The Gifts of Selling

January 10, 2016
Mary Jane Copps


I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about sales – how difficult it is to find good salespeople, why this is the case and why so many entrepreneurs struggle with the sales part of building their businesses. My own evolution as a salesperson was far from easy, yet as I reflect on my about-to-be 29 years of selling, embracing sales as a profession has filled my life with unanticipated skills and knowledge.

Selling – being a salesperson – was never on my radar. I followed a very safe path from high school to university to the workplace. I ended up with a wonderful job at Bay and College in Toronto, writing about Canadian real estate and gaining some notoriety as an expert in the U.S. And even though the magazines and newspapers I wrote for relied on salespeople to sell the advertising that supported my salary, I still thought of sales as a somewhat nefarious activity.

But when I left journalism behind to become an entrepreneur, achieving success meant … selling. I thought, with great naiviete and a ton of conceit, that translating my interview and speaking skills into sales skills would be easy . Instead, that first year of building the business, and learning how to sell, was brutal – lots of tears and a well-bruised ego.

Odd, because  in those  hot, stuffy university classrooms, as I patiently made my way through Chaucer, I learned that selle meant give. The word originates from the Old English sellan, and in Old Norse and Old High German it meant to deliver, to keep a promise.

And this is what tops my list of gifts I’ve received from selling – a clear understanding of (perhaps even a bit of an obsession about) the importance of keeping one’s word. There is no other single action that inspires trust and builds long-term relationships more than following through on a promise. When you sell, you either learn this very quickly, or you struggle to meet your goals.

Of course, no one is perfect – unexpected events can lead to unrealized commitments -but for me,  starting each day with the priority of keeping my word has brought me both business success and life-long, steadfast relationships.

And there’s so much more – which I will share with you in the coming weeks. What about you? What skills have you gained/developed as a result of learning how to sell?

Enjoy your phone work everyone!


  1. Linda Daley says:

    I have learned to have a lot of respect for those who are great salespeople. I know anyone (even me) can do it, but you need passion to do it well.

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Yes, expressing passion is something else I’ve learned. Certainly when I started selling, even though I was passionate about that first company, I was afraid to express it in my phone calls. I thought it was unprofessional somehow. And it made me feel vulnerable, to share that passion. But I quickly learned that I needed to share it and I needed to allow myself to be vulnerable. It’s part of the sales process. And Linda … you “sell” me on lots of ideas and you are passionate about each and every one! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Jeanie Burke says:

    I’ve learned to express COMPASSION. When I started my business in 2003, my consideration was usually about our clients—those older adults usually in their late 70’s up to their 90’s and about how we could help. As my own parents aged, I realized more and more what a strain it could be on families, especially the adult children trying to help their parents. Often we did not get the call until a daughter or son was at the end of their rope emotionally. Although I always felt for their situation, once I began to express it I realized how much the caller appreciated having their burden and everything they were doing for their loved one recognized. In my everyday life I am now more likely to verbalize my empathy or compassion.

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Jeanie. It is wonderful that your work gave you these insights. I know my ability to be empathetic has grown through my work and I will share that it a future post.

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