Friday, March 27, 2015

Shopping and Selling Are Life Skills

I teach in a college business department and I am always surprised by how few students are sales savvy. They don't seem to have any idea of the difference between selling a concept and saying a concept. This leaves them with a lot to learn before they are prepared for a world where selling and shopping are both life skills.

Shopping is a life skill: no one survives without doing some shopping. People who are good at knowing what they want and identifying suppliers who provide good value are good at making the most of what they have. They can live better on less. Frequently, they can take the same attitudes and analysis and use it to build careers and profits.

Sales is also a life skill. For one thing, understanding sales gives you an edge in shopping. You know what to expect and what to avoid as a buyer when you have thought through the process from the seller's point of view. If everyone needs to shop, then everyone needs to understand sales.

Everyone also needs other people, in ways that range from practical to emotional to neurological. Involving other people in our goals and preferences is a sales process. It begins at birth, when a newborn uses a limited skill set to enthrall her parents. As we age, we lose some of the natural advantages of a baby, and have to pay more attention to how we connect.

By the time we are young adults, we have been conditioned to think that power and sales are the same thing. Someone with more power gets to tell others what to think or do. That's how it seems when you have been taught and parented for as much of your experience as you remember.

It's an illusion, of course. People rarely do what they are told consistently just because someone else is in a position of authority. People earn their authority by selling others on doing what needs to be done. I wonder how my students will fare as they move to a world where telling is cheap and persuasion changes lives. Selling is a life skill.

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