Rethinking Sales: Part 10 – Sales as a Profession

There is much more to be said about the topics in last month’s post “Rethinking Sales: Part 9 – Sales Without Commissions,” but the writing is on the wall. Sales must stop being a black box where commissions go in and orders come out. It is the last part of an organization where a lack of understanding (and management accountability) results in unnecessary commission expenses. Sales managers may be the only people who know if their salespeople are contributing to the organization at a professional level and they ain’t telling. Their compensation is based on sales performance too! I’ve seen mediocre sales people making $200K+ a year after receiving large, unexpected orders from major accounts. Management has no clue whether the salesperson was key to winning those orders or not.

Many people think salespeople work incredibly hard to win those opportunities and sometimes they do. Sales is typically filled with long days full of risk, rejection, and uncertainty. You won’t find Sales on Glassdoor’s “25 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance” list. Of course, you also won’t find any $200K+ / year jobs on that list. Even highly trained engineers and scientists are not making that much. Which brings me to the point of this post: for many companies and markets, sales needs to become a career like engineering, management, or marketing. Sales professionals need to be trained in a system of selling that is aligned with the company’s culture and goals. A sales degree program would be a good step in this direction. The Wall Street Journal touched on this when it published a recent article “Why It’s So Hard to Fill Sales Jobs” with the subheading “‘Salesman’ Baggage Means Well-Paying Tech-Industry Positions Go Begging.” Even Microsoft is writing interesting articles on the seismic changes occurring in sales as part of the Microsoft Dynamics Blog,  Sales in the Modern Era, and Social Selling eBooks. The Social Selling eBook is not for most high tech selling environments, but does give a good overview of how sales has changed in more traditional consumer selling environments.

If you want to have a moment of fun, try Googling “degree in sales” and just read the first page of results. First is DeVry and the rest are split between sales management and articles on whether a degree is even needed for sales. One link did catch my eye, the Sales Education Foundation has an annual magazine featuring the top sales degree programs so it is possible to get a degree in sales. I’ve never heard of this foundation, but the website was interesting enough to get me to sign up for their newsletter. In the meantime, it’s ten o’clock, do you know where your salespeople are?