Just based on social commentary, along with incredibly negative entertainment media over the last 100 years (think Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross, just as 2 prime examples), it would appear, at least at a surface glance, that the only meaning salespeople could find in life would come from pressuring prospects to buy things against their will, a grubbing for money and, in the end, total misery.
No other profession is subject to this kind of negative portrayal. Can you imagine if being a doctor or judge was shown in such a light–that everyone in this profession was a jerk? Even with all the lawyer jokes aside, there are still many hero portrayals of lawyers in films and TV–but not so with salespeople.
These types of portrayals have certainly hit their mark; being a salesperson has a very definite stigma attached to it. I find myself from time to time addressing audiences of young people. I’ll ask for a show of hands of how many would like to pursue various careers–I’ll say, “doctor” and a number of hands will shoot up. I’ll say, “lawyer” and another substantial number will appear. But when I say, “salesperson” I’ll be lucky if one hand is raised.
This is true also when talking to children, too. Ask any one of them “what they want to be when they grow up” and you’ll get all kinds of answers ranging from “doctor” to “lawyer” to “astronaut” and beyond. I’ve yet to hear “salesperson” in response to such a question.
Another common viewpoint about sales that I’ve frequently read or heard is that someone has to be born a salesperson–they can never learn it. Otherwise, who would want to be a salesperson?
This view is reflected in our education system. Have you ever heard of a Master’s Degree in Sales? Colleges and universities have, in the last few years, added courses, but not real degree programs. At Pipeliner we are working with DePaul University and other schools to improve on this ourselves–to demonstrate that sales is not a simple subject to learn, and more is needed. But where can a person go if they want a real education in sales?
The “shame” over sales goes to ridiculous extremes. I recently ran across, in a book I was reading, advice for salespeople in “coming out” to their friends and family as as salesperson! It includes such nuggets as, “Accept yourself” and “Choose your time of coming out to your family carefully.”
This stigma extends to companies that refuse to have “sales” in job titles. Titles such as “business analyst” or “system specialist” are used instead, in an effort to try and fool prospects (really?) into not quite believing they’re talking to a salesperson and being sold.
But even with this tainted social view of salespeople, and despite the fact that people do not choose a sales a career at least early in life, an enormous number of people find themselves in this career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the U.S. some 14.5 million people–22 percent of the population–work in sales or related occupations. Extrapolating that same percentage to the world, that would mean that roughly 1.65 billion people are employed in sales and related jobs.
So what meaning can be found in the life of a salesperson? Is it something to be ashamed of, or something–as we at Pipeliner believe–that should be a source of pride?
Stay with me in the next few weeks as I explore the subject of the Meaning in Life of a Salesperson–the most challenging, yet the most rewarding career available.
What meaning have you found as a salesperson? Leave a comment and let us know.
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