Finding Meaning in Life as a Salesperson
In our first article in this series we posed the question: Can salespeople find meaning in their lives? Now let’s look at how society views salespeople, how this must change, and how salespeople can overcome it.
The Mental Model
There is something called a mental model, through which a person perceives the world around them, makes decisions and formulates actions. Part of this model is the view one takes of life.
A sort of extreme example is someone who has fallen in love. Their view of life is going to be highly affected by their emotional state–in the past this has been called “Looking through rose-colored glasses.” You could say that the “rose-colored glasses” is a mental model.
Similarly, your attitude about yourself as a salesperson is also a mental model.
How are mental models changed? The short answer: only by you, through your own self-determined decision to do so. Your mental models determine, to a large degree, the meaning that you find in your career and, indeed, in your life.
While there are thousands of suggestions out there of what your meaning in life might be, only you can decide what your meaning in life actually is. It’s different for everyone. If meaning in life was the same for all people, then it wouldn’t be a problem finding it, would it? You could just ask your neighbor. But unfortunately it’s not that easy.
Influence of Society
For salespeople, an influence on this mental model certainly comes from society itself. If society is constantly telling you that as a salesperson you’re pushy and only motivated by making money, it can become that much more difficult for you to find real meaning in your life.
A parallel could be drawn to an alcoholic attempting to reform–everywhere that person goes, alcoholic beverages are practically shoved in that person’s face. Even at the grocery store there are rows and rows of hundreds of different varieties of drink. It’s no wonder alcoholics can have such a tough time.
If a salesperson is met every which way they turn by a negative view of salespeople, it’s a similar situation. It becomes that much more tough for a salesperson to look at themselves in a positive light.
If we go back to a time roughly 1,500 years ago, we see that this negative opinion of salespeople was certainly not in any kind of majority. In fact salespeople–at the time known as merchants–were very much revered. Merchants were responsible for the incredible power of the Republic of Venice, which was at the center of commerce for the civilized world for a thousand years. Silk and spices became broadly known and used because of these individuals. The name Marco Polo is still well-known because he was the most famous of these merchants, and you won’t find anyone with a negative opinion of him.
Trading for hundreds of years was conducted in bazaars–marketplaces in which merchants set up stalls and traded with other merchants and buyers. It was a pleasurable experience for many concerned, all the way from bartering to the closing of the deal. And a deal that was a real win-win for both parties was often celebrated by the sharing of a meal and drink.
So it’s clear that if salespeople are to find meaning in their lives, help from society is definitely required. When our culture looks upon salespeople as the ancient world once did merchants, then businesses will follow suit and also look upon salespeople the same way. And we will have a society that can perhaps reach the fantastic prosperous and even artistic heights that the Republic of Venice once did.
It has been observed–by myself as well as others–that for hundreds of years no real education has been available for salespeople. You could go to a university and obtain a Master’s Degree in many subjects, but not in sales. This is still true today, but more and more universities are at least now starting to realize the vital need of an education for salespeople, and are offering programs for them.
We’re starting to see changes of the way salespeople are portrayed in media, at least in the hundreds of popular nonfiction books now available on the subject of sales. We’re seeing very little of the Death of a Salesman type drama and literature being created today, and I’m sure art forms will begin to catch up and start portraying salespeople as they truly are, and valuing them for their real contributions to society: makers of peace and producers of wealth.
Also as noted in my previous post, other professions such as judge, firefighter, policeman, all have no problem identifying real meaning in their lives. When salespeople can just as easily find such meaning–which they well should–we’ll really be on our way.
It really isn’t that difficult, if you examine it. If you’re in real estate, and you sell a home to a family for a decent price that works both for you and for them, you’ve created a real win-win. The same is true if you sell a car to someone that they really need, that they can afford, and that you get paid well for selling. Both of these types of transactions have years of positive impact.
For yourself, take a long look at the good you do for yourself, your family, your company and, yes, for society as a whole. You can find meaning for yourself. And as you do, it becomes much easier to overcome the many obstacles that confront a salesperson.
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