“What do you want to be when you grow up?” it’s a common question for children, high-schoolers, and even university graduates. Answers will vary based on who you’re asking, but usually we hear: “I want to be a doctor… a judge… a baker… a firefighter…”.

Let me ask you this though, have you ever heard from a six-year old, “I want to be a salesperson when I grow up.” Cue confused coughing and a “coffee-through-the nose” surprised response. And who, for example, goes to university to become a salesperson? I have yet to met one. But why is that? Why is the sales industry so low (or non-existent) on the “careers I would like to have” scale?

I can think of a few mis-guided reasons.

Negative stereotypes

First, the idea o f the negative salesperson stereotype has been embedded in our society. From movies to t.v. shows, even the evening news, the “travelling salesman” has been portrayed and vilified as a self-focused, commission-breathed, product-pushing shyster. In some cases althought, I’ll admit, it’s not without reason.

It is unfortunate that this stereotypical brush has painted a band so wide that it encompasses all salespeople, good and bad. There are many salespeople who truly care about their customers and the money they make is a by-product of the success they generate.

Defining roles

Second, society places little value on the role of the salesperson. No one questions the importance of a doctor, engineer, or lawyer; why, because their contributions are easy to identify. But what about the sales professional?

Words like economy, growth, gross domestic product, innovation, are all indirect measurements of the salesperson’s impact on society (although this connection is rarely made).

Building skills

And third, the training and skills required for success in the sales profession are often searched out by professionals when it’s too late or pursued as an after-thought. I have yet to see high schools or universities offer courses aimed at enhancing the skills of the sales profession. Only after someone has entered into the industry do they get introduced to proper and impactful training to make a successful salesperson (and these are the lucky ones). There are many companies who do not invest in developing the skills of their salespeople and the so-called “sales training” of many businesses is: “here are your business cards and brochures, why are you still standing there…go sell!”

According to Statistics Canada, the most common occupation for both women and men is retail salesperson and in the U.S. one out of every nine American workers are in sales as well.

What this means: society needs to shed its negative stereotype of the salesperson and selling profession. The role of the sales professional is of utmost importance in our society and it should be viewed and trained as such.

Peaceful salesperson

Enter Killing Herb Inc. and the way of the peaceful salesperson. Our company is dedicated to removing what we call the “Herb Tarlek Sales Syndrome” through our practical education programs. Those of you who remember the TV show, WKRP in Cincinnati can’t help but recall Herb’s pushy sales tactics and tendencies of over-promising and under-delivering. Although we wish no personal harm to the actor who played “Herb Tarlek”, we are working hard to “kill” the stereotype.

To do this, we need to promote the way of the peaceful salesperson through the media; reveal the importance of the sales profession by giving it the economic and social credit that it deserves and we need to properly educate and train our future sales professionals.

It all starts with addressing mindset and attitude. Whose mindset and attitude? Our own!

Success of others

The primary mindset of the peaceful salesperson is to focus on the success of others. Before any commission, the peaceful salesperson focuses on the success of their client and that’s why the Killing Herb Inc. tagline is, “if we focus on the success of others, our success will naturally follow.”

The next step is to redefine selling. We need to redefine selling to mean “helping people buy”. We need to educate our future sales leaders on the proper ways of customer-focused selling (especially if one out of nine people are going to be in the sales profession!).

We will further study the way of the peaceful salesperson in subsequent articles, but for now, try to keep the following in mind:

  • the salesperson plays a critical role in society.
  • there are many honest and helpful salespeople.
  • we need to study and learn how to improve our role as a professional sales person.

The next time you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, if it’s not mentioned, maybe suggest they look into becoming a peaceful salesperson!