I never wanted to be in sales.
The only subject I enjoyed in university was philosophy. It was the only class where I found myself re-reading our textbooks for fun…on the weekends.
It was also the only class I actually went to.
So that helped.
After graduation, however, I came to realize that there wasn’t great demand for “philosophers” in the workforce and so, like most other students, I found myself a bit lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do — no idea what I wanted “to be.”
But when my brother suggested sales, I didn’t hesitate to say no.
The only thing I saw when I thought of sales were those used-car salesmen up the street with their slicked-back hair, cheap suits, and a pocket full of bad deals for you, the consumer.
Thanks, but no thanks.
And yet here I am: 10 years later with 10 years of sales experience.
What the hell happened?
Well, my brother sold me on getting into sales — that’s what happened. Turns out he was well-trained in the art of the sale.
A sales guru, as it were.
Now, looking back, I realize that starting my career in sales gave me more life skills, business know-how, and global opportunities than arguably any other profession I could have chosen.
If you’re coming out of school and looking for a place to start, go into sales.
If you’re early in your career and looking to make a change, go into sales.
You’ll become a better friend, partner, and parent.
Being in sales will make you a better person.
Have you ever heard that before? Probably not.
But it’s true.
Life can be tough and, as a result, there will be times when a dear friend or loved one is going through hard times. Maybe they’re having issues with a colleague at work, or trying to find a new career.
Maybe they’re having relationship troubles, financial troubles, or something as ridiculous as trouble choosing a paint color for their bedroom.
Duck egg blue, or champagne?
Whatever it is, your sales skills will equip you with everything you need to be there for them.
In sales you learn (hopefully) how to listen. Both to what’s being said and to what’s not being said.
You learn body language and tone.
You learn how to ask great questions, uncover the real challenge or pain, and to come up with solutions.
You learn how to organize your thoughts and communicate messages in the clearest, most succinct way possible.
In sales you learn that the goal of meaningful conversations is not simply to say what you want to say but to help the other fully express themselves, just as LinkedIn’s very own Fred Kofman talks about in Conscious Business.
The best sales professionals are not sales professionals. They are business counselors: tell me where it hurts, tell me what you’re doing for treatment, and let me prescribe the antidote.
What a phenomenal skill to have in your life toolkit.
You’ll never struggle to find another job in your lifetime.
For two main reasons.
First, every single organization on the planet, whether a start-up, non-profit, restaurant, corporation, etc., needs money to survive.
Whether its revenue or donations for a greater cause, without it nothing can be done.
No one can be helped, served, reached.
So when you are trained in the art of sales, you are arming yourself with the ability to walk into any organization and add immediate value. It doesn’t matter where they sell, what they sell, or even if they sell. They need money to survive and you know how to go get it.
Second, the process of finding and getting a job offer is in fact sales. The process is the exact same: go find job openings, present yourself, build rapport, communicate your value, handle objections, and ask for the position.
Once trained in sales you’ll have the skills you need to hustle any job you want.
You’ll give yourself the opportunity to live and work all around the world.
I started my sales career in Washington, D.C., working for the Corporate Executive Board. I loved my time at CEB, but one day decided that what I wanted more than anything else was to go and see the world. I wanted to go somewhere far, somewhere exotic, somewhere I could get lost and confused, learn foreign languages, experience new smells, tastes, and adventures.
How about Tokyo, Japan?
So I went.
And after 5.5 years in Japan I wanted to keep going. Where else could sales take me?
From Japan sales took me to Shanghai, China, for a year, and now Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sydney.
Sales is a fully transferrable skill and, as such, it’s given me the platform to live, work, and travel all around the world.
And it can do the same for you.
Every day will be spent creating and developing human relationships.
What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken.
As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction.
In his TED talk, he shares the takeaway: the single most influential factor in the health and happiness of a life is the quantity and quality of our relationships.
Sales is a people sport, and with this provides an incredible opportunity to create and build long-term meaningful relationships, both internally with your teammates, and externally with your clients.
All day every day, your job will be to create and develop human relationships.
Happiness, here I come.
From sales you can go in any career direction you want.
Decided you’d like to get into marketing after a few years of sales experience? Good thing you know how to articulate concise messages, and good thing you understand how lead generation impacts the sales team.
Want to move into HR? Good thing you’re comfortable reading people, understanding challenges, and coming up with win-win solutions. You’ll be doing that every day.
Want to quit the corporate world and start a yoga business? Great idea. Good thing you know how to hunt for customers, clearly communicate the benefits of yoga, and convince them that your studio is better than the competition.
Don’t think of going into sales as choosing a career. Think of it as choosing a skill. Once you’ve obtained it, it’s almighty powers can take you anywhere you choose.
You’ll learn how to make sh#% happen.
If you want to live the life you’ve always imagined, you have to do two things.
First, you have to imagine it.
A lot of people miss this step.
Second, you have to go make sh#% happen. You have to go make your dream happen.
A lot of people miss this step, too.
I was fortunate to attend Vanderbilt University on a soccer scholarship and my only dream at that time was a dream I’d had since I was 5, and that was to play for the U.S. National Soccer Team.
Knowing this, my Dad gave me some advice. He told me to find out where the U.S. National Soccer Team coach lives and to go knock on his door.
“Come on, that’s ridiculous. What would I say if he opened the door?!”
“Say hi, my name’s Ryan Paugh, I’m a 6’5″ forward from Vanderbilt University and I should be playing for you.”
I never did it. And I never became a forward for the U.S. National Soccer Team.
If you want something, you have to go get it. You have to talk to people, you have to be vulnerable, you have to build a plan, and you have to make something…from nothing.
If you have experience in sales, even for just a couple years, you’ll be much better equipped to do this because in sales, in every single day of your sales career, you have to make something from nothing.
And that, is my sales pitch.