I am curous to see how the mysterious (and possibly fictional) Ken Henning responds to this. Will there be a real discussion, or just more boilerplate verbage?