“When I grow up, I want to be in sales!”
Not surprisingly, I’ve never heard a high school student say this. In fact, I would venture to say that most parents would be uncomfortable thinking about the hardships their kids would go through in a sales role. Negative stereotypes (aggressive, money hungry, etc.) and the perception of the profession’s challenges (commission-based pay, need for thick skin, etc.) typically keep sales off many people’s wish list. This point of view is unfortunate, as many sales professionals enjoy successful and satisfying careers.
Despite this lack of mass appeal, we know that millions of Americans are in sales and that some students will take on these roles. Could the job be so bad after all? So unappearling? So inhuman?
Not so, according to Daniel Pink, who believes that selling is, in fact, quite human. In his book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about How to Move Others, Pink defines sales broadly, to include similar activities like persuasion, and argues that selling is key to many career paths.
For the altruistic millennial, this is great news. In this way, selling can be a tool for them to ignite change in others, improve lives and consequently change the world. What could be more important?
In order to prepare themselves for sales in a 21st century career, students should learn Pink’s new sales ABCs, which replace the “always be closing” mantra of the past (which didn’t always work anyway). Executive coach and former colleague of mine Craig Dowden wrote about these new ABCs last week in the Financial Post, and the takeaways are highly applicable to gifted youth. Read on to learn about what actions students should take to start building these skills today:
- A. Attunement: Develop adaptable approaches to build relationships with different personality types.
- Student Action: Join a student group that you aren’t familiar with.
- Student Action: Build empathy skills.
- B. Buoyoncy: Build resiliency: your capability to bounce back from failure.
- C. Clarity: Simplify the complexity of the problem and explain the “why.”
- Student Action: Become a student leader on campus and make it your mission to fix your group’s biggest problem.
- Student Action: Try the Pixar Pitch.
While it may not be on the list of most popular careers choices, selling and persuasion are core applications of 21st century skills that will help millennials have the impact on the world they crave. The ABCs described above are building blocks for effective selling that students can start developing now.