Make Sales Respectable!

Make Sales Respectable!

Patti Pokorchak IBM 1978

This shy dweeb did her first sales role play at IBM years ago and failed miserably. This is despite being in the top 15% of MBA students with a major in marketing.

I had NO sales knowledge even though I had held retail sales positions to put myself through university. I had never been trained in how to sell, but I did find out that it was a learnable skill, since I was anything but a natural born salesperson. I was painfully shy to the point of muteness. 

There is STILL no university in Canada who graduate students with BComms with a Sales Major, despite over 100 universities around the world who do. That is a crime!

Without sales, there is NO business. So why is it still not being taught at Canadian universities?

Imagine Virgin without the power of Sir Richard Branson’s charisma? VaynerMedia would not be a $100 million dollar company without the hustling of Gary Vaynerchuk.

B2B Sales should be a respected profession. The skils it takes to close a million dollar or multi-million dollar sale or a $50,000 sale EVERY week should not be ridiculed as a sleazy job. 

It is a skill set, a profession, a calling, a process and a discipline. It not only takes persistence, emotional intelligence, the ability to read and adapt to every different person and organization out there, but also to face rejection on a daily basis. You do so much work and besides a salary, you do not get compensated for coming in as the second choice.

I took great offence with Daniel Pink when he put all sales people in one bucket in his To Sell is Human book and that is so wrong. Retail sales (B2C) is very different from B2B and takes a different set of skills. First of, in retail, your customers come to you, you don’t go out hunting for them. In B2B, prospecting for clients is where most sales pros send the majority of their day. 

When I started selling in IBM’s mainframe division, my salary was cut in half. Imagine losing 50% of your salary, just a short 1.5 years out of grad school, when I owed everyone money. It’s scary to put your faith and rent payments onto your ability to perform as the other 50% of my compensation was pay for performance, which meant achieving my quota. Scary as I was totally unproven as a sales rep. Even then we were called marketing reps, due to the bad rap of being in sales. Sad eh?

Luckily, I got invited to be on an amazing team of women – Liz Sauter and Rosemary Henegan, to whom I am eternally grateful. We were pioneers in selling packaged software for end-users on IBM mainframes and we were darn good at it. AND we made out like bandits as we achieved 175% of target. Enough so I could save up the equivalent of $50,000 and take a year off to travel in Europe. Not bad for a 25-year-old, right?

When I think of my legacy, I think that getting sales training as a mandatory course in business schools would be it. 

So what do you think? Should sales be taught at universities? Please comment below and state if you’re in sales or not. Also tell me WHY you think sales has such a bad reputation. 


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