Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Avoid Joining Loman’s Legions

I’ve always wondered how Arthur Miller came to select “salesman” as the profession of choice for his most famous character, Willy Loman. During the time in which Miller’s play Death of a Salesman made its stage debut, sales was among the most American of careers. Whether it was an insurance rep cold-calling people while a Lucky Strike burned in his desk’s ashtray, or a smart-suited gent standing in a field of shiny Chevrolets, sales was a position of some stature in any organization. Of course, it may be the sheer volume of rejection that gives plenty of opportunity for tragic underpinnings, but I don’t know if that was the sole motivator behind Miller’s decision.

Take a look at some of the other depictions of salesmen in film and literature and you can see that this “hard luck” element came to dominate the cultural landscape. Who can forget the late John Candy’s sympathetic turn as Del Griffith, “Director of sales, American Light and Fixture, shower curtain ring division” in the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles? David Mamet added to the portfolio with Shelley “The Machine” Levine in his play Glengarry Glen Ross. With the recent announcement that Google, the company thought unassailable by the current financial crisis, will be cutting sales and marketing jobs, there is the temptation to think that many current sales representatives may take on the bleak world view of their pop culture predecessors.

Out of that void, however, I’d rather remind people of a man named Blake. Despite not appearing in Mamet’s original play, this abrasive, intense sales “motivator” exploded onto the screen in the film adaptation of Glengarry. With an equal mix of smolder and brashness, Alec Baldwin gave salesmen everywhere a memorable mantra “A-B-C: Always Be Closing.” Despite the portrayal being an exaggeration of the field, tough times likes these call for a little motivation, and it’s hard not to take something away from Baldwin’s speech.

We’re doing our own part to help the sales cause. Our latest iPhone collection Sales Summaries Volume I is now available. This collection includes Making the Number by Greg Alexander, Aaron Bartels and Mike Drapeau, as well as The Perfect Salesforce by Derek Gatehouse and The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes.

Go to iTunes now via your iPhone to download the collection!


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