Teaching Sales in School is Like Learning to Golf on the Wii

I’d like to thank Phil for sending this link along to me today.

The article, “Can College Teach You to Sell?”, has its pros and cons.  Let’s start with the good stuff.

They’re finally teaching sales in school – yeah!  And even more surprisingly, kids are actually taking the classes – yeah again!  Why surprisingly? How many of your salespeople selected, as their primary career choice, sales?

Kids get a sense that selling is an honorable profession!  This post, from November of 2008, demonstrates each of the last two points – kids don’t choose sales because, well, they don’t believe it’s honorable.

Kids are getting a sense of what selling really means, that it’s not really about presenting and  strong-arming people into buying things.  Hooray!  And perhaps they do have a better sense of what’s in store for them when they accept their first sales position.

How about the cons?

Can you teach them what rejection really feels like in a classroom?  Then how can they overcome it?

There were several factually incorrect statements in the article.

Turnover, in some industries, is not as high as 30%.  Turnover, in some industries, is higher than 100%!

It does not take 18-24 months for companies to break even across the board.  It depends on the compensation, the length of the sales cycle, the length of the learning curve, and the candidate’s experience – not in the industry, but in the marketplace.  Additionally, some candidates do ramp-up much more quickly than others – if you select the right ones.  Objective Management Group not only recommends strong, hirable candidates, but they can even identify those that will ramp up more quickly than others!

In my experience, learning sales before you’ve sold is like learning to play golf on the Wii.  You can become quite good in theory, but watch what happens when you put real clubs of different lengths and feel, in play with real bunkers, water, rough, up-hill, down-hill and side-hill lies.  There’s nothing like the real world.

That said, it has always been my preference to NOT train brand-new salespeople until they have been in the field and gotten beat up for at least 60 days.  Then the training means something.  Until then, it’s simply theory.

What do you think about teaching sales in college?