My high school days are almost 35 years behind me, so my recollection of the curriculum may be less perfect. I recall loving geography, struggling with French, and everything else falling somewhere in between. Curiously, two subjects I do not recall being addressed are the two I would argue to have the largest impact on a majority of students’ futures – personal finance and sales. The former is obvious.
If we are not taught the value of money, the difference between good and bad debt, and both the magic and terror of compounding interest,in a controlled environment, we are left to inherit the habits of those closest to us.
If my parents bought their vacations on credit, I am more likely to do the same. The second is perhaps less obvious. The word ‘sales’ conjures up stereotypes. Mention the word and many will think of cars, insurance, or real estate, not considering that the word may also apply to them.However, everyone is selling something at one time or another.
We all understand that when we go to a car dealership to look at cars, the person approaching us in the parking lot is a salesperson. Before she got to the point where she was helping you select a ride, did she not have to convince her prospective employer that she would be a good hire? If she came to the position with a proven track record, did her employer not have to convince her to choose to work at his dealership? Isn’t a lawyer selling her interpretation of the law to the judge or jury? Isnt a city planner trying to sell his vision of a development to city council? Isn’t a politician selling her vision of the future to the electorate? If you are married, was there not some form of sales going on at some point in that relationship? (And no, being married more than once is not necessarily an indicator of superior sales skills, rather perhaps a sign of poor post-sale attention.) The reality is, at some point in our lives, we are all salespeople.
Why then, would we not invest some effort into understanding the psychology behind sales? Why do we or don’t we buy what someone is selling? What qualities should I present to maximize the likelihood of making a sale? The educational system is largely silent on the matter and the void has been filled by authors – ironically, selling books on selling. I’ve always wondered why so little educational attention is paid to a career that affects so many, but from a societal point of view, perhaps this is a good thing. A career in sales may suffer from a lack of formal specification (until we are hired) but it also allows no excuses. Should I choose a career in sales? No one will have a head start because they went to a better school. I will neither suffer from nor enjoy the benefits of seniority – I will reap what I sew. The tools available to me are also available to my competitors. Just when I begin to think that my circumstances are an inhibitor to my success, someone in a demonstrably disadvantaged position will surpass me leaving me looking for another excuse. The sooner I realize I don’t have one, the better off I will be.
Thanks for reading,