The street sellers of Santiago.

I have just returned from a long-anticipated trip to Chile– my husband’s native land.

Chile is a wonderful and extraordinarily vibrant country, with remarkably friendly people, great food, and lots of interesting and memorable things to do. It is also known for its wine ( a tour and wine-tasting is always on my short-list of activities) and is the world’s fifth largest exporter of wine and the eighth largest producer.

Our Guide at Vina Veramonte: Margaritte

Chile’s central region, characterized by its glorious Mediterranean climate, produces some of the country’s most celebrated wines, from the Colchagua, Aconcagua and MaipoValleys.

The nation’s capital of Santiago is heralded as one of the most energetic and modern cities in Latin America, and it is poised against the spectacular backdrop of the Andean mountains. It boasts an impressive array of world-class museums and galleries, an enticing culinary atmosphere, and many renowned tourist attractions.

Chile’s population,  just as it is everywhere else in the world, is divided by the haves and have-nots. For the millions living in poverty in Chile, providing for the necessities in life is a constant struggle. This social divide is made constant and inevitable by its educational system, where excellence can only be acquired by wealth. While state-operated schools are inexpensive or free, they are nothing like the pricier facilities of the middle and upper classes.

Existence is exceedingly difficult for anyone without stable employment, or those who belong to the underground economy without a social net to sustain them. They reside in make-shift hovels in slums, or in dilapidated housing projects on the outskirts of the cities, where they exist far beyond the view of the more affluent population. But Chile’s socio-economic issues are only part of the picture, and are also due, to a greater extent perhaps, to its history and landscape.

Of the approximately 18 million people living in Chile, just shy of eight million people live in the capital city of Santiago: An area of just 22.4sq miles! Since this article is about necessity, allow me now, to provide context. The national percentage of people living below the poverty line is approximately 15.1%[1].  While you’re letting that sink in, you might be shocked to learn that the United States, whose percentage of people living below the poverty line in 2010 rose to its highest level in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, shares the same percentage “below the poverty line” rate of 15.1%[2].

As I soon learned traveling the streets of Santiago, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar, NECESSITY, while identified as the mother of invention, – is just as certainly, the mother of selling.

Unicycle juggling
Juggling to Entertain Drivers

And here are some of the incredibly inspiring examples I discovered during my travels throughout the environs. At stop lights, jugglers would rush to the front of the cars, perform their amazing feats, then collect money during the red light. They found a clever way to sell entertainment to a very captive audience.

At each grocery store, you will find one person who has nominated themselves to be the overseer of the parking lot. They have created a service to sell: They direct you to a parking spot upon your arrival, and block traffic for you to back out of your space as you depart. For this, they earn your gratitude and the all-important tip.

Managers of parking garages allow people to sell car washes to busy shoppers with dirty cars.

Tennis club owners let young boys and girls collect tips fetching balls during the matches.

And on every downtown street, the sidewalks are painted with a colorful patch-work of people selling home-made art, jewelry, and wide varieties of tasty and exotic food. Standing on buses, along street corners, and outside metro stations everywhere in the city are multitudes of creative and crafty entrepreneurs selling all kinds of wares. Amiable, and generally amusing, these ever-present characters are a fundamental part of the teeming social fabric of Santiago.

Everyone is selling something in order to fulfill their needs.

Seeing the ingenuity, perseverance, and industrial cunning of Santiago’s street sellers made me quite proud, and blessed beyond what mere words can convey, to be not only a member, but a staunch advocate of the sales profession. And yes, you can certainly argue that everyone ‘sells’. But, no matter what their profession might be, it takes a definitive type of individual to bet their livelihood and their ability to meet the needs of their family, on how well they can sell a product or a service.

Sales: A Noble and Noteworthy Profession

“I hate salespeople”. All too often, this statement is heard from every corner of our society, and probably across the globe as well. The reason is not too hard to justify, and most likely comes from a slew of unfortunate, though ironically memorable personal experiences. It comes from endless stereotypical portrayals in movies, on television, in any kind of printed or digital media. And it comes from far too many real-life occasions when we are confronted by sellers displaying less-than-noble intentions.

And while I certainly would never dispute the fact that lousy salespeople do exist, it in no way lessens the tremendous contribution and commitment made by the vast majority of dedicated salespeople around the world. They perform and personify their often difficult roles in this business profession with nothing less than highly dignified and extremely laudable objectives. I am also proud to say, that regardless of a few bad apples, the rest of the tree represents the fruit of an immense majority, who persistently demonstrate that selling is indeed a noble profession.

The business of selling is one of the primary mechanisms that helps to build and maintain the infrastructure of commerce within this civilized world, and therefore represents a direct relationship to the very principles in which we not only sustain ourselves within a global marketplace, but as consumers, how we provide for one another. Virtually every product or service used in this tapestry of trade has been actively sold by someone, somewhere, after its moment of assembly, construction, or fabrication, before it can ever find its way to the consumer.

The very best of us, the really smart sellers, are not looking for the one-time sale. We strive to build a long-lasting business relationship that brings the customer back time and time again. These are the absolute best references we can ever cultivate, as well as becoming the bane of every one of our competitors. The ultimate success of our endeavors also depends on the undeniable foundation of trust, and trust can only be achieved by the constancy of our genuine care for those we serve, the customer.

Yes, there will always be people who snicker and sneer at our profession. I wonder: Could they never imagine themselves as a ‘seller?’ It is invariably true that many of us choose the sales profession, for better or worse, and without ever looking back. There are many others, like the street sellers in Santiago, that do not have the luxury in deciding their career path, and must sell as a matter of – not only survival – but to provide the necessities of life for their loved ones. They probably never imagined themselves in a sales role.

We all have it in us to be successful sellers. The real measure of this success, however, is not how good we think we are. It is how well the rest of the world perceives us, and the integrity that defines our purpose, behind every deal we make.

 

Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digestwith invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications.  Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog.  Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation click here.