How is it that successful salespeople can earn more than doctors or lawyers, or sometimes even more than the owner of the company they work for? Economists agree: it’s because they practice the world’s most valuable profession.
How valuable is it? Here’s a short quote from my 2004 book, The Greatest Job You Never Thought Of: How Anyone Can Find Career Satisfaction and Financial Independence in Sales:
I know a mortgage loan officer who makes over $1 million per year A friend of mine in the printing industry pulls down almost 8% of the $10 million book of business he has built over the past twenty years as a salesperson. (In case you’re wondering that’s almost $800,000 per year and yes, I have seen his pay stubs.) Top automobile salespeople earn more than $150,000 annually. Insurance sales can generate six-figure residual income streams in 2-3 years. Successful radio ad salespeople often make more than $250,000. I could go on and on with examples from pharmaceutical sales, software, farm equipment, you name it.
Why is that the case? Why are top-producing salespeople so highly prized in the marketplace? Because of the value they generate.
In using the word “value” here, I’m not making a value judgment. I’m not saying that salespeople are somehow better human beings than doctors or lawyers or business owners or teachers or firefighters. I’m only pointing out that the marketplace clearly places more value on their function and demonstrates that opinion monetarily.
A basic tenet of economic theory is that resources flow to their highest value use. This is how a small piece of land can go from being used for a miniature golf course one day and a high-rise condominium the next. The land didn’t change. It’s still in the same location. What changed was the value the marketplace put on that plot when local population patterns shifted or a new mass transit station opened nearby.
The same is true of the printing salesman mentioned above who was making perhaps twenty times what the owner was paying his pressmen. Their value as human beings is not different; it’s the value that they bring to the firm which is being rewarded.
Another economic theory, supply and demand, also comes into play here. Every company is looking for people who can sell but very few members of the labor pool are truly skilled at it. The marketplace bids up the prices for those scarce resources resulting in very lucrative commission plans in many industries.
So, if sales is such a great job, in fact The World’s Most Valuable Profession, why don’t more people choose it as a career path?
In The Greatest Job, I argue that virtually anyone can become a successful salesperson if they set their mind to it, are willing to commit, work hard and face down the five fears that prevent most from even trying:
- The Stigma of being called a Salesman
- Risk Aversion
- Lack of Structure
- Talking to Strangers
Many people disagree with this assertion, but in the book I give five examples of people completely devoid of “the sales personality” who achieved great success selling in industries ranging from industrial food supplies to professional audio equipment. We all know people who match this profile.
But exactly how do salespeople generate all this value? Through their critical functions as fonts of information and transaction facilitators.
Information is the most valuable non-human commodity in the marketplace. Successful salespeople are experts in their industries. They understand features, functions and benefits and how to communicate those ideas to the right listeners.
They also communicate what they’re hearing on the street back to the mothership. What are people asking for? How could our offering be improved, increasing value and marketability? Good salespeople know these answers and share them with corporate decision-makers.
Salespeople also facilitate transactions, primarily through their skills as closers. Their ability to persuade buyers to make a decision, place an order and write a check – right now – accelerates transactional velocity, allowing their company to generate more revenue in a given time period.
Economists refer to “transaction costs” which are often the same no matter the size of the sale. Absorbing many of those costs is often one of the salesperson’s most important tasks. They make sure that all the paperwork is completed correctly, payment is made and services are delivered on time and in the correct configuration. They get the customer up and running quickly with their new purchase and make sure as much of the potential value that was touted ahead of time is actually realized.
So there you have it: my theory on what makes Sales The World’s Most Valuable Profession. What’s your take?
If you’d like some help building The World’s Greatest Sales Team for your firm, give me a call.
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