Why Isn't Sales Seen As An Attractive Career?

Over my Sunday brunch out earlier I read how Sales positions attract significantly fewer applicants than other roles.

Incredibly, in London the average applications per job ad is 24 overall, yet for Sales it is just 14.

This clearly saddens me. Especially as one chief culprit appears to be the perception of a stop-gap job with no progressive prospects.

The obvious downer of course also raised its mistaken head. Namely the trustworthiness of reps being so low as to their output being seen as akin to the atrocities perpetrated by banksters and politicians. Yet it is this lack of beneficial career path that surely most worries those that like me, view Sales as a noble calling. One which helps sculpt a successful CEO like no other.

The sign-off, ministry-of-the-bleedin’-obvious, quote of the article is one so many businesspeople wrongly disregard. In the context of the lack of academic attention, one sage comments;

“You don’t need an HR department if your business doesn’t sell anything.”

All this must change. But making it so is a daunting task.

When I first entered Sales, those persuading me of the fine career choice I should make majored on it being the role with most fun, freedom, financial reward and closest thing to running your own business without actually doing so.

For Sales to be revered in the light of the research mentioned in the article, two things need to happen.

More chief execs that have served as salespeople must be highlighted. And they do exist. I’m reminded of one example from my early days from the onetime industrialist of the year and first telly reality business star, Sir John Harvey-Jones. In his autobiography he makes the firm point that everybody aspiring to have a career in commerce – not just wannabe chief execs – should have at least a stint in Sales. And he fondly recounts his time in the field himself when a relative junior.

And more examples of the pleasures of customers buying should be trumpeted. Not every sale stiffs the client. Far from it. Each organisation has happy customers who’s lives have been changed for the better because of being ‘sold’. So bring them to the fore.

As an aside, I’ve long fretted about the very title; Sales. Yet in our PC-bound office language, even alterations to the likes of ‘buyer assistance’ aren’t quite the ticket. Just as more established alternatives like Agent or Broker don’t really work either. And when you search for synonyms online, only pejorative ones surface.

The good that we bring in Sales can indeed be wonderful. Maybe the dearth of potential candidates can be addressed first with those that write the job ads in the first place.

I wouldn’t mind betting that of those thousands of recruitment notices written, they practically all stipulate rubbish like ‘you’re a self-starter’, ‘like exceeding targets’ and ‘are a closer’.

If only they realised the value of problem solving, project managing to help others or tenacity in uncovering what will get people to where they want to go.

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