The Death of a Stereotype of a Salesman

When’s the last time you thought of Willy Loman?  You know, the tragic figure in the Arthur Miller play, Death of a Salesman, that we all studied in grade school….?


For millions of American children, Willy was the first impression we had of a sales person.  I found a couple of character studies of Willy out there and they’re not uplifting –Willy Loman character study


Of course, there’s the movie Glengarry Glen Ross too.  This and other movies like Boiler Room portray sales people as either losers, desperate to make a buck or over aggressive over achievers that care about nothing but money.


For the vast majority of folks that have never worked as a sales person, these impressions and their own experiences on car lots form the basis for their image of sales people.


SalesNexus’ Online CRM and Email Marketing solution was recently awarded the “Willy Award” by Rich Bohn, of, for best SaaS CRM for SMBs.  The Willy in the award name obviously coming from Mr. Loman.


So it got me to thinking, who is Willy?  And then, who are sales people?


As someone who has been a sales person, hired, fired and led hundreds of sales people, I know that my image of a sales person is vastly different from that of most people.  I love sales people.  I have tremendous admiration for the courage of sales people.  As an entrepreneur, I admire risk takers.  In general, you won’t find greater willingness to take a risk than you will with your sales team.


Sure, there are bad apples out there and there are industries where the stereotypes above are the norm.  But, by and large, all day every day there are hundreds of thousands of sales people spend every day and many nights getting to know customers and finding solutions for them that they want and need.


I think that most businesses are to blame for allowing sales people to fall into the traps that create the stereotypes.  Most business owners don’t give their sales people many guidelines.  They tell them things like “Just get the order!”, “Do what ever it takes!”.


I suppose that it just wouldn’t be good theater to tell the story of a sales person that truly cares about his company and his customers.  Who tells prospects the truth, even when that means saying his products might not be the ideal fit.  How about a story about a business that’s figured out who their ideal prospect is and designed a selling process for their sales team that let’s them come in each morning, logon to their online CRM and start contacting prospects that really want and need what their company sells?


My point here is – don’t be a Willy just because no one tells you how to do otherwise.  If your business doesn’t tell you what sales process to follow, develop one yourself.  Start following it and measuring it.  Use CRM software to automate the sales process on your own.


Show your boss what you learn.  Lead your sales organization in the direction of sales process and sales automation.  Build relationships of trust with your customers and keep track of how often past prospects come back to you because they trust you.


Be the best sales person you can but, don’t keep it to yourself.  Show the rest of the world what real professional selling really is.