This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).
From Chapter 1 – The Right Attributes
Anyone who has worked in a large sales organization or with enough salespeople surely has seen that there is no correlation between education and sales success. There certainly are exceptions when the job is more akin to a sales engineer position and the requirements of the sales job include specific understanding of scientific or technical material. In this case, the relevant science or technology degree makes sense as a qualifier.
But if the job of sales is split into at least two parts, product/industry knowledge and sales ability, it should be recognized that the two are completely independent. The stuff on the sales side of the equation simply has nothing to do with education.
There is nothing taught in school that helps a salesperson be successful. Now I am not opposed to education. The fact that someone has the kind of a good broad knowledge base that a liberal arts degree offers makes that person more likely to be well-spoken, well-rounded, and interesting to talk to. Knowledge of world events and history can offer larger perspectives that make getting through hard or fast-changing times more bearable and understandable. A person may even learn presentation or negotiation or other communication skills in college ─ all an important part of selling.
One can even argue that simply getting through a 4-year program is a sign of discipline that is to be admired, and this discipline may serve a person well as a salesperson.
All are potentially true statements. All are valid, but not exclusively so. These things do not necessarily come from a college degree, and not having a college degree does not mean that the person won’t have these skills.
On the other hand, one might even argue that higher education is a detriment to salespeople. You could say that people with more education are more likely to over-analyze their efforts, and in terms of sales, this analysis feels a lot like work. But it is often done in excess by those who don’t want to face the hardships of rejection and failure that come in the numbers game of selling. One who is accustomed to succeeding in class may be uncomfortable “batting .300” or less in selling (for those non-baseball fans, that means hitting the ball 30% of the time, which is considered good in baseball). They would probably understand the baseball metaphor intellectually, but still be inclined towards failure analysis rather than the much more productive approach of just carrying on.
Speaking of baseball, one thing that I have seen as a reasonably consistent predictor of sales success is long-term participation in organized sports.
Learning how to show up every day and work, how to work well with others on a team (even if you don’t like all of them very much), how to take your lumps (either blowing a play or losing a game) and coming back to play again ─ these are essential sales skills. Schools don’t teach that.
I do admire education. The hard fact, however, is that when it comes to sales ability, there is simply no correlation between the possession of a college degree and future success in sales. Before you select education as a criterion for your next sales hire, ask yourself why? Unless you can come up with a really compelling reason ─ something better than you don’t have anything else and this seems to make sense ─ consider coming up with something else. In case you can’t do so, read on for some ideas later in this chapter.
Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)
So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.
If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:
The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.
Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.
The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.
If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.
Here’s to your success!