Don’t Do As I Did & Waste 25 Years of Your Life Living in Ignorance

July 11, 2013

27 little years ago I was born into this world, kicking, screaming and covered in all kinds of disgusting fluid. Being pushed out of a dilated vagina is pretty satisfactory. Being put into a room with a ceiling mobile of rotating toy airplanes even more so.

Still, fast forward to right now and I can’t help but think where I’d be today had my parents made another choice (about the mobile, not me). What might have happened had they gone for something a little more sinister instead? Like, for example, drawing a message in hugely-sized Comic Sans font, reading…

CHILD. KNOW THIS. EVERYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE DEPENDS ON ONE SKILL AND ONE SKILL ALONE.

THE ART OF SELLING.

BETTER WISE THE FUCK UP AND LEARN IT.

Guarantee that lying on my back, waiting for my cranium to develop, letting those words seep in, would have put me in a much better position than the ambling young man I sometimes appear today.

Yet you, my friend. YOU. Well, you’re anoth­er story. You still have a fighting chance.

So don’t live in ignorance. Let the following calamities from my youth be a lesson for you to change your life for the better and LEARN SALES TODAY.

(And yes, it is my intention to sound like an unpalatable telesales agent while I do this…)

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young (Sales)man

How you feel about yourself and how you see yourself both combine to regulate what you permit yourself to do and be.” – Dan Kennedy, The No B.S. Approach to Business Success in the New Economy

These wise words, from copywriting heavyweight Dan Kennedy, come with an argument that to be successful in life you must first sell yourself on selling. Only then, he says, you can eventually become a sales master.

Unfortunately, for the young whippersnapper I was, thrust deep into the workforce aged 15, such advice was destined only to fall on deaf ears.

Faced with a rather gruelling paper round delivering eponymous freepaper “The Swindon Star”, sales, or rather the power of selling, was the furthest thing from my mind as a gangly, starry-eyed youth. Simply wanting to get the horrible job done, I snubbed several possible “sales opportunities” to instead discard large swathes of bulk in poor neighbourhood bushes.

Had I only wised up to the matter of being smart on sales early, recognised that it might have lead to some extra income streams (like selling my route to local businesses and delivering their promo material too), well maybe, just maybe, I might have been able to afford to buy those Adidas poppers I so desperately craved (poppers equalled pussy back then by the way).

The fact remains however. I didn’t sell myself on selling at my first employment opportunity. In fact I was too short-sighted, at a ripe 15 years, to even recognise it as a bonafide skill at all.

Yet some other teen, only streets away, was using it to cash in, building a small empire of delivery boys and selling their services to all the new routes that came up.

And he had loads more pairs of poppers than me too.

But not pussy.

Because he was way uglier.

The Sad Story of the Tesco Check-out Boy

Whether it’s selling in its traditional form or its non-sales variation, we’re all in sales now.” – Daniel Pink, To Sell is Human

Author Daniel Pink, in his study of modern work practices, highlights that while one out of nine people currently work in direct sales jobs, the other eight out of ten are out working in “non-sales jobs” that involve trading resources other than money (like time, attention, contacts etc.)

To a sad 17-year-old kid working on a lonely Tesco check-out, that’s enough to blow someones mind into a thousand pre-packaged brain chunks worthy of display on any supermarket fresh meat counter.

Obviously I was oblivious. Whiling away my weekend, bandana firmly in place, all I thought about was how to make the insufferable job end earlier. Hence the grimace whenever someone asked me to pack their bag for them. Or the give-a-fuck shrug when asked how my day was going.

Had I only recognised the benefit of selling myself as a nice, young chap to the general population of Swindon at the time? Had I only recognised that it might have opened up several, more enticing, doors? Well, the job pain might have ended prematurely. Something better might have come along.

Still as a 17-year-old never expecting to have to persuade anyone to do anything for the rest of his adult life, how was I to know that an opportunity to develop some serious people-sales skills was right there for the taking?

I was far too busy smirking at over-60s buying condoms to ever appreciate that.

Note: My sister, who also worked there at the same time, got the importance of it though. And thanks to being good at sales, she now has a house and everything.

The Grumpy Give-Me-A-Job Graduate

The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness.” – Daniel Pink, To Sell is Human

When you’re a student and stuck in the ways of libertarianism, sales is nothing but a dirty word. With three years of study under your belt, and with proof that you can knock a thesis together about some random bullshit, what role is sales ever going to play in the life of riches and gold promised to you by the ol’ traditional path?

As it turns out? Pretty much everything actually.

Freshly spat out from institutional education as a doe-eyed 22-year-old, I was expecting life to be nothing more than a long downwards walk to six-figure salaries and sex on tap. Imagine my shock then, when, soon after, faced with scouting for teaching opportunities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I realised I’d actually have to get my shit together, present myself as an attractive package and go out into the world and sell myself.

Inevitably I struggled. Because I’d never paid a blind bit of attention to investing any time in developing sales skills earlier in life (as I’ve just shown you by frittering away the two aforementioned learning opportunities), I found myself stuck, consoled in Saigon-beer fuelled escapism, wondering just what misery my liberal arts degree was going to take me to next.

Thankfully the school where I trained finally threw me a lifeline. But it wasn’t like I ever had to go out, knock on doors and present myself as a high-value package or anything.

I simply just got lucky.

The Power of Sales in Your Life

So let’s fast forward again now and put the follies of my naïve youth behind us. At the start of this article I mentioned that I finally began paying attention to the study of sales approximately two years ago.

I bet you’re wondering where that got me eh?

The short answer is, because I’ve done enough expansive bragging of late, simply this. A much better position.

Indeed, I’m no longer working on a Tesco checkout. Nor shovelling 80-pages of shit down people’s letterboxes. Nor wandering the streets of Saigon, jobless, crying onto the shoulder of a motorcycle taxi driver (although I’m sure they have very fine shoulders) either.

No. I’m doing, as I said, a whole lot better. And I even have time to write desperate pleas like this now. As well as using my ample leisure for outpourings of bile on the internet.

Because, finally, after all those years, I appreciate one simple fact a whole lot better than I did in my much-blighted time of yore.

That life is just one big sales pitch after another.

That we’re expected to work on ourselves and our skills to make us more tolerable to each other. Even expect to get paid for services rendered, value offered.

And sales, as much as you might hate the concept (as I once did too) is the primary mechanism for making it all work.

For persuading that wild temptress of a siren to talk to you for more than a moment.

For convincing some sad old man to employ you.

For bringing more happiness to your life.

So please, if you take anything from this article at all let it be this.

Don’t waste 25 years of your life being ignorant of that fact.

And terrify your kid with it too.

Looking for recommendations on my favourite books on sales and marketing? Pretty soon, despite you not giving a fuck, I’ll be publishing a page of all my reading (with brief notes). But start with the books I quoted from if you have zero patience.