Sorry, but I seem to be having a Kipling day (no, not the one the bakes exceedingly good cakes, Rudyard). Having written the last post I began thinking about one of my favourite poems and one, that I believe, says so much about the attitude and virtues of professional selling. So here’s the poem – if you hadn’t guessed it’s
IF by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
So how does this relate to sales? Well, I think it is a multi-layered poem with many themes running through it including patience, being able to motivate yourself after setbacks, stoicism, being true to yourself, working hard and overcoming obstacles – sounds like selling to me! So here are a few ideas on each verse:
- Verse 1, in my opinion, is about being true to one’s self. There are always going to be people who think differently than you, or misjudge you for one reason or another. I think the poem is saying that we need to rise above this, and do what we know is right and just. Don’t let others provoke you into actions you know are wrong. Know the value of your self worth, but don’t become conceited.
- Verse 2 is about overcoming obstacles that get in your path, whether by others, or of your own making. Follow your dreams, but be realistic in the approach. I believe this section is teaching perseverance, to keep going, even when things get rough.
- Verse 3 is about never giving up! It is truly hard to get back up after life has beaten you into the ground (cold calling!). It can be done though, if we always believe in ourselves and know that we did it once so we can do it again! This is a very important lesson, and one that we all should take to heart. Kipling knew how hard life can sometimes be, and I think this section of the poem is full of hope for all of us.
- Verse 4 has two important lessons. Firstly, that we are all equal. Don’t put yourself above anyone else, but know that you are just as good as everyone else. There are things to be admired in almost everyone if you look hard enough. Secondly, is to never waste time. Make every minute of every day count!
Read the poem with your “sales head” on and see how many of the themes parallel the working life of sales people. As usual, I would be interested in any ideas either about “IF” or if you think there is a better poem to sum up a life in sales.
How about listening to “IF” read by Desmond Lynam showing photographs of the 1998 World Cup – yes really