The American culture of sales has always tended toward the optimism=success, and a large dose of survival bias, to instill a can-do attitude into what is often a rather thankless task. Are you having a hard time selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door? Your not trying hard enough.
The U.S. economy from some time back into the late 19th century has been growing, in real terms, about 3% a year. So a lot of time, the rising tide was lifting a lot of boats.
But what happens when the tide goes out, or if you take the worst-case-view, the bathtub is completely drained of water.
Life of a salesman: Selling success, when the American dream is downsized
Eli Saslow, Washington Post, 7 October 2012 (Hat tip: Big Picture)
He had always managed to find optimism in even the worst circumstances, and here was another chance: a heat advisory, 98 degrees and rising at 11 a.m., the hottest day of the year yet.
"Thank you," said Frank Firetti, 54, as he walked out of his Manassas office into a blast of humidity in early June. "Thank you," he said again. "What a perfect day to sell a pool."
He opened the trunk of his 2004 Toyota compact and changed into his selling outfit of slacks, a yellow polo and a silver wristwatch. He rubbed lotion on his face and sifted through six pairs of shoes before grabbing his dockside loafers. His goal was to arrive at a customer’s house looking "out of the catalogue," he said — no traces of mud on his feet, no worry lines carved into his forehead, no indication whatsoever that sales at Blue Haven Pools had been plummeting for five years running and that a staff of 24 full-timers had dwindled to six.
His job was to stand with customers in their back yards, suntanned and smiling, and look beyond the problems of the past several years to see the opportunities in every suburban cul-de-sac. How about a pool and a sauna next to the patio? Or a custom waterfall near the property line?
"The possibilities here are as big as you can dream them," he liked to tell customers, gesturing at their yards.
This is just the lead in on a long thoughtful piece. Frank Firetti is having a hard time, and you do feel for him. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, there may be a little bit of deja vu, from the decline of the rust belt. That much of the rust belt malaise was turned back with borrowed money, and that we never really seemed to get over the Vietnam War borrowing bubble is somewhat worrisome. Does it take the destruction of the world's manufacturing base, and the death of millions to reset the baseline of the world economy?