In the past I have written extensively about how the profession of selling is perceived by the general public.
Unfortunately, nowadays it has all but taken on the connotation of a four-letter word in our society.
Whether it's the stereotypes of sleazy or manipulative salespeople that continue to persist or whether it's the trickery and unprofessional tactics employed by some salespeople that have soured us, the concept of selling has steadily declined to the point of being on par with an exotic, contagious disease with which absolutely no one wants to be infected.
In fact, people seem willing to do just about anything to avoid even the appearance of selling - from creating clever, politically correct names for it to banishing the very hint of it from both the culture and the language of their organizations. Most especially, they've banished the concept of selling from their own psyches. Now when they're doing it, they don't even recognize the signs.
Our culture may fear and disparage selling but the truth is, most of us are engaging in it almost every day and in nearly every professional and personal situation in which we participate.
Don't believe me?
Think of the times you have persuaded a team you were on to your way of thinking, convinced your boss that your idea was fantastic and worth implementing or finessed your significant other into purchasing an expensive item you simply could not live without.
When you get agreement from anyone on an idea, concept, change, program implementation or purchase - you're selling.
I know it's hard to swallow.
Selling is, of course, supposed to be something that those fast-talking guys down at the car dealership do, but you, too, have managed to sell a few unsuspecting prospects yourself.
When you look around and notice how your organization, workplace or relationships have improved because of your great ideas and contributions, was selling those people really such a bad thing?
On the other hand, every time you present an idea, concept or change that your people don't go for, you have failed to sell them.
A timely, albeit disastrous, example of this is the recent resignation of Harvard University President Lawrence Summers.
Despite his innovative ideas and the enlightened "agenda of renewal" he envisioned for the future of the university, Summers was anything but popular with a good majority of the school's faculty. His demeanor was described as "blunt" and "abrasive" and ultimately he alienated groups that were key in his plan for change. In the end, he may have had brilliant ideas and even the talent necessary to bring Harvard boldly into the 21st century, but he failed to sell the people who, unfortunately, would eventually call for his resignation.
In a situation like this, I cannot stress enough how important having proper sales training can be.
In this instance, it could have saved a career.
In your own life, even if your chosen profession has absolutely nothing to do with selling, learning an effective sales methodology can open doors and sometimes salvage even the most disastrous of projects.
It is relevant to every line of work and every relationship because, at its core, effective selling is just effective communication.
Therefore, the primary goal of sales training is to teach you how to become a more effective communicator.
If we're all selling all the time anyway, why not become someone who excels at it?
If you had poor time management skills or if learning a foreign language would help you become a greater asset to your team or secure a promotion, you'd seek out a program to acquire the necessary skills.
Why not add high-quality sales training and an effective sales methodology to your repertoire?
I have said for many years that teachers within the school system could benefit greatly from professional sales training. Most do not understand the pivotal role that selling their students on the material being taught plays in getting buy-in and, more importantly, results.
This is not to say that teaching isn't already a challenging profession. No one would argue with the statement that it's difficult to get students' attention these days. However, I feel that is all the more reason for teachers to learn how to use effective sales techniques.
When you learn to flush out and identify needs, to determine what you can offer that will fill those needs and then sell that solution persuasively but respectfully, you actually make the communication process infinitely more simple.
In the case of educating our youth, using a sales method as an effective communication tool would suddenly have kids who thought they'd rather be outside on the jungle gym - or even older kids who have grown disinterested in the sometimes mind-numbing educational process - "buying" what you're selling because they realize that you know what they want and what they need, and it's clear you know how to deliver it to them.
The truth is, it doesn't matter how smart you are or how many degrees you have.
Your future success depends on how well you can sell.
A person who can't sell an idea is no better off than a person who doesn't have an idea. Summers had exceptional ideas but he couldn't sell them to the Harvard faculty.
Plenty of hard-working teachers have incredible concepts and knowledge to share with their students but they can't seem to get their attention, let alone their buy-in. You may have an idea that would improve the efficiency of your company by 40 percent, but could you effectively communicate it when the moment came to persuade the decision-makers?
When you learn, and eventually adopt, an effective selling method that covers all the bases and leaves nothing to chance, you'll be ready when that moment comes.
When you are finally willing to admit that, indeed, you are actually selling, you'll start to appreciate how important it is to learn how to sell effectively.
As a result, you start to separate yourself from the outmoded stereotypes of what a "salesperson" is.
You'll become not just a capable "salesperson" but, more importantly, a masterful communicator of important, innovative and creative ideas that are clearly worth implementing.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.