With automation now looking inevitable, there is a mad scramble to predict which jobs would last. We are surrounded by debates on what should be done and how should one handle the imminent redundancies in existing skills. Can policies stem or redirect the drift? Can we predict the future and plan for same? While at the top end of the skilled landscape, the immediate future appears to be in artificial intelligence, machine learning, 3D printing and data sciences, at the vocational levels, there is a dire need for skilled electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders et al. However, there is one career option which gets less attention and that is sales. It never comes up as a career option for a newbie at dinner conversations with the family.
Selling taught you how to get to your goals by negotiating your own way through people with whom you had no control or a reporting relationship, in an organisation or in personal life. Surely, you have learned to understand each human being for who they are and what motivates them in different situations.
As we progress in our career, we believe this becomes a key differentiator between achieving C-suite or otherwise. Contrary to popular beliefs, which suggest that good salespeople are masters of eloquent yet insincere rhetoric, we are usually by the end of an arduous day taught to be “well informed, well prepared and well rehearsed“. A seasoned salesperson knows that in matters of money, we can’t lag behind the competition.
Being out on the road, away from the luxuries of fancy office spaces, early in a career can keep you from falling into the inevitable death trap of entitlement. More importantly, the exposure to unknown faces, competition, clients can help you to stay ahead of the learning curve at all times and significantly contributed to your professional development. It expands our professional network far and beyond those we create within our own organisation.
In our career, “who we know“ becomes more important than what we know. Nichiren’s Buddhism practices the philosophy of turning poison into medicine in daily life. Salespeople learn to do that on the job every day wherein they take their customers’ problems, challenges and “create value“ for them while creating value for themselves. When, one of India’s leading entertainment chain wanted to ramp up their manpower by double, but only during the weekends, it was one such moment of truth for me as a salesperson.We came up with the concept of weekend temping in India.This is how, as salespeople, we learn to transform an adversity into an opportunity.
Selling helps, and always does, in achieving the highest levels of “self-awareness“. In sales, one spends time making decisions all through the day -who to meet, who to pursue, what solution to provide, how much discount is appropriate or when to escalate to close a sale. This acts as our immediate score board. The results are instant and that helps us correct our erroneous assumptions about our own self, our actions, and others much sooner and with naked accuracy. This compels us to be flexible in our opinions and ideas and not get caught up in preconceived notions about the self, people or the environment.
Let’s face it. All through our lives, we are all salespeople! We are always selling -whether it is to persuade one’s toddler to have vegetables or a spouse to watch a Bollywood masala tear-jerker. It is the basic operating system of survival and the best part being, it is agnostic to time, place and product. Above all, selling has taught us how to overcome the fear of rejection and still have a smile on our face, the determination in my mind and hope in our heart to turn things around. Fear of rejection can manifest into a fear of failure. Selling, on the other hand, teaches us that just like success isn’t permanent so is the case with failure and hence we need to constantly be on the treadmill.
In sales, we teach ourselves to build a pipeline so that even if there are four nays, the fifth is bound to be a yay. Paraphrasing Edison -“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up, the most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.“