If you had to name one profession that truly makes a difference, what would it be? My answer is: salesperson.
Finnish people have traditionally been very keen to find out which professions are most and least respected in the society. In these kind of surveys, occupations of doctor, nurse, and teacher rank high, while salespeople and politicians have the questionable honour to represent the rock bottom of the list.
Why is it so? Why is sales such a looked down job? Is it because of the reputation of enthusiastic and artificially intimate telesales guy repeating your first name and trying to push some random magazine down to your throat at the worst possible moment? Or has ‘sales’ been associated with a corporate function that primarily harasses innocent people by offering something they don’t need, in an impolite way at the wrong time?
On the other hand, why are doctors, nurses and teachers so appreciated in the Finnish society? Probably because they take care of people, save lives and make young people learn new things by pushing them to think, reason and argument their thoughts independently (an important skill that you need in stating clear ‘no’ to that cunning salesperson!).
But wait a minute – there’s something interesting going on here. In practice, salespeople are doctors, nurses and teachers for their clients, or at least they could be. When a consultative and smart salesperson analyses her customer’s problems and fixes them, how different is that from the principles that doctors follow? Or when a marketing tech startup’s account manager inspires his clients about new ways of doing marketing, how different is that from what teachers do?
Extraordinary salespeople can save lives of companies, make them succeed and enable them to learn new things. Salespeople not just only improve the health of their client companies, but also keep their own companies in a good shape. Revenue is the oxygen of the company. As it is impossible for us to hold our breath forever, no company can survive in a long term without sales, even though the idea of having no salespeople at all is becoming more and more trendy.
Could it also be that sales is so underappreciated because it is so hard? Creating a situation where customer understands value and wants to buy isn’t easy. Often people who talk down sales the loudest are actually people who have tried to be salespeople themselves and failed. It is a commonly used coping strategy for people to badmouth about something they couldn’t quite reach to, isn’t it?
So, if you are a successful salesperson, be proud of it and hold your head high! If you are a struggling salesperson, stay strong and push yourself to the next level. Read books and ask for a coach. Coaching can turn a mediocre salesperson into a sales star. One of the benefits of being successful in sales is that salespeople can earn a lot, but nothing comes for free. Their fat bonuses go hand in hand together with the value they have created for their clients and their employers.
Think about it this way: Salespeople keep companies healthy, thriving companies ensure a healthy economy, which in turn creates a healthy society that is able to pay the wages for doctors, nurses and teachers working in a public sector.
It is salespeople who run the world, after all.