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The Man in the (Sales) Arena

January 4th, 2024
The Man in the Arena

The Man in the (Sales) Arena

On April 23, 1910, the 26th president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, gave one of the most influential speeches in history at the Sorbonne in Paris.

His speech – Citizenship in a Republic – contained an extremely influential passage many refer to as The Man In The Arena. It has been referenced by many world leaders, celebrities, and scholars, and mandatorily memorized by every recruit as the US Naval Academy. Here is that portion of Roosevelt’s speech:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

This passage has inspired many by telling us where the true value of a civilization lies. It states there are many who sit and watch from the sidelines, complaining about everything that is going on, without actually adding any real value.

True value lies in the courageous, the creative, and the tenacious, those who are out there trying to make a difference. And in the fast-paced, brutal world of sales, this is increasingly important.

More and more people have grown cynical about sales and our current market economy, especially due to many businesses falling into shady business practices. During this time, this mindset as a salesperson has become essential to be both successful while still holding onto their integrity. Read on to see how to become a fighter as Roosevelt described in his famous speech:

Taking the First Step

The first step is to actually step into the arena. Taking that first step, even if you are inexperienced, should be taken just as seriously as any other step and with the same tenacity as the others. Not only will it jumpstart your sales career but will also set the tone for the level of determination and excellence you will carry for the rest of it. But for each sales venture, that first step can be widely different.

For those who are just getting into sales, this involves finding a place to work and learning how to do your new job. In our modern business environment, it has become increasingly difficult for new hires to find an entry level position, even in the field you studied for.

But this is why it is important to keep hunting for the job you want. If you are willing to keep moving past the rejections and you keep looking for a place you can start your sales career, even if you need to think outside the box or it’s something less glamorous, then you will be able to take that first step.

Once you have entered the ring and been given your first job, you’re now faced with the challenge of understanding how your job works. If you have some level of experience from an internship or a part time job, or you’ve studied in your chosen field then you’ll have a leg up, but you will still need to undergo further training to do your job effectively.

As you get further into your new sales job, you’ll not only learn the basics, but you’ll start learning the more advanced responsibilities of being a sales rep. When you’re first starting out, it can feel like nothing you’re doing is going right. Even if you’re struggling at first, it is important to not give up and to keep fighting. You will get better and eventually, you will become a fighter in the arena, one worthy of respect.

Say you’ve already taken the first step into your sales career, but you want to do something different. Maybe you want to work in another field, you want to strive for a new position, or maybe you want to become an entrepreneur. This also involves taking another first step, just onto another path, as you’re going to be entering unfamiliar territory from that point.

In any of these situations, you’re going to face many challenges you had never faced before, like a boxer trying to learn karate. However, taking the same mindset of applying yourself and pushing yourself through the struggles, learning from your mistakes, will allow you to adapt to your new path and to keep moving forward.

Commit to Being the Best You Can Be
Once you’ve entered the ring and established yourself as a worthy fighter, keep moving forward. Now it is time to commit to your sales career and strive to become the best you can be. This involves developing a better understanding of the current sales world, honing your pre-existing techniques, learning new sales techniques, and ironing out the flaws in your approach.

This can involve a variety of approaches, depending on the field and the individual salesperson. However, the most important factor isn’t necessarily being the most successful, rather it is pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself and to do the best work you can. It can become easy to become complacent in one’s current success, which can keep them from reaching their full potential.

Alternatively, some are willing to forgo their integrity by engaging in less than ethical business practices. That is why the drive to be better than you are now is so important, so that we won’t fall into the same traps that many do now.

Keep Moving Forward After Failure
Finally, even in the most successful sales careers, sales people constantly face failure. The most important step of fighting in the arena is to keep moving forward even after you fail. There are many who are too afraid of failure to get out of their comfort zone, which is why many don’t even take that first step.

But facing that fear of failure, understanding that it is a part of the journey, an important part that you should be allowed to learn from, will be what pushes you into becoming a successful sales person. Even after a catastrophic failure that could cost you everything, it is important to stand up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. While it may be easier to stay down, continuing to get up will eventually get you to the place where you want to be.