By Rich Figel
Recently, one of my five semi-regular readers (Scott) posted a comment in which he said he felt his communications degree was valuable because it gave him sales skills -- and selling is important in just about any profession. Coincidentally, in a NY Times piece that ran on March 19, former Apple evangelist and high tech guru Guy Kawasaki says selling was the most important thing he learned when he was in the jewelry business.
Today I was running around making sales calls for the Career Changers TV show I co-produce, and I was thinking about what makes a good salesperson. Even in this lousy economy, pick up the classified ads or check Craigslist, and you will find listings for sales jobs. In part, that's because there's such a high turnover rate. Getting rejected for a living requires a very thick skin. One reason I'm a writer is that I don't like hearing "no" over and over. I tend to take it personally, which good sales people don't do.
The best salesmen and saleswomen are also great listeners, I think. They get prospects to open up and tell them what they want to be sold on. I'll never forget a timeshare sales pitch my wife and I listened to years ago when the Kona Coast Resort first opened. Halfway through, I told the young sales lady that we wanted to buy a week. But she kept talking and wanted to show us the rest of the tour! Good sales people know when to ask for the order, and when to shut up.
I have to agree with Scott that my broad liberal arts college education did help when I pursued careers in real estate and financial investments (i.e., legalized gambling in the form of commodities options trading). In both cases, I had to take courses and cram for exams to get licensed. But I hated cold calling prospects and using hard sell tactics, so I didn't last long in those jobs.
Anyone out there who tried sales work and hated it? Conversely, any of you love selling? If so, what do you sell -- and are things picking up?
Today's relevant links:
NY Times interview with Guy Kawasaki. He also talks about the importance of being able to write concise emails and get to the point quickly.
Another interesting NYT interview, in which Spreadshirt CEO Jana Eggers says something every good sales person knows: make friends with the receptionist or office assistant, because their boss often asks them what they think of job candidates!