Solomon Says: "Sales is influence for the purpose of commerce, leadership is influence for the purpose of growing others, both are forms of self-actualization."
Often when I speak to a room full of sales people I ask the question, “When I say the word sales person, who is the first person you think of?” Invariably the answer is Used Car Salesperson. That speaks volumes to the misunderstanding many of us have to the real role and heroism of sales professionals. While you are laughing silently at me to yourself for presuming sales people are heroic, let me take a moment and make a few arguments on my behalf. Then if you see no worth in what I am saying, you are free to throw rotten tomatoes at me, because I am at heart, a sales man.
First to even begin considering the role of heroic we will want to be on the same page about what a hero is. Every great and admired hero in our minds is simply people who have overcome great adversity to achieve an objective, usually one supporting a greater good than the hero alone. George Washington crossed the Delaware River to fight for and win the right to create a democracy. Abraham Lincoln fought a Civil War for the right to recognize slaves as free men and our soldiers face death and dismemberment to protect our freedom with their very lives if required.
Do sales people create democracy or fight civil wars? Well, sort of. The battle within the heart of a sales person can rage pretty heavily with many never even knowing it is happening. It is far more than the fear of rejection we commonly think. It includes every fear we have ever learned in our entire lives of not being “good enough” in one way or another and control of that fear goes to strangers.
When I was young, I would talk to about anyone simply walking up and saying hi. My mom would get annoyed and pull me aside telling me not to do that. “We don’t talk to strangers!” She would say, just before telling me I was probably annoying that man. If you were like me, you were probably curious about your family’s income level. Well, in true sales fashion, I simply asked my dad. “Men never talk about their money to other men,” he would say. Walking away hurt and still curious I would talk to my siblings. Their response was often, “quit making a pest of yourself.” These of course became life lessons the way they do for all children. The way they do for all children including the ones who grow up to become sales people.
Years later when my dad invested in a company that provided computer timesharing to other Doctor’s he asked me to be his sales person for the company. On the first day of the new job he invited me into his office and gave me the greatest pep talk that a Physician with absolutely no sales experience ever could. He said “Son, I want you to go out there and make a pest of yourself, talking to a bunch of strangers about their money.” The civil war in my heart about what I had to do to succeed and how wrong it was for me to do those things was huge. Every sales professional is filled with that kind of conflict and it is only a matter of time before a prospect pushes that button.
The real heroism any person experiences is when they look straight into the face of fear and carry on anyway. Sales people by the nature of their job, which is about making change happen face their own fears, every day, pretty much more than any other occupation. Next time you see a sales person, hug 'em. It may not really look like it but you've hugged a hero!
Michael D Goodman