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Posted: October 01, 2010

Rundles wrap up: sales pitch

Jeff Rundles


In the transition from summer to fall, I have seen quite an increase in networking. It seems as though people who have found themselves out of work in the recession - and all those college graduates being sent out into an uncertain work world - kicked back for the summer and around Labor Day spruced up the resume and began to make the calls, the LinkedIn connections, and the e-mail introductions.

As a writer for a business magazine I appear to know a lot of potential employers - the traffic for my advice, or at least my connections, has been like I-25 at rush hour. I'm happy to help. I have made calls, sent e-mails, put my name down for a recommendation, and basically done anything I can do to help. For these types of assistance, all of these job-seekers have been very appreciative.

But on the issue of advice I have been less successful, and in my conversations with potential employees I have become flat-out flabbergasted. Not just with the job-seekers, but also with their so-called education.

The reason is simple. I do indeed know quite a few businesspeople, and many who are hiring and even desperate for good people. What they need, however, are people who can sell - and not one of the job-seekers I have come across wants to be in sales.

With older folks, too, but especially with younger people, I have heard this almost to a person: "What I am looking for is a staff, salaried job in management."

Well, I had news for them: First, get in line; everybody with a college degree wants a staff, salaried job in management. Second, in the corporate slaughter of jobs over the last few years those very jobs are the ones that have disappeared.

One of my connections applied for the management training program at a large bank. I asked what he thought that might entail, and when I told him that the people I know in "banking" are, in fact, in "sales," that these "management training" people are selling loans and other bank products, he said, "Oh."

What about a telecommunications company: Except for the engineers who install systems, the CPAs in finance and the receptionist, everyone else is in sales, especially the most senior executives and owners. Website development firm: Except for the developers, pretty much everyone else is in sales. Trade show booth company: nothing but sales. Small-business owners in baking, management consulting, plumbing, anything you can think of, not to mention most people in nonprofits: sales. Unless a person has a particular skill or education - CPA, plumber, physician, dentist, lawyer - and even then in most cases, it's sales, sales, sales.

Ever heard the term "rainmaker?" You can call it "business development" all you want, but it is sales. I have spent my entire career working in the publishing business, and while I always thought I was the most experienced senior manager, no matter what, my boss, and her boss and his boss came out of the sales side of the business. Always. Every senior manager I know in just about any endeavor, and most of the very rich people I know, began their careers knocking on doors, cold calling, shaking hands. Sales.

So here's all these people looking for work in "management" with bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration from CU, DU, CSU and any other college you can name and they all, to a person, turn up their nose at sales. What the hell are they teaching them? American business, particularly as it becomes more and more service-oriented, is run on sales, sales, sales. These business schools should be ashamed of themselves, or do what the CU Journalism School is considering doing: Close up shop and get a clue to what is actually happening in what you are supposed to be training the students for.

No job seeker seems to like my point of view. They must have a sort of Willy Loman phobia.

Too bad. The next great tragedy to be written is likely to be "Death of a Middle Manager."

Maybe I'll pitch that to a publisher. Come to think of it, that would be a "sales pitch."

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at

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Readers Respond

Great article. Everyone likes to have a "stable" paycheck, but few want to be responsible for generating the income that keeps that paycheck coming. As someone who is self-employed, that lesson has come home again and again. Thanks for the article. By K on 2010 10 18
Great job, Jeff. Sales means finding business and new customers. New customers were prospects, and before that leads. It's tough today to find a sales candidate who can stomach taking part of the lead-generation load. They're happy to make sales calls after "marketing" has set the appointments for them. We were all spoiled with the long run of a growing economy. By Les Jones on 2010 10 12
Similar to what George said above, either you are on the expense or revenue side of the business. The expense side is overhead and can easily be eliminated. The revenue side is invaluable and typically controls what is going on. They also make more money. Sales is the cornerstone to any business and especially new businesses. Great article. By Todd on 2010 10 11
I would expand this to say that everyone is in sales. Everyone touches the community that we live in and need to know about great companies. If you aren't selling, you are just overhead, and overhead is being eliminated. By George Tyler on 2010 10 11
Very well said. If we are not selling and providing outstanding client service, there is no growth, and there are no jobs. By Beatriz Bonnet on 2010 10 11
Well said and could not agree more. Sales, sales and more sales. By liz wendling on 2010 10 11

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