Selling… Job, or Fulfilling Career Choice!

Selling, like any occupation, can be simply a means of paying the bills. Or it can be something more— for the very serious-minded, much more—extending beyond simply a vocation, to an avocation.

These high-powered individuals view selling the way a professional athlete sees his sport. To this select group selling is play—a game, complete with players, history, language, rules, controversies, and a certain rhythm.

And, like skills needed to play a sport, selling skills are always acquired. There are some who may be born blessed with a few natural abilities, but most begin a sales career as relatively ordinary, then proceed to develop the skills needed to first participate, then excel at the craft.

Like a professional athlete, a salesman is tested against constantly changing circumstances, a prime ingredient in making selling so challenging. And extreme selling success results from having developed a set of specialized skills needed to be consistently able to urge a decision from a sale prospect.

But, unlike a professional athlete, who more probably is gifted with certain physical characteristics required to excel at their sport—able to pick fruit off a tree’s highest branches without a ladder, a set of muscles Hercules would aspire to…—no such requirement is imposed on an aspiring salesman. For that person, selling success isn’t dependent on having been an accident of nature, success coming instead as a natural consequence of simply having applied the effort to master the subject.

In my own experience, when it became apparent I could do this, and found there was great pleasure in the activity, selling had me. I loved the game’s challenge—the excitement of searching for a sale, and the satisfaction of having found it. But, to be sure, the process is not always understood in the same way.

Playwright Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer prize-winning Broadway play, Death of a Salesman, characterized a salesman as a chronically unsuccessful individual named Willy Loman. At age 63, after 37 years with his company, Willy was fired.

It was Willy’s contention that likability was the key to selling success, all while epitomizing a notable lack of performance. Experience has shown that a majority of aspiring salespeople like Willy begin an intended career path without first having consulted a roadmap.

In selling it’s not the commodity being sold, or the work itself, that’s important. What is important is the process—how it looks, how it behaves, how it accomplishes what is intended, and its adaptability to the moment’s enterprise. This departure from the snake-oil days of selling (“just make the sale”), to a more customer-oriented view, is relatively new.

Salesmanship has only within the past 50 years evolved from a cliché-ridden (“plan, do, review,” “questions are the answer …”) activity into a well-defined profession.

What hasn’t changed is acquiring the acute behaviors attributed to very successful salesmen remains a process—one of trial and error. As experience progresses the trial and error becomes more sophisticated, but never ends. Some participants will be better at it than others—and some will achieve dominance. With all you will find someone who, exercising the salesman’s legendary persistence, continued on when discouragement, heaped on discouragement, was the moment’s order.

And with all who make it their mission to become very good at selling, the ultimate reward is in the end result. Not the statistics. Not the trophies. Just the pleasure of having achieved the ability to do what you do, well.

Learn more in GameBreaker: Guide to World-Class Selling

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Ron Brock

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