People who sell don’t get enough credit! It’s not just another job, or even a high calling. It’s a genuine hero’s journey, and people who embark on it are inspiring. Author, mythologist, and spiritual teacher Joseph Campbell focused much of his work on the hero’s journey, and divided this quest into ten distinct steps.
THE HERO’S 10 STEPS
Here are the ten steps that define the hero’s journey, according to Campbell, and my take on how sellers walk each of them:
1. Longing for adventure, seeking born of restlessness and claustrophobia. Just showing up at work and checking off to do’s is no longer enough. We want something more challenging, something that takes us out to the end of the high dive and tests our will, our skill, our commitment, and our agility.
2. Loss, letting go of the past, the old ways. Just as heroes leave the safety of their home villages when they set out on the quest, we let go of knowing that if we do “A,” then “B” will automatically happen. We no longer cling to the security of just showing up, clocking hours, and getting a paycheck. Our results depend on how well we connect with people, present our offer, listen to what they want and their concerns, and coach them to a choice that works for them. We have to be fully awake to do those things.
3. Mentor. If we’re lucky, we find someone who can tell us about the road ahead, listen when we feel discouraged, give us advice, and offer encouragement for the hero’s task before us.
4. Guardians at the gates of the unknown whom he must overcome. In myths, these might be angry animals. In selling, they might be fear of picking up the phone, not wanting to hear “no,” or person after person saying, “Yeah, maybe next year.”
5. The unknown, abyss. Just as Campbell’s heroes are often thrown into fiery chasms, we can hit a wall. Nobody wants to buy. We stop trusting ourselves and whatever Force we’ve relied on to energize ourselves. Nobody understands how hard it is, and we begin to suspect that we don’t have what it takes.
6. Faces tests and meets friends. The hero gathers allies, as Luke Skywalker did in Star Wars. We meet fellow sellers, perhaps at networking or association events, perhaps in online groups. People who are doing the same kinds of things we’re doing, who are also on a hero’s journey. We learn to help one another, and to support one another through tests like interim sales goals.
7. Decisive ordeal, confrontation with death. Well, maybe not death–but big stuff! Just as Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader, we may find ourselves a week away from our selling deadline, with way too few sales. We want to give up, to roll over and enroll in plumbing school. We can’t do it even one more day. But in the end, we pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get out there again. We just keep going.
8. Slays the dragon, seizes the treasure, rescues the princess. We get the result! We meet our goal. And we feel like… One. Million. Bucks.
9. Challenge to use the wisdom of his heart and finds his power here. The hero must learn to rely on his or her heart, rather than on just the will or mind. We must do that, too. Our success comes not from force of will, from pressing ourselves back out there at sword-point, but because we have rediscovered the part of ourselves that wants to serve people, and to connect with them in a way that honors, respects, and appreciates them. That connection is our life’s blood–and we keep it whether or not they buy.
10. Returns to the world with fire. The mythic hero brings back whatever prize he or she was seeking. We bring back not only the sales numbers, but also the knowledge that we can reach deep within ourselves, even in difficult moments, and bring forth our best selves in the service of others and of growing into the people we’ve always wanted to be.
Not bad for a day’s work!