As I took my seat in the crowded airplane, the woman in the next seat over smiled. "Headed home?" she asked.
I nodded. "Jupiter, Florida."
"My, you're a long way from home!" she exclaimed. We were on the tarmac in Regina, Saskatchewan. "What brought you to Regina?"
I told her I had been conducting a seminar for a direct selling organization. She wrinkled her nose. "Oh," she pronounced, "I could never sell."
This wasn't the first time I'd heard this. In fact, most people not actually in sales seem to feel this way. I asked her, if she didn't mind, how would she define "selling"? I was curious as to what it was she felt she could never do.
She frowned in thought. "I don't know," she said after a moment. "I guess, maybe, 'pushing things on other people.' "
"Ah. Well in that case, I wouldn't be very good at it either," I replied. "I don't really like it when people do that to me. Do you?"
"Not at all," she answered promptly.
"Do you buy from those people?"
"No way!" she said.
"Me neither." We both smiled. After a moment, I went on. "But what if," I paused and thought for a moment, "what if we defined selling as 'Helping someone get something they want or need?' What if we defined it as adding value to someone's life? Did you know that the original Old English word sellan meant to give?"
She shook her head.
"I didn't either, but I looked it up. Amazing, isn't it?"
"What if we saw selling that way, as giving — as sharing the benefits of a product that we ourselves love, and helping others get those same benefits? If we saw it that way, do you think you'd feel it was something you might be able to do?"
"If I really believed in it myself?" she said. "Well . . . definitely!"
"So, maybe it isn't that you could never sell," I suggested, "just that you'd really need to feel you were helping someone, adding value to their life, giving value and sharing the benefits of something that you yourself truly believed in."
"Yes" she replied excitedly. "That, I could definitely do."
"Me too!" I replied. "I think just about everyone could. And that's exactly what I was just teaching at the sales conference. That's the essence of selling."
At the end of the flight I introduced her to one of the women from the direct selling conference where I'd spoken who happened to be on the flight. As I rushed to my next gate, I left the two of them in animated conversation about the possibilities in store for this young woman in the exciting field of direct selling.
The day after arriving home, I had another exchange about selling. At a local lunch place I often frequent, I passed by Bill, an architect and genuinely nice guy whom I see there often, and with whom I typically share cordial "How are you?" type greetings. Bill commented that he hadn't seen me for a week. "On another speaking trip?" he surmised. Yes, I told him, I had been. "You look happy — bet you sold a lot while you were gone!" he said with a twinkle in his eye. I laughed and said, "Of course, of course." He shook his head and said benignly, "Sales . . . the necessary evil of business, right?"
I could have launched into the same sort of explanation I'd shared with the woman on the plane, but Bill and I were just passing each other in a restaurant line. It was neither the time nor place to launch into an explanation of the benevolent nobility of the selling profession. Another time . . .
Still, it's a shame. The necessary evil of business . . . There are people who see it this way. Personally, I think of selling as the most positive aspect of business.
We all have products and services that enrich our lives, that we need, want and even love. The fact is, we love to buy and we love to own — and it often takes a sales person to educate us and help us connect our needs and desires with the benefits that those products and services provide our lives. This not only benefits us personally, it also provides the basis for a vibrant and growing free market economy.
Selling is giving— giving time, education, advice, counsel, value — and the more you give, the more you get.
Knowing that, how could anyone not sell . . . and not be proud to do so?
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