"Willy Loman never made a lot of money," Linda tells her sons. "His name was never in the papers. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid!" Willy Loman - Death of a Salesman.
Willy is ashamed: He's not selling things like he used to. He hears people laughing behind his back. He's disgraced that he can't pay an insurance bill because his wife had to repair their refrigerator.He tries to hide his anxieties — and his hurts — with jokes and bluster, but his wife, Linda, has noticed that he's had a lot of driving accidents. One day, she goes into the basement, and finds a little rubber hose leading from a gas pipe...
I never really intended to make sales a career - just kind of fell into it and then before I knew it salespeople were paying attention to me. Then one day the boss said "Hey why don't you manage them?" Now I really had to learn what I was doing. Salespeople can spot bullshit a mile away so either you need to be solid to the extreme or have better sales skills than all of them if you want to have a chance in hell of influencing. I figured there were way too many good ones to try to be better - So maybe the averages would work for me if I went the solid route. The Simple - Work Harder, Be Dependable and Build Great Relationships route. That path took me all the way into the C Suite.
Willy didn't make that choice and things kind of caught up with the poor guy. He figured a smile, a story and a good shoeshine will take care of things and it does for a while. You can make a real good living with a strong work ethic, a smile, some great banter and competitive drive - But then things kind of creep up on you and you'd better have something solid to back it up when the wolves come calling. The wolves of age, responsibilities, expectations and circumstance will bite through your polished exterior into your very soul unless you have something solid to fend them off. I love Willy - See him every day. In airports, and at offices. I overhear him in conversations and snippets of stories told to lighten things up and create rapport with an endless stream of prospects. Everyone is a prospect for something aren't they? Willy Loman - I understand you. I love you for who you are - but you make me sad. Willy didn't have relationships. Willy sold products, he transacted. Willy sold stuff as best he could. Willy Loman sold stuff.
There was a time I sold like Willy and then realized I didn't want to be Willy. So what are the solid things that Willy didn't have? What are the things that you can hang on to when the commissions to every sale have been spent. When the adrenaline rush that comes with each close has passed. When the sun rises and you greet a brand new day, new month, new year - Fresh, At Zero - Again? What are the two things you need to have when the products, the pitch and the prospects are not giving you what you need? What are the two things that you need to treasure and develop that will save you from being Willy Loman? Your Relationships and Your Reputation. That's what.
And that's all you really need to not end up like Willy Loman.
Do with them what you will.