I went to visit my Dad in his retirement home, and we did the usual check-in. How's everything? Good. What's new? Not much. Then I mentioned to him in a half-whisper that I loved my new job in sales. I told him my friends weren’t as impressed - they had reminded me that a college degree wasn’t even necessary to ‘sell a fridge’. He listened quietly and nodded.
Dad’s a vet, a family man with six kids who values education - a world atlas, a newspaper and a stack of magazines are never far from his chair. He was a successful salesman who sold liquid tank trucks, the kind used to transport fuel and bulk ingredients across freeways. And he was famous in our family for returning any and everything if it broke down too soon or failed to live up to his expectations. This underwear should not shrink this badly, this clock-radio doesn’t keep accurate time and it’s only a year old, and why can’t anyone in this store help you when you need it. Things could get pretty heated in the customer service department at Kmart.
He muted the TV and smiled at me as if the Minnesota Twins just hit a double. ‘Ah, yes, sales,’ settling back into his easy chair. 'You know - the world really needs good salespeople, Kay. Sure, there are plenty of lousy ones, and they give it a bad name. But people in sales who really listen, and do their job right - end up helping people. I made a lot of good friends through the years. It's all about taking good care of people. Sales is the backbone of every business, and it's a great job - I'm glad you love it.’
Then it all made sense. His quality control issues, his stand-behind-your-product, his disdain for the fast and cheap - that was all part of his business ethics. He understood that sales is service. And to have a high regard for your profession - independent of others' biases - is a beautiful thing.
People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.