Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Getting Personal About Business, the blog of Zahn Consulting, LLC.
Our education system is under attack on many fronts. Some see too much emphasis on testing and meeting federal, state and local requirements. Others question whether a liberal arts education is preparing students for the "new world" post-graduation. On top of that, an argument raging on LinkedIn explores the necessity to teach students the skills of selling.
As business owners know, "Nothing happens until a customer makes a purchase." All of the best marketing, logistics, operational efforts, managerial practices and progressive human resources initiatives won't matter at all if there is no customer to make a purchase and pay for all of those things. So, for many entrepreneurs, the sales skill sits "first among equals" of all of the functions that comprise a business.
Skeptics question whether sales is more "common sense" than an intellectual process and if it requires on-the-job experience. Others are puzzled about how to come up with the subjects to be taught.
Indeed, many people struggle to define just what sales skills include. It seems to fall into that murky area of understanding, as in what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography: "I will know it when I see it."
In my view, sales skills commonly include the need for product/services knowledge, industry knowledge and functional specificity (how the user of the product or service benefits). Prospecting, presenting, listening, negotiation and CRM are all essential. In the financial realm, a salesperson needs the ability to recognize "value" and quantify it in a way that is meaningful to the prospect.
While the focus is on the interaction between the salesperson and a prospect, the skills are transferable to internal dealings between managers and subordinates, inter-departmental relationships, or peers working as part of a team to accomplish a particular project.
So, the skill set of selling should serve students well — no matter what pursuits they may choose post schooling.
Whether someone has to "sell" their ideas as a way to improve how a department is run, "sell" the value of making a technology upgrade, or a supervisor has to "sell" a subordinate on the wisdom of doing a task one way over another, selling skills are put into use professionally in nearly every interaction. On a personal relationship level, the skills are equally relevant. Friends, romantic partners, parents and children all need to "sell" to each other and meet the same basic skill requirements listed above.
Do you agree or disagree that sales should be an area of study at the undergraduate level?