The sales field has always been defined by small paradoxes.
It isn’t considered a glamorous profession, and its reputation has only taken more of a hit in the last decade as many sales professionals were the first to lose their jobs in the recession. Yet, an estimated 20% of Fortune 500 CEO’s have years of sales experience, and many will tell you it’s an essential skill for the role.
Something else to consider is that most business schools do not offer traditional sales-management tracks within their curriculum’s, and in fact, there is an ongoing debate as to whether sales professionals need to receive an MBA at all.
Nevertheless, the occupation is consistently referred to as the lifeblood of business and the industry is expected to grow at a healthy rate over the next decade, particularly in the B2B market, where it is expected to see above average gains. This seemingly would make it an attractive path for MBA candidates to follow.
Perhaps principally, sales has always been characterized by a laundry list of, at times cut-throat, varying philosophies and methodologies centered around finding success in the vocation. For proof of this, one need only look towards a young-Alec Baldwin in all his aggressively unsympathetic wisdom.
And yet, for all the bells and whistles, the process really can be broken down into two all-encompassing, effective approaches: value based and education based selling.
Value Based Selling
This type of sales technique is defined by your ability to listen to the client and develop an understanding of what makes your offer valuable to them. Once you have this knowledge in hand, the logical next step is to reinforce these reasons by emphasizing the ways in which your product can benefit them specifically.
This is a personal approach to selling which focuses on the needs of the client. In practice, such a technique will allow you to increase the customer’s confidence in your ability to provide them with a good or service that will improve their lives.
Additionally, by gaining the customer’s confidence you will effectively re-frame the sale in a way that will make it less likely for them to back out of the transaction. This idea will be especially useful in B2B scenarios where the driving force behind the sale is typically related to ROI.
Education Based Selling
This technique varies slightly from the value-based method in that instead of discovering what will make your offer valuable to the customer, you allow them discover it for themselves by helping them become more informed.
By focusing your efforts on providing insight into your product or the market itself, you not only increase your client’s interest in the product, but also their trust in you as a reputable voice within the industry.
In fact, salespeople who ask the right informative questions, and who teach their customers by providing unique perspectives on the businesses they’re selling to, often outperform their counterparts who are utilizing different sales approaches.
Revisiting the Other Contradictions
Chief among the remaining debates surrounding sales has to be whether or not an MBA can help someone advance within the industry.
There are many schools of thought regarding this, but some tend to bleed into the argument as to whether pursuing an MBA is worth it at all – let alone if it is necessary for a sales career.
Though perhaps an oversimplification, the basic pros and cons boil down to this:
Getting an MBA – for sales or otherwise – will allow you to leverage a network and transition into a career that for some would not have been possible without this additional education.
The fact remains however, that most traditional sales roles can be had without earning an MBA, and that generally speaking, you can teach yourself many of the above techniques through gaining real world experience – often at a fraction of the cost.
Ultimately however, it’s worth noting that the decision to pursue an MBA should largely be made on a case to case basis, and that your answer might be different depending where you sit on your career arc.
Truly, attaining an MBA in order to advance a sales career can be viewed as a microcosm of the sales industry itself – there are a lot of conflicting opinions, but should you successfully navigate all of them, you will be left with something incredibly valuable.
How to Learn More
While not the primary purpose of the book, The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman explores many of the basic concepts covered within the MBA curriculum and could potentially provide you with a few answers regarding whether pursuing further education is right for you.
Also, while comprehensively covering a multitude of business related topics, Kaufman gives a unique perspective on each of the sales methods discussed above.