Those four words are among the most memorable in American theater, and they come from one of the most celebrated American plays ever written, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.
Miller's Willy Loman, the traveling salesman at the heart of the play, is in the grand scheme of things a nobody, pursuing a prize the system he works in will never grant him in a world that makes less sense than he imagines it does. Yet his life, and the pain and struggle he endured simply living it, was important, which is why those four words tug so insistently at the hearts and guts of all who see this play.
What does all this have to do with the lives of actual salespeople now, some 60-plus years after Miller wrote his play? The parallel may be superficial, but it's there nonetheless: what salespeople do matters - to their customers, to the businesses they work for, and to the communities they serve.
Without salespeople, businesses couldn't grow, for no one would know about the things they make or the services they provide. Their acts and attitude make believers out of skeptics and friends out of strangers, and those who do their jobs superbly create the most valuable assets any business can have: loyal customers for life.
Thus it is that salespeople who are the key element of any successful business. The American landscape is littered with great ideas that went nowhere and useful products no one uses, all because no one could persuade enough people of their worth - that is, sell them on the idea or product.
Our cultural ambivalence towards salespeople comes from the fact that some people do sell others things they really don't need or bad ideas. But that makes sales no different from any other human endeavor: it can be used for good or ill. When put to its best use, salesmanship makes the world a better place. And that makes the profession - and your job - worth paying attention to.
By Sandy Smith
Sandy Smith is an award-winning writer and editor who has spent most of his career in public relations and corporate communications. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia CityPaper, PGN, and a number of Web sites. Philly-area residents may also recognize him as "MarketStEl" of discussion-board fame. He has been a part of the great reserve army of freelance writers since January 2009 and is actively seeking opportunities wherever they may lie.
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