Moving Past Willie Loman


What do these men have in common: Lee Iacocca, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell? According to a recent survey of sales professionals, these are the greatest salespeople of our time. Their very selection reinforces the concept that each of us must sell to survive. Whether you’re selling a promise to the federal government, faith to the American people, or computer equipment to quality-conscious consumers; whether you’re selling the importance of learning to schoolchildren, or the need for soul-salvation to parishioners or the need for better teamwork to your co-workers, you’re employing sales behaviors.

The one-dimension sales figure who, like Willie Loman, could get by in the past “riding on a smile and a shoeshine” is an anachronism in today’s high-demand world. Today’s successful seller needs technology skills, leadership skills, communication skills and time-management skills. He or she is a diplomat, a comedian, a politician, a showman or show-woman. In short, if you are to “make it” in this competitive world, you’ll have to:

• Break it-in terms of an outmoded style
• Shake it-in terms of your perspective
• Fake it-in terms of addressing the abrasive prospect with respect
• Forsake it-in terms of manipulative strategies
• Overtake it-in terms of rapidly advancing technology
• Undertake it-in terms of new plans
• Take it-in terms of the opportunities available
• Wake it-in terms of the sleeping giant of potential lying dormant within you
• Slake it-in terms of your thirst for success.

To paraphrase philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “Selling without bias is like love without passion.” The best salespeople have convictions. They are committed to ethical exchanges, to sales that genuinely aid the buyer, to post-sale service. They have firm beliefs but are willing to amend them as they learn about the beliefs of master persuaders.

Maintain your zeal: expect to learn as you proceed through these pages. Intensify and extend your current sales persona. Expect to alter some of your strategies. Expect to make the sale. After all, “A salesman has got to dream,” Willie Loman would have told you. “It comes with the territory.”