What springs to mind when you hear that word?

Pressure? Smarmy? Slick? Greedy? Artificial?

“Oh, I want my daughter to be a salesperson!” What no parent has ever said.

Ever heard a sermon that called young people to a life of selling?

But why not? Is selling incompatible with Christian faith? Is “Christian salesman” a contradiction?

Selling by serving
A major pharmaceutical company asked Lisa Erle Mcleod to shadow hundreds of their sales people to find out out what makes the difference between an average salesperson  and a top performer. (Listen to Lisa’s interview on the EntreLeadership Podcast, Selling by Serving).

She didn’t know the sales figures of each salesperson, but after two days with one women, Mcleod was sure she’d found one of the stars. When this woman walked into doctor’s offices, the receptionists stopped what they were doing and ran to get the doctors! Not a common reaction to most drug sales reps!

When they parted at Phoenix airport, Mcleod wanted to get inside her head a bit and asked her: “What do you think about when you go on sales calls.”

The rep looked around the car as if someone else was listening, in a kind of conspiratorial, “I’m going to tell you the big secret right now.”

The Big Secret
“I don’t tell many people this. But I always think of this one patient. When I first started this job, I was in the waiting room, waiting on one of my doctors, and this little old lady comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says: ‘Excuse me, are you the rep that sells this drug?’”

“Yes, Mam, I am.”

“The little old lady turned to me and said: ‘I just want to thank you. Before I started taking this I didn’t have a life. I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t travel. Now I can go and visit my grandchildren, I can get down on the floor and play with them.’”

This high-powered corporate sales rep started crying, “I think about her every day and that’s my purpose.”

Despite being initially focused on lots of other technical data and stats, Macleod was sure she’d stumbled on the magic ingredient. She went back through hundreds of interviews, and found seven reps who all alluded to a sense of purpose.

At the end of the study, the pharmaceutical company asked her to identify the top reps. “These seven,” she said. And she was 100% correct. “And I know your top performer too!” Right again. The Phoenix saleswoman as the company’s top sales rep three years in a row in the entire country.

Noble Purpose
Mcleod’s conclusion was that the way to increase revenue was not so much behavioral – train reps to write better letters, make more phone calls, do better presentations. It was much more about motivation and attitude. Sales people who had a sense of noble purpose, who truly wanted to make a difference for their customers, drove more revenue than sales people that are focused on quota. 

It’s that sense of noble purpose – how can I make a difference to my customers – that can make selling a glorious and God-glorifying Christian vocation.

But that’s equally true of all vocations, including pastoring, preaching, blogging, etc. We can tell when someone is blogging just to increase their page views. We can tell when a pastor is motivated numbers in the pew or dollars in the bank. We can tell when a preacher is just out for his own glory.

But we can also tell when a pastor, a blogger, a sales person, a home-maker, a painter, etc., is motivated by service, is energized by making a beneficial difference to others’ lives. And that’s not only noble. It’s beautiful.

What’s your noble purpose in your daily work?

Selling by Serving, An Entreleadership Podcast.

Selling with Noble Purpose, book by Lisa Erle Mcleod

  • derrick johnson

    What’s your noble purpose in your daily work? Dr murray for me it has become no different than my everyday life and that is to glorify God and enjoy him through serving the people that he sends my way here at a (car dealership) used cars at that.

    Thank you for this article and all the work you do.

  • Rick Van Seters

    Dr. Murray,
    Thanks for posting that article….I am a salesman – been one for several decades selling water treatment equipment. I enjoyed the article and hope to profit from it.

  • http://fotorus.net/blog/?p=2868 http://fotorus.net/blog/?p=2868

    Is there such a thing as a Christian salesman? | HeadHeartHand Blog

  • Elizabeth Sunshine

    When I was in college, I asked a man at my church what he did for a living. He said, “I help people by giving them advice on what kind of insurance to buy.” That made a huge impression on me. If an insurance salesman of all people could see his work as an act of love, then surely anyone can.

    Now as an introvert, I’d still rather break an arm than get a job in sales. But I do believe that there are people who can do it well – and glorify God through it.

  • Paul

    I think it’s interesting you chose pharmaceutical sales as your example. Did you know that over 100,000 people in the U.S. die every year from “properly” prescribed and administered pharmaceutical drugs? You should read some books on this subject. Here are two to start with. Cracked by Dr. James Davies and Cure for Cancer by G. Edward Griffin.