Mommas, let your babies grow up to be salespeople

Remember the old campy country song that warned Mommas to not grow up to be cowboys?  While I’m completely aware that the song was not intended to be taken seriously, but it of course promotes the professions of “doctors and lawyers and such”

While those are truly admiral professions, I have to say that I am not sure why salesmanship is not promoted more.  “Let ’em be doctors or salesmen or such” fits just fine.  (My apologies to all the VERY talented saleswomen that I work with – but salespeople was too many syllables, but don’t think that doesn’t mean that I don’t think mommas should push women into sales too.)

Can someone point out a single organization in the world that doesn’t have a salesperson on staff?  Even non-profits have people whose entire job is fundraising.  Call it Business Development, or Advancement, or Stategic Relationships, or whatever – its still sales.

Why then, don’t more mommas tell their kids to study negotiating, or closing.  Why don’t kids make sure that Proper Prospecting Techniques 101 and Cold-Calling Without Being Pushy 203 make it on their schedule.  Oh yeah – because to my knowledge there is not a single school that teaches sales as a major or even has a department focused on it !  Yet EVERY organization needs it.  I’ve heard of some schools spending a little bit of time on sales within another class – but since its not taught by salespeople, I’d love to hear how it has helped people if it has – and I’ve never heard of it being more than a “here are some ideas” rather than an actual effort that will yield people that can be successful honest salespeople.

If you could get a salesperson to take a teaching role and a school (business school or otherwise), could you even get students to sign up for these courses?  What would most parents say if their kids came home and said, “Mom / Dad… I’ve chosen my major.  Its in sales.”  We are a capitalist society, yet there is something strange about deciding to get into sales.  Sales guys are those creepy guys who swindle people.  They only care about money.  They are in it for themselves.  Many parents would be horrified if their child announced they were going into sales – as if they’ve just chosen a life of debauchery and sin.  I get plenty of comments about my chosen sales career – as if I made a more honest living when I was writing code – yet I’ve done a lot more good in sales than I ever did as a programmer.

My entire sales mantra is always about honesty, and doing the right thing.  If we taught sales in a university to EVERY student, perhaps we wouldn’t start with people that go into sales ONLY for money.  We wouldn’t get people who go to sales because they realize that they know how to manipulate people.  Perhaps if we taught sales the way I try to train salespeople that work for me, and the way I was taught, we would get better salespeople – and more honest transactions.   It often takes a long time before great salespeople figure out that if you just do the right thing, sales and cash follow.  Maybe if we taught that in school, people would know it from the start.

Since every organization needs sales, and sales don’t stop ever… is there a job that is more recession proof?  You can live without a lot of functions in your company, or you can significantly reduce them or outsource them.   Can you ever live without sales?  Not for long. If you are a properly trained and experienced salesperson, you become MORE valuable when the economy goes sour.  Those of us that can find the value sale will always have people we can sell to because we aren’t trying to swindle anyone, and prospects flock to that.  Doesn’t that make it more attractive to have our kids become salespeople?

Properly trained salespeople can hold senior management positions very easily.  Why?  They understand how businesses work – how they thrive.  In figuring out how to get people to make purchasing decisions, and determining the value sale, salespeople learn a lot about what makes businesses tick, how they spend money, how to negotiate better deals when you are on the buying side of the table, and more.  So, sales careers also can be launchpads for other careers in management.

For all these reasons and more, I will encourage my kids to consider a career in sales – or at least to understand the mechanics of sales very well.  I hope that more parents do.

  • Anonymous

    Just started reading your blog Mark..accidently reached here as i was searching for Sales vs Business Development and then got hooked to even other topics..quite interesting indeed…

    Aakash