The Sales Professional’s Independence Day & Bill of Rights

Early in my career, I suffered under the delusion that my job was to sell everyone. I tried relentlessly to turn around purchasing agents who sat salespeople in uncomfortable chairs until the sales rep begged for mercy and caved into brutal demands. I tolerated executives who treated account salespeople like the scum of the Earth. And I courted gatekeepers who rivaled the seven-headed serpent that guarded the Golden Fleece.

Just prior to turning 20, while under the tutelage of Stu, the president of a small ad agency, I went on a call with him to a large insurance company on the Avenue of the Americas – 6th Ave. He had been working his way into this company for years with little success. The head of buying led us into an office that may have been the inspiration for Mr. Waturi’s office in “Joe vs. Volcano.”

This windowless stark office had an oscillating desktop fan that hypnotized you by the rhythm of its swing and intermittent balmy breeze that you depended on like water in the desert. The intentional insulting impersonality was impossible to ignore.

The night before this buyer’s review of Stu’s proposal, I had been out in “The City” at C’est La Vie, a café by day and disco by night that I frequented after work until closing. I was appropriately tired. The cadence of the fan to the boring monotone conversation lulled me into a few z’s.

“He hasn’t been feeling well,” Stu explained to Herr Buyer as I woke to my surprise.

Did I fall asleep? I wondered. Is Stu going to give me a deserved lecture? We finally left the office, took a long quiet elevator ride down thirty odd floors, and walked through the glass doors onto 6th Ave, where he finally broke the silence with howling laughter.

“It doesn’t matter” Stu laughed, “You got even for me, for the years of abuse they’ve been dishing out.” Then he mentored me about balancing work and play, but that’s another post for another day. Believe it or not, the buyer accepted our company’s proposal for a large sales incentive campaign.

Did falling asleep in the rude buyer’s office earn us the business? Who knows, but I learned a couple of important lessons that day. Salespeople do not have to take anyone’s manure. We are not depositories for someone’s waste. We deserve respect and courtesy like everyone else. And when we accept abuse, we get what we deserve.

Following that day, I avoided the buyers whose goal in life is to chew salespeople up and spit them out. Since then, I only seek people who treat me properly and who see value in what I bring to their organization. I’ve been happy and successful ever since.

Man in gilded cage

From “Willful Creatures: Stories by Aimee Bender”

Six years later, I accepted a position to report to Art, the president of our company who treated us like golden geese. And then he built us a gilded cage. We purchased a building on Long Island that he decorated with a James Bond flair. Each of us had our own assistants. They were housed in sleek, ultramodern, large, yet utilitarian horseshoe desks with skylights filled with halogen down lighting.

Our wet bar equipped conference room was divided from the rest of the offices with a long curved glass block wall. We had a kitchen fully equipped with our own Italian motherly chef Gloria; a short, round, read headed, loving sweet woman who adored us. Gloria shopped daily for the finest freshest produce, meat, and fish. The setting was gorgeous and the food was magnificent. Gloria made a veal loaf to die for. The first time we fought over the crispy sweet end slices, our pseudo mom came up with a solution. “Individual loaves with two end slices for each of you,” Gloria proudly promised. We were spoiled.

Our lunches were served with side orders of telephones. There was no escape. Even our executive bathroom had Bell’s invention hung on the wall. As V.P. of Sales & Marketing consistently delivering wheelbarrows filled with money, you might expect that came with the freedom to have an occasional lunch elsewhere with my wife or a friend. But there was always a sullen El Presidente to face.

One of my escape tricks was to wait until everyone was in the conference room, then peek in and say, “I’m out of here. See you later.” The second or third time I used that tactic, Art asked in front of everyone in his guilt-laden tone, “Are you going out on my time?”

“None of it is your time. All of it belongs to me. I just lease some of it to you at a favorable rate.” Art laughed with everyone and me as I closed the door and left.

Independence is a state of mind. When I finally learned that I was captive only to my beliefs and mustered up the courage to challenge my fears, I gained true freedom at work and life.

The Sales Professional’s Bill of Rights

As a salesperson, you have the right to be treated with respect, courtesy, and value.

As a salesperson, you have the right to choose whom you do or do not do business with.

As a salesperson, you have the right to choose whom you sell or do not sell for.

As a sales person, you have the right to not sell unethically.

Independence is a choice and the choice is yours.

This message has been brought us by men and women who have fought and died, and continue to fight and die, for our freedom. Let us honor them by courageously exercising our liberty.

Happy Independence Day!

American Flag with Eagle & Declaration of Independence Text