I read somewhere that there are currently more than 15,000 sales positions open in New York, New York. And who knows, maybe this is true. Or, maybe this is more of another stream of misinformation on the internet. I’ve seen the want ads before. They are interesting to me. The sales jobs read with a sort of, “The sky is the limit” idea, talking about a base salary, plus commission, plus benefits, plus training. Or, there are the “Be your own boss” type of sales ads that connect with a fantasy in the mind and feed the “Dare to be rich” fantasies.
I remember my first sales job. I walked door to door with a duffle bag of calculators, pens and picture frames that held a voice recording. I remember the motivational meetings that began in the morning before we went out into the field. The idea was to send us out on a high note—to be motivated and hungry; this way we would hit the street on such a high and be so hungry that the rejection factor would not take us down. But the streets are not an easy place to earn a living. We left with the idea that every “No” brings us one step closer to the word “Yes,” so each time you hear “No,” then good! Keep moving. In fact, move faster because this brings you closer to a “Yes.”
Don’t stop. Keep moving. Keep knocking on doors and keep plugging away. Move fast. Be efficient. This is the way to being a successful salesperson. Be ready with an answer. Practice your speech and rehearse your performance so that this becomes second nature. Learn how to have answers and practice the art of providing a benefit for every fact that counteracts your sales pitch. We were told that “ABC” stood for “Always Be Closing.” I was told that I had the gift of gab, which means that I had the ability to talk with people. I was told to keep pushing and “Keep plugging away.” I was also told “No” on a daily basis. I was told “No” far more than I was told “Yes.”
Gift of gab or not, rejection is not easy and more honestly, it is easy to give into the ideas of self-defeating goals than it is to continue and keep going.
I had to change my direction. I went from door to door sales and then found myself in a roomful of salespeople who were about to open a new chapter in their life. Most of us were young and all of us were hoping to be on the verge of something that would make us all rich.
I had entertained the idea of becoming a stock broker. Some of my friends were trainees and studying for their series seven exam. They were promised to be millionaires and in some cases, this was true. In other cases, some of those friends found themselves working for companies that were eventually the subject matter of major motion pictures as a result of federal indictments. But this is a story that has already been told.
I suppose the biggest challenge that I saw was the rejection factor. I suppose that somewhere between the idea machine and the sales meetings and motivational speakers was the reality that rejection is painfully real in the sales world.
I sold different items. I sold to different businesses. I sold to garment manufacturers. I sold to clothing designers. In fact, I sold myself in interviews. I sold myself in presentations and in different professional initiatives that would hopefully improve my brand, which was me because essentially, this is how business life works.
We are all a product of some sort. We all have functions. As for work; work is a mutually beneficial trade. Our efforts for a fair amount of pay; and sometimes, the pay isn’t always fair. Whether we manufacture, process, sell or offer a service, or enter data—our performance becomes our brand. Same as Nike has a brand or Goldman or Apple or Microsoft, we are a brand too.
Think about this for a second. There are millions of people who are at work right now. Some of them have simple jobs. Some people have more complicated positions. Somewhere, there is a doctor performing surgery in an emergency room. Somewhere, there is a repair person, scratching their head and trying to figure out the problem—meanwhile, they’re on the phone with a supervisor who is wondering what’s going on because somewhere, there is an executive at the main office who needs answers pronto!
Somewhere, there is a young person who is unaware that their invention will be worth billions. And somewhere, which is almost everywhere, are the 85% of the population that hate their jobs. They are unenthused. They hold onto the strap hangers on the subway system or sit mindlessly on a commuter train. Or maybe they are in their car and their mind shifts into autopilot because they are on their way to a dead-end job that feeds their dead-end or mediocre life. There’s no future. There’s no passion. There’s no vision. There is nothing else but the mundane culture of an unfulfilling chore after chore, which is otherwise known as work.
There are training seminars that teach us how to improve at our trade. There are motivational speakers that teach us how to improve our tactics and create our strategies, plans and goals. However, there are no lessons that teach us how to enjoy what we do. No, this is personal. There are no lessons that outline how to endure. There are no lessons that teach us how to navigate away from problematic thinking or how to soften our anxieties. There are no classes that teach us how to be happy when doing unhappy things. And yet, meanwhile, this is life.
Life is not easy. Life is supposed to be a challenge. No talks about the fact that life is supposed to be a struggle. Nothing is easy. Nothing is free. Everything in our arsenal is a tool that we had to work for and more importantly, each and all of our talents are something that we have to nurture and improve—otherwise, we simply wither away and become one of those 85% who go to work and go through life with no enthusiasm.
When I was younger, there was a man who told me that if you love what you do for a living then you will never have to go to work a day in your life. The meaning behind this is that if you follow your passion and love what you do, the negative side effects of the daily grind become unobjectionable. Now, in fairness, after I heard this man say what he said—naturally, I wanted to kick him in the shins. I say this because I was working at a sales job and the rejection factor was insurmountable. I had a boss who took my chair away and told me that I could not have my chair back until I made a sale. There were other days when this same boss took the wastebasket from under my desk and dumped it on my desk—then he told me to shut up and sell because my track record was garbage and my desk was a mess.
Work is not an easy place to be. There are times when I am tasked with jobs that require long hours and an intense investment of my time. There are jobs that I have done in my life—like the time I had to remove more than 300 faucets and replace them with new, hands free technology faucets in the bathrooms of a commercial office building. None of this was easy. There were challenges and difficulties. There are times when people at work speak inappropriately. There are people who treat others inappropriately. I have encountered this in my work life. In fact, we all do—and yet, whether we are happy or not; or whether we enjoy ourselves or not; whether the job is easy or tedious and boring—still, the work needs to be done. Sales need to happen. Assembly is required. Details need to be checked. Data needs to be entered and in all—we all have a job to do. This is us. And this is our daily brand.
There has to be a way though, right?
There has to be a way to minimize the downside and maximize the upside. There has to be a way to provide our service and smile and be happy or at least own a semblance of purpose and satisfaction to our daily life. Otherwise, then what?
No one ever prepared me for the truth of the rejection in my sales jobs. No one really prepared me for the anxieties of meeting a deadline or the stressors of working for a supervisor who is all-out miserable to their staff. No one ever prepared me for the simplest truth in our life, which is that life is not easy and no amount of pretending will change the fact that life and our brand of who we are is something that requires work. Even being lazy takes work and quite often, it takes more work to be lazy than it does to do a job.
This is a predicament of the mindset. This is where we either set ourselves up to succeed or we set ourselves up to fail. However, the secret to success is simple. The idea is to find the ingredients that help you endure. The idea is to find a relatable and acceptable way to help us process the events of our day, regardless of good or bad, and learn how to keep going with a sense of purpose to polish our brand.
Did I ever tell you how I spent every evening during the week and every Saturday for an entire summer painting the stairwell of an old building? My so-called partner abandoned the job, which meant this fell on me. I had to prep the staircase. I had to paint and clean up, all by myself. I swear that if I did not find a way to relate to the information of my job and find a way to navigate through this decision to paint the stairwell—I might not have ever finished.
But I did.
I created a strategy. I came up with a plan. I learned when to break and when to work. I learned when to eat. I learned when to start cleaning up so that I could get out on time and I learned little ideas on how to enjoy myself during an unenjoyable time.
The one thing I never liked about the motivational speakers I heard in the business world is they seldom talked about the struggle. They talked about their success and their brand.
But I’d rather hear the truth.
I’d rather someone come up and tell me, “It was really hard. I struggled at every turn but in the end, I found the secret of my endurance.”
I learned a way to translate tough information into promising news. I had to find a way to counteract my challenged thinking. I’d rather hear someone say they celebrate the fact that they are a work in progress. And I’d rather this because progress is the secret of success. Always going. Always adapting. Always moving.
I say, tell me the truth. I’ve heard enough lies.
Everyone has a success story. And everyone wants to hear from the person who struck it big. But the truth of their tales is not in the dollars and cents—no, this is their ability to endure. This is what we need to learn. This is how we keep plugging along. However, the secret is not the same for everyone.
So, find your secret and you will find the road to your dreams come true.