The importance of knowing how to sell


Selling has an unfairly negative connotation. Popular culture often portrays sales people as greedy, dishonest and willing to say or promise anything to get a sale. But the truth of the matter is we’re all sales people to some degree, and we need to be. We sell ourselves to prospective romantic partners, employers and mortgage lenders, to name just a few examples.

There’s a job I should really list on my LinkedIn profile: When I was a teenager, I worked as a telemarketer selling carpet cleaning and bulk food orders.

Telemarketing is a job that, today, I wish didn’t exist given how intrusive and annoying it can be. But back then, it was commonplace sales method and, for me, a job that provided invaluable life lessons.

How? Because getting rejected dozens of times a day at age 16 taught me lots about resilience, persistence and the importance of showing up to face adversity. I also learned about client fit -- I genuinely tried to make sure people wanted and needed what I was selling, rather than just ramming it down their throats with fast-talk and BS. Results followed.

As kids in school, we learn trigonometry and complex grammar rules, but we never learn anything about sales. That’s a critical miss from my perspective -- whether you run a business, work for a company,  seek a career in politics, want to land a gig for your band or hope to find happiness with another human being, you are always selling. You are, or should be, working to ensure that your best qualities are on display and that you know how to win over whoever might need persuading.

Maybe you won’t learn how to do so through telemarketing, but I plan to make sure my children don’t have that gap in their education.

All selling really means is that you’re communicating the value of something. And so selling yourself, or your company, means effectively communicating value. Because it doesn’t really matter how skilled or talented you are if no one knows about it and you don’t know how to sell your talents to those who might most benefit from them.

And so if anyone -- any business, any would-be politician, any wannabe rock star -- has a skill or talent that could make the world a better or more interesting place, they should work just as hard to ensure other people know about it as they do at their actual vocation. Random discoveries of geniuses toiling away in obscurity are, for the most part, fantasy.

Selling yourself, and the work you do, is inherently important to success. So embrace it.