An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told Me I Missed My Calling Because I'm in Sales
As we finally bumbled into the ER ambulance loop, one hand holding my balance on the ambulance bench, the other holding my resident’s hand on her stretcher, the female police woman sitting on the other end of the ambulance cab shook her head. “You work in Sales? Wow. You missed your calling.”
What felt like hours earlier, though it was probably a span of 25 minutes, I had arrived at work to find two police vehicles, an ambulance, and my Executive Director waiting for me at the doors to my office. There was an emergency with one of our newest residents, and she was refusing to cooperate with the first responders or staff. I dropped my work bag in my office and immediately made my way to her, where I sat on the ground next to her and listened as she explained why she was upset and why she didn’t want to go to the hospital. Finally, after a police officer pulled me to the side and asked if I thought I could convince her to walk willingly to the ambulance, she did. Her one condition? That I ride along.
The ride seemed long to me, and longer to her. I tried to take her mind off of the fear of the hospital, tried to validate her feelings, and listened when she described the irrational scenarios that were very much a reality to her. I didn’t correct her, I didn’t talk over her, I didn’t disqualify her worries. I was there and I listened. That is what prompted the police woman, who was sitting with the EMT next to me in the ambulance, to tell me I missed my calling because I work in sales.
I sat there for a second and thought about what she said. Initially it felt like a compliment, because I know that is how she intended it. As someone who responds to emergencies all day, I am sure she didn’t expect to ride in an ambulance with a Sales Director, and I am sure she never has and rarely ever will. But as I sat there and thought about why she would assume I had some quality that made me more than just a sales person, or worse, that to be in sales I somehow didn’t need the empathy and compassion that I was showing, really started to bother me.
Instead of speaking up, all I said was “Martha (not her real name) is a good friend, and I’m glad to ride along if I can make her feel more comfortable”. That moment was not the time to tell her that the qualities that make a good social worker, a good nurse, a good caregiver, a good human, are the same qualities that make me a good sales person.
Every day, those of us in sales are the first person families talk to when they are in crisis, the first people they trust with their story, the first they open up to for a solution. Not just in my industry, but in many. When I get a call from someone looking at senior living options, my focus and attention is always on the person on the other end of the phone, their needs, and what will be the best solution. Often it’s not me, and that’s okay. Often it is.
As someone who works in sales, I need to not only listen to the needs of the folks that are trusting me, I also need to intuitively put their worries to rest, take their burden onto my shoulders, and create a solution for them that is unique, personalized, and thorough. I need to care deeply about the outcome of the product I sell, because each person I deal with not only buys my product, but buys me and my word. I need to represent not just a brand, but a promise and the people that will help me deliver on that promise once my customer buys.
My glance goes back to the police woman. She touches Martha’s shoulder and tells her that we are almost there and that everything is going to be okay. I think about her, and what makes her good at her job. Every day when she responds to a call, she is dealing with crises. She is the first person people trust with their story and the first one that people look to for the solution. So, to the woman who well-intentionally told me that I missed my calling, I want to point out how much we have in common, and how we both wound up in that ambulance wearing two different titles the other day, both doing the same thing, serving those who need us and following our callings.