The World’s Second Oldest Profession – And Why It Affects Every Other Profession

A true personal story…

One time at work we all participated in an innovation campaign. As part of this campaign employees split up into separate teams of 12 to 13 people to come up with an innovative idea. Our mandate was to come up with a Powerpoint presentation of our idea and its applicability as well as a billboard with a catchy headline. The billboard would serve the purpose of advertising.

At the end of the campaign employees all over the company would review each presentation and vote on the best ones.

Very dutifully we came out with what we genuinely believed was a great idea. We spent the last few hours before the submission deadline prettying up the presentation by adding neat animation features, cute grahpics and sound effects!

Almost as an afterthought we spent the last few minutes as the team was breaking up discussing the need to make printouts of the billboard and put it up at key locations.

Looking back, this was a very useful exercise. We learnt a lot from it most of it after we were done with the actual work.

We observed colleagues doing some really innovative things. Some hung up their billboards from the ceilings, some on the covers of coffee cups. Some created lifelike dummies to drive home the message of their presentation. Some put up banners at key locations such as employee entrance into the campus. Many teams practiced email campaigns in which each team member sent out emails to his/her personal contact list urging them to check out their presentation and vote for it. This turned out to be particularly effective as many employees just did not take time out to reveiw the numerous presentations. So the first one that approached them ended up getting all their votes.

We had done none of the above. We fell into the very familiar trap “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your doorstep”. This story was a personal example of the need to sell even in areas you would never associate with selling.

What was galling was that I considered myself to be fairly marketing savvy!

In his book “Lets get real” Mahan Khalsa quotes “Sales is the second oldest profession in the world often confused with the oldest”.

We all know what the oldest profession is, right guys :)

His quote packs quite a bit of meaning. It reveals the hoary past of salesmanship and how integral it is to humanity. But it also shows that no matter how important it is, we look down on the people practicing it. I used to be one myself. I prided myself on my technical expertise and felt that sales was easy, not challening, not cerebral and certainly not fulfilling.

Once I understood the importance of sales I thought I had managed to become quite the sales savvy person. But as the story above proves we need to constantly be on alert lest we slip into our past conditioning.

Selling matters and it matters everywhere.


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