Life of a Salesman: Selling Success, When the American Dream Is Downsized
He had always managed to find optimism in even the worst circumstances, and here was another chance: a heat advisory, 98 degrees and rising at 11 a.m., the hottest day of the year yet.
“Thank you,” said Frank Firetti, 54, as he walked out of his Manassas office into a blast of humidity in early June. “Thank you,” he said again. “What a perfect day to sell a pool.”
He opened the trunk of his 2004 Toyota compact and changed into his selling outfit of slacks, a yellow polo and a silver wristwatch. He rubbed lotion on his face and sifted through six pairs of shoes before grabbing his dockside loafers. His goal was to arrive at a customer’s house looking “out of the catalogue,” he said — no traces of mud on his feet, no worry lines carved into his forehead, no indication whatsoever that sales at Blue Haven Pools had been plummeting for five years running and that a staff of 24 full-timers had dwindled to six.
His job was to stand with customers in their back yards, suntanned and smiling, and look beyond the problems of the past several years to see the opportunities in every suburban cul-de-sac. How about a pool and a sauna next to the patio? Or a custom waterfall near the property line?
“The possibilities here are as big as you can dream them,” he liked to tell customers, gesturing at their yards.
In a country built on optimism, Frank Firetti was the most optimistic character of all: the American salesman — if not the architect of the American dream then at least its most time-honored promoter. He believed that you could envision something and then own it, that what you had now was never as good as what you would have next. Since the country was founded, it had climbed ever upward on the spirit of people like him, on their vision, on their willpower, on their capitalism. But now, when he traveled from house to house to sell his monuments to American success, he sensed that spirit waning .