SELL NO!

While some still consider it a dirty word, selling is becoming a make-or-break skill.

The competition is too fierce.
The opportunities are too few.
And time is running out on personal brands that don’t include sales capability.

If you don’t consider yourself a sales person.
If the idea of selling doesn’t agree with you.
It may be time to think again.

Last month, I facilitated a session that brought together a dozen public and private organizations to discuss the future of business education. Held on behalf of Iowa State University, the session explored the question:

Has an operational and functional understanding of selling and the sales process become a business education requirement?

Iowa State is not the only institution of higher education exploring the question and educational providers are not alone in recognizing the rising importance of sales capabilities. As the author of “Everybody Sells”— a book that advances the thesis that organization-wide sales engagement is becoming increasingly important to organizational success — my opinion has long been registered.

The groundswell of interest in selling extends far beyond the logical advantages of possessing basic sales skills. The ability to articulate ideas, influence resource allocations and garner and maintain the support of other people is of undeniable practical and tactical value. However, one might reasonably associate similar outcomes to other areas of focus, including leadership, entrepreneurship and marketing.

No, it appears that the rising interest in sales skills represents some deeper movement, some more fundamental change. Moving from the one-on-one to team-on-team; rejecting form, function and price in favor of value realization—each incremental change has altered what sales excellence means and what sales performance requires.

The table stakes are rising. Sales success now requires the highest levels of product and service fluency, a deep understanding of client operations and the ability to harness and coordinate support from a broad range of internal and external resources. What better proving ground of tomorrow’s top executives?

If you’ve distanced yourself from the sales function because you still associate sales with manipulation, trickery, fast-talking or sleight-of-hand, you’ve missed a generation of maturity and development. And it may be time to join the club…

Selling matters—no matter who you are.

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Until next time. Stay connected.

-Jeff