Let’s Tone It Down a Bit

Death of a Salesman

I have this copy...somewhere.

All right…I’ll layoff the rambling crazy old man rants about war criminals and unfair Wall Street money-making schemes.  In fact I will resist the temptation to deconstruct the word “unfair” as I just used it.  I won’t go into the ideological baggage that that word carries these days in the context of a country divided by intellectual haves and have nots.  I refuse to be recklessly pejorative and opinionated in any way.  Who’s to say what is fair and what is not, after all?  And can’t “fair” have relative and even morally neutral connotations?  I don’t care.  I refuse to ramble on.  In fact I think we should chuck the word “fair” right out the window unless we are talking about places where milk jugs are knocked over by softballs and carnie freaks put themselves on display for five or ten bucks…but who knows what a “freak” is and what a “freak” is not?  I don’t care to get into it.  In fact I’m feeling rather freakish right now and I haven’t felt this good in at least ten minutes…so let’s not disrupt the peace.

Let’s talk about the civilized world of sales instead.

It has been a rather messy weather day here in Minnesota.  A great day to meet up with concrete contractors.  So I opted to chase an assortment of polished loafer types instead.  Doctors, lawyers, insurance agents…that sort.  I’m looking for the big close, the big sale; someone worthy of my efforts.  The result:  I sold advertising to a restaurant. 

That sale was great fun in an otherwise dreary day.  It is refreshing to meet someone who runs a business and thinks finding new customers is important.  This wasn’t a big sale, but sometimes you just need to get a sale.  Finding one at the beginning of the week, especially one that was getting off to such a slushy start, is a good reminder that a sale doesn’t have to be a big sale to be an important one.

I don’t recall what Willy Loman sold in Death of a Salesman.  In fact I don’t think it is part of Willy’s story.  It is unimportant.  The key thing to understand about Willy Loman, I think, is he has made his living by selling himself before all else.  His reflections tell us this.   He is aware of what once was and in that way we know what is no more.  What Willy had and lost was his personality.  He can no longer sell himself.

Anyone in sales knows what this is all about.  People who get into sales and stay in sales understand the pressure of commissions and the unease of cold calling.  Everything is measured.  If you’re not careful you become the job and the job becomes you.  Good sales managers understand this, bad ones don’t.  It’s a chicken and egg paradox really.  Does a good salesman succeed because he sells himself well or does he sell himself well because he succeeds in sales?

Obviously it is a mix, at least it is a mix in the long run.  But sometimes you need to prop up one end of the dichotomy.  Most of the time there is no one there to do the propping up other than the salesman himself. 

The best thing to do sometimes is just step back, get out of the fray for a minute, and take a deep breath.  Tone it down a bit.  You might end up selling a restaurant.

That holds true in political commentary as well.  It is too easy to take slanderous swipes at unconvicted war criminals (there I go again) and lose your cool.  Sometimes taking it easy is a good idea.  So I think I’ll start picking at Chip Cravaack!

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