We Are ALL in Sales

We Are ALL in Sales

A Harvard Business Review article a few years back suggested that something less than a quarter of the approximately 500 accredited business schools in the United States offered any type of sales curriculum.


A stunning figure.


At the same time no more than 15% offered an MBA in sales or educational content that might be considered sales oriented.


Put another way – some 350,000 students walk off their college campus with an undergraduate business degree each year – and some 170,000 with an MBA – but a surprisingly low percentage have been taught anything substantive on the art of selling.


What happens next? It’s called reality. And it hits a lot of our Millennials right in the nose.


Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell is Human should likely be a tutorial for the new generation – pointing out in vivid terms that up to 40% of today’s work force invest at least a portion of their time selling.


I disagree. I think that number is low – VERY low.


The rise of the technology/information age has also given birth to a generation that must morph into polymaths – learned across a wide spectrum and capable of applying that knowledge in richly creative ways.


Information and data surrounds us like a hot swarm of bees – and often overwhelms. Quality communication doesn’t become less important – it becomes ALL IMPORTANT – and it transcends almost every profession.


Whether grouped under the broad banner of negotiation, listening, influencing, or simply “connecting” – if you can’t sell you are effectively LOST in the cacophony of noise.


So – what are the insights?

  1. Those numbers cited above around business school students are changing – dramatically increasing. Why? Because many highly educated graduates are often stumbling into their careers without the full appreciation of the nuances involved in conveying their ideas, assertively listening, clarifying others’ opinions, negotiating common ground, or summoning agreement; effectively putting a ceiling on their aspirations from the get-go.
  2. While sales was once considered an interim step for career enhancement, today it is MUCH more – and if you don’t believe that many of the greatest entrepreneurs today are first and foremost GREAT salespeople then think again. (Or watch the latest episode of either Shark Tank or The Profit – and no, I will not touch politics though the temptation is there.)
  3. The exposure to the art and craft of selling – and communication overall – is on the upswing for many disciplines – not just business. For example – medical schools that sometimes ignored exposure to the humanities are shifting on their axis – a concession to the fact that even the most learned of practitioners is limited if he or she can’t connect on a human level with their patients.  Ditto for lawyers, teachers, congressmen, airplane pilots, cab drivers, and the guy who works at the local Quickee Mart.  Translation – we are all in sales – it’s just we all may not know it.


The ubiquitous quote attributed to (amongst others) Peter Drucker remains clear today.


“Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” 

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