“Dear Abby: I’m In Sales, And…”
Contrary to his trademark protestations, Rodney Dangerfield—a comedian—actually got a great deal of respect. He should have tried being a salesman.
There’s the old saw about the typical, despondent sad sack penning a letter to the advice columnist, Dear Abby, listing their litany of misfortune for some hope from the venerated syndicated sage: after all of the worst maladies imaginable are listed, the writer would finally get to the crux of all of their proceeding problems. “I’m in sales, you see…” (Drum roll, please).
Indeed, salespeople (whom I labeled the “foot soldiers of capitalism” in a former column) do take it on the chin—and other parts of the anatomy. Doors and phones slamming, endless waiting, barren territories, late commissions—you name the obstacle and salespeople usually face it.
The upside is, of course, that when that one in a hundred (or more) finally does hit, the payoff is normally not bad. But since most salespeople base their entire livelihoods on commission, bereft of benefits or any other guarantees, they must try to time their successes as best they can while hoping and praying the client pays on time—if at all.
It’s a tough life, to be sure, and takes a certain type of mindset.
But think about it: shouldn’t the life of sales be considered a noble one? After all of the training one must go through to be successful, the odd hours, the patience required, all the while having to be upbeat, happy, presentable, positive about themselves and the product(s) they represent oftentimes while having to log hours of hours on the road and in the air away from loved ones? Shouldn’t such a profession be viewed as heroic and command our respect?
Well, it isn’t. No, it’s either the Weltschmerz of Willy Lomax or the buffoonery of Herb Tarlek that the majority of the public envisions when thinking of sales.
And that’s just wrong.
Sure, some salespeople can be pushy. But wouldn’t you be if you had to go out and make your own business instead of waiting on others to come to you? Sales of any sort is a highly competitive and stressful way to live especially after the recession of ’08 because guess what? Salespeople by and large get hit the hardest during economic downturns. God help you if you sale advertising.
As a salesman myself, I ask only—on the behalf of my commissioned brothers and sisters—to be a little nicer and respectful the next time we call upon you. Hear us out. Who knows? You might just need what we’re selling. Even if you don’t, you might possibly end up making a friend. I can proudly say that most of my best friends today I first met through a sales call.
And this too, please: don’t fill us with false hopes. Above all else, we need honesty. If you really aren’t that interested in what we’re selling a polite “No thanks” is so much more humane than, “Uh, sure, come out and see me.” Because after that anticipatory 20 mile or longer drive, when we’re sitting across from you and after we’ve giving our spiel you say, “Well, our budget is already up for the year. Sorry,” it’s enough to make us jump out the nearest window—or fill out an application to take your job. Just let us know ahead of time that we’re not wasting ANY time by coming out to meet.
Now—I need to go make some sales calls. I hope this column has given any of you who deal with salespeople some pause and a little different, more positive perspective on the peddlers in your world. They—we—are pretty good people.
We sometimes even hand out free pens…
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