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  • Bill Chastain

Salesmen: Society’s Ultimate Competitors

Take this from someone who failed at the profession: Being a salesman is hard work.

Back when I “carried the bag” I knew how to open my mouth, I just didn’t know how to close a deal.

Red_Silhouette_-_Salesman.svg “Red Silhouette – Salesman” by Ben from Openclipart

Given that background, I can recognize a salesman a mile away, like a crook recognizing a cop — that is, a smart crook. Thus, I easily spotted a pair while having lunch at a sports bar — call them Willy and Biff and feel free to believe the Arthur Miller reference makes me deep.

I remembered Lesson 56 in Harvey Mackay’s best seller, Swim with the Sharks: Knowing when not to work is as important as knowing when to.

These guys clearly were not working. Just competing. Not that much different than work. Successful salesmen know how to compete and win. The winners can sell bricks to a dead man.

Willy and Biff claimed to have worked diligent morning shifts before coming together to embrace Lesson 56. Dressed in white shirts and ties, each looked odd stretched out over a basketball game, like men in tuxedos mowing the yard.

Balancing one ball after the next in his right hand, Willy had a deliberate approach, taking more time than he should have before pulling the trigger. But the ball seemed to kiss the middle of the net on each shot.

I could visualize him at the point inside some backwoods gym high up in the mountains. He would be probing a 2-1-2 zone, snapping quick passes around the perimeter and shouting instructions. When the ball couldn’t get inside, the big boys would kick it back out to Willy, who would drain the three.

Willy scored enough points for a free game, so Biff didn’t have to use one of the many quarters stacked next to the game.

Biff sipped a draft then put a Certs in his mouth. Obviously fresh breath was as critical to making a free throw as it was to closing a deal.

Aesthetically, Willy’s shot was far more refined. Almost to the point of elegance. Biff used a staccato delivery, banking his shots to score. Definitely a grinder. Though he missed more than Willy, he attempted three times as many shots, which translated to a higher score.

Willy challenged Biff to another game.

“I’ve got a 3 o’clock,” said Biff looking at his watch. “One more.” He walked to the bar and returned with a fresh beer. “Can’t have more than three. Deals to close.”

I had little doubt he would do just that.

bchastain19@gmail.com

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©2020 by Bill Chastain. Photo credits: Jill Doty Photography