In my travels, I’ve often come across frustrated salespeople who just don’t want to work in sales anymore. Usually this declaration comes with some kind of ‘revelation’ that they don’t want to have to deal with people or have to persuade people for a living anymore. My response, ‘Everything in life is sales.’
This usually raises an eyebrow or two, and nearly always I’m asked why I would say such a seemingly outrageous thing. It’s all a matter of perspective. When you send a resume to a prospective employer, you’re selling them on the idea of giving you an interview. In an interview, you’re pitching the employer on why he’d like to hire you. Once you’re hired, you’ll have to persuade someone to do, say, read, evaluate, or look at something. Barring that, you’ll need to ‘sell’ the value of your continuing employment through your performance at your job at the very least.
A teenager will try to sell her parents on the virtues of letting her go on her first date. A marriage proposal is basically a sales pitch, an effort to convince someone to spend the rest of their life with you. A loan application sells the finance company on whether you’re worth lending money to. A sermon sells the idea of better living or a better afterlife, as the case may be.
The art of persuasion, and the need to persuade others are inescapable in almost any walk of life. Want to leave it all behind and join a monastery or convent? You’d have to convince the Abbot or the Mother Superior that you’re committed to that lifestyle. So, unless you’re determined to become a solitary hermit, you’re going to have to persuade people at some point or other, and even in that case, you will have persuaded yourself!
If this doesn’t cheer you up, bear in mind that the observation, instruction and persuasion skills that are developed while working in sales are easily applied to other occupations. A good salesman develops keen written and verbal communication skills, and often learns to read people as well. This is why so many business leaders started out in sales. To lead effectively, you need to be able to know your people and communicate clearly with them.
So in the end I usually tell those frustrated sales reps that if sales as a career seems like a burden right now, just think of it as a leadership school, and use it as an ongoing, boundless opportunity to learn the real business of business, which is people.