MT Masterclass: Selling

What is it? Look, I know things are bad right now, but do you really have to ask that? OK - let's get back to basics. Capitalism is about buying and selling: offering something of value that a purchaser is prepared to hand over cash for, where a genuine choice between alternatives exists. Selling is the core competency for a businessperson. And yet how often do the business media talk about it? Do those of us who are not required to make sales calls look down on 'mere' salespeople? Would Sir Alan Sugar have a shinier public image if he didn't bang on about selling all the time?

Where did it come from? First there was barter. Slapping on a bit of woad, we would meet up outside our caves and swap chickens for sheep, wives for cutting tools, and so on. Then came money. Blame the Romans. The cash value of items was established by the forces of supply, demand and competition. And lo, selling became a central part of commercial life. History does not record when the first sales conference ever took place, but I bet the bar did good business. (You see? We just can't help sneering, can we?)

Where is it going? There's more to this than instinct and gut feel. Sales is getting technical. Salespeople are made as much as born. You can get better at selling, if you're prepared to try. Smart companies are investing heavily in better data systems, trying to work out who their most valuable customers are and where future sales are likely to come from. Juicy hospitality and schmoozing won't work on hard-nosed procurement teams. And when so many products and services have become commoditised, proving the value of your offering is more important than ever. Only the best salesmen and women will survive in an environment like this.

Fad quotient (out of 10): Nine, but to you 8.5.

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