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?