Sales is Meaningful Work

As young man, I was asked to go into sales. I resisted, explaining that I hated salespeople. I thought that salespeople were selfish, abusive, aggressive people that spent their time trying to convince people to buy things that they didn’t need at a price that ensured only that only the salesperson benefitted.

When it was pointed out to me that I had already acquired my own clients, I resisted the idea that what I did was selling. More than resisted, really. When I was asked how I had acquired these clients, I said: “I just called some people I thought I could help, and some of them let me help them.”

A mentor and my first sales manager then asked: “What do you think sales is?” At the time, I didn’t think it had much to do with helping people.

The only thing that makes work meaningful is that it makes some contribution to helping other human beings. That’s it.

A False Negative Stereotype

The profession of selling, especially business-to-business sales, is built on the idea of helping people achieve a better result. It is built on helping people succeed and on helping them to make to their own contribution. Touchy-feely, I know. But it is true nonetheless.

The negative stereotype that salespeople are only greedy, pushy, aggressive, and self-oriented hasn’t been true for a long time. You will find some of these negative behaviors in every group, including care workers, pediatricians, and volunteer charity workers too, by the way. There are surely some salespeople that possess these negative attributes, but in an endeavor that is built on trust, they aren’t the norm, just like they aren’t the norm in a lot of other endeavors.

Sales deserves a better stereotype. It has much to recommend it as meaningful work.

Selling is built on helping other people to solve their most difficult and pressing challenges. It is built on assisting others in identifying what needs to be changed in order for them to fulfill their goals and ambitions, and then helping to ensure that they do so. Sales is a way to help other people make a contribution.

Success in sales, real success, is built on the idea of finding some people who can use your help and then helping them.

A Full Expression of Self

For your work to be truly meaningful, it has to allow you to express your authentic self. The work has to provide you with an opportunity to be challenged and to bring to bear all of your skills and talents to make a difference.

Sales provides that opportunity, allowing you to exercise your resourcefulness, your creativity, to help generate the ideas and solutions that make a difference for your clients. It provides a platform from which your ability to care, your desire to achieve a positive outcome for other people, can be brought to bear in a way that is both meaningful and measurable. It provides the opportunity to create and develop life-long relationships, and the ability to connect with others.

Expressing these attributes and others like them makes work meaningful.

A Life of Fulfillment

You are given one life, and you have to make it count. Late in life, when people take stock of their time here, the only thing they seem to look back on as having been worthwhile is having made a difference for other human beings.

We spend most of our time over many years working. That work needs to provide us with a path to fulfillment, a way to express ourselves and to make a difference for other people.

Sales provides the opportunity to do meaningful, fulfilling work, because it provides the opportunity to express the great human attributes of caring, creativity, and connection and to channel those towards making a difference for other people.


What makes your work meaningful?

Have you considered the contribution that your work makes towards helping others?

What are the the attributes that you need to utilize to make your work fulfilling?

What would you need to change to find real meaning in your work in sales?



  • Mike Brunel

    What makes your work meaningful? For me it is certainly  doing something that I enjoy. Any good salesperson I know is convinced that what they contribute to a clients success will rub off for themHave you considered the contribution that your work makes towards helping others? As an owner of a sales company the contribution you make often is not as clear when you first work with a client. I have had sales people come up to me in the street years later and mention some they learnt years earlier.What are the the attributes that you need to utilize to make your work fulfilling? being able to take feedback. 

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike! 

      It is interesting how time can sometimes give us the perspective we need to recognize the contribution that we have made and the lessons that we have learned. 


  • Wim @ Sales Sells

    Hi Anthony, for me selling and teaching are two of the most rewarding activities in life, so I couldn’t be happier to be in the position where I can combine both in my job. Both are about providing value and helping the other grow as a person/company. What’s not to like about that?

    Thanks again for a great read,

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Sounds like you got it all square, Wim! 


  • mckra1g

    Sales is the fulcrum upon which the benefits of commerce/business turns. Without the sale of any given product, the people who design/build the product wouldn’t have a buyer. The investors wouldn’t have any return on their investment. The shopkeeper wouldn’t have anything in his inventory. The consumer wouldn’t have choices. 

    Sales is the driver of production, even among intangible things, like consultancies etc. 

    Sales, at its highest function, is accurate and meaningful information that influences choice. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post! Best, M. 

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Molly! It means a lot coming from a woman of your immense stature!


  • Brian

    Nice post Anthony. We used to do something similar in our intro to sales training, We’d hit the negative sterotypes (Willy Loman, Herb Tarlick, Al Bundy) to let people know it’s okay to feel bad because the perceptions are negative. Then as you’ve done, we swing into “however” and talk about why it’s an admirable and needed profession. Good job.

  • Charles H. green

    What I really like about this blogpost is the reminder that sales work has the potential to be extremely meaningful.  It has to do with turning vague desires into precise terms that stand a chance of being fulfilled–and then fulfilling them. 

    We put so much emphasis on the fulfillment, but your post reminds me that the real magic happens in the front end–helping someone recognize a vague discomfort or desire, and translating it into practical terms.  What a service!  What a great job to be able to provide that service!

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  • Hunter & Farmer

    Great piece!

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