Learning from History

In the time of Corona, you may be feeling anxious about the future of selling and by extension concerned about your role in sales, your businesses sales performance or your customer relationships.

This is completely understandable, and it’s the reason why I prepared this series for you, and entertaining trip into the recesses of history where you will learn more about the heroes, groundbreakers and the villains of our profession.

Join me on a quest to find the origins of our age-old legends and discover the truth behind the myths that have plagued our profession for years, all the while learning about the story of selling and the salesman in each one of us. In so doing you will discover that sales is one of the few professions that has continued to evolve throughout the ages, and we have no reason to fear that we will do anything less than thrive well into the future.

The Shoulders of Giants

We all know the saying ‘Stand on The Shoulders of Giants’ – the wisdom of this phrase teaches us that we can discover more, see further and perform better by building on previous discoveries of those who have walked the path that you are currently walking on, right?

What if I told you that the exact same thing was true in any sales – learning from others is one of the biggest weapons that we have in our sales artillery, and often, going back to basics can lead one to profound discoveries of one’s own.

From Benjamin Franklin to John H. Patterson to Dale Carnegie, Mary Kay Ash and even the infamous Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort – all of these ‘giants’ have paved a way for us to be able to learn from them as part of our story of selling.

Sales has always attracted people from all walks of life, representing freedom, autonomy, and economic empowerment – a timeless trifecta, it is easy to see what many find so alluring about it.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.’ – Isaac Newton

It is one of the roles that push the boundaries of what is accepted in society, it influences and shapes culture. It is unique in that the requirements when recruiting often require that the rules be overlooked, or even broken. Your resume, your education, your network, and likeable personality mean nothing if you can’t bring the deals. It sounds easy to sell, but many have found that its much tougher than it looks, and success requires a powerful combination of learned skill, personal grit, and a good dose of good fortune. Most would agree that this is not a business for the skittish, the flaky or the impatient.

As business owners have searched for that ever-elusive “sales superstar” they have been pushed to overlook barriers of class, education, and gender. (At times they have been tempted to overlook character, but that always comes at a price.)

This is what happened in the early 1900s. As World War 1 dominated the political and economic scene, many women found themselves widowed. This was a time when women were barely, if at all, educated – you needed a pass or permission from your husband to go to work and the only jobs you could get were extremely low paid and often highly dangerous or otherwise undesirable.

There was no such thing as birth control or washing machines. So, imagine this – you are 29 years old, the mother of 9 children, no washing machine or automation of any kind – and your husband has just died in the war. If only there was a job that would look past your gender, a job that did not require formal education and one that allowed you to earn a good living…

And this is where the evolution of sales, societies defined roles, responsibilities and much, much more began to change… and the ‘giants’ emerged into the market…

A Key Takeaway

We can take our inspiration and guidance from those who have come before us. We truly are standing on the shoulders of giants.