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Can Sales Be Taught? If So, To What Extent?

Can Sales Be Taught?


Running a sales and marketing recruiting firm, I am consistently interacting with hiring clients looking for sales personnel, as well as dealing with sales job seekers of all levels in conjunction with training my own team on the best business development and marketing practices.


Even though we have multiple divisions in my company – one which is geared more towards selling while one is for the more analytical personality – everyone is taught sales and marketing within the organization.


After doing so for 5+ years, I have come to the conclusion that sales and marketing can be taught to an extent by an outside party (outside party being anyone other than the individual learning), or can definitely be self-taught, but still many of the skills necessary for sales or marketing success are given to us at birth and during the early formation of our personalities, thus making harder for those not given the aforementioned gift to catch up.


Why Can Sales Not Be Fully Taught?


Nobody other than the aspiring business development representative can fully teach another person sales simply because one of the biggest barriers to sales success is coming out of one’s skin – something only one can do for oneself.


Conversely, for anyone to want to learn something, there must be some sort of internal motivator and, even if sales could be fully taught, if the teacher does not have a receptive student, they can only go so far.


How Can Sales Be Partially Taught?


When teaching someone business development tactics, the teacher must not focus on things such as memorizing a scripted pitch. Rather, the teacher should focus on the sales representative learning the business, concerns and motivators of the target market.


Rebuttals will always remain unheard if the target customer does not respect the business acumen of the sales representative and they will not give heed to what the sales representative says unless the sales representative knows what he or she is saying.


I have found that the best way to train sales representatives is with patience, formal sales training that is organized as well as collaborative, and with a training program that not only allows mistakes, but encourages them as well.


In The End


Train as you must, if the business development professional is not eager to learn sales and does not have his or her heart in it, there is only so much magic one can work.



Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement executive recruitment and staffing.  


The Symbiotic Relationship Between a Sales and Marketing Team

While sales and marketing are vastly different from one another, the two are more reliant on one another than just about any other two facets within an organization.


For instance, you could have the best sales representatives in the country, but without marketing support, their efforts will only produce a fraction of what they could.


For organizations that have only so high of a recruiting budget, choosing between one or the other can be difficult and often confusing. However, you’re not alone.


Here is some insight as to whether a sales or marketing hire is best for your organization and how to approach combining the two positions.


How Sales and Marketing Differ


While many believe sales and marketing is one and the same, they are correct to an extent, however the job of a marketing employee is a lot different than the job of a sales representative.


For instance, sales representatives will make cold-calls, send out mass emails, attend client meetings and trade shows while the marketing professionals, in most organizations are the ones that make sure that the sales representatives have the marketing material behind said cold-calls and positive image behind those mass emails so that once they reach the recipient, that potential customer can visit a website that is informative, appealing and that clearly expresses the message that the organization is trying to get out.


Therefore, a typical day for a sales representative may be researching potential clients while the marketing representative will be figuring out best practices for generic search engine optimization so those potential clients can find the sales representatives as well.


The Importance of Sales and Marketing Working Together


Sales needs to listen to marketing as much as marketing representatives need to listen to their business development counterparts. It is the job of a sales manager to report to the marketing team regarding how clients are responding to a particular campaign and regarding what objections they are coming across which could / should be addressed in the company’s marketing material or directly on their website.


All too often, the marketing team launches a particular marketing campaign only to be told something isn’t working, yet subsequently ignore the sales team’s warnings that the clients are not responding positively.


Therefore, one can assume that the marketing team does not work for the sales team or vice versa, rather they must work together to get the most effective message out to the prospective client.


A One Man Recruiting Team – Finding Employees as an Entrepreneur

What You Need to Know:


Budget – It may seem unfair, but in the world of recruiting, the poorer companies tend to have to pay more for good employees.


Why? When a solid employee is on the market, chances are that you are not going to be the only company they are speaking to.


While you believe in your company 200%, the interviewee is not an entrepreneur; they are employees who are possibly concerned with the risks associated with being unemployed again as a result of your company going under.


The thought that an employee would not love my firm as much as I do used to baffle and anger me, but I got used to the fact that nobody will ever care as much.


To mitigate any worries they may have, I recommend that you make a competitive offer (meaning offer more than what you think that individual is going to be given by another firm) and go higher rather than undercut the person in order to see whether they will negotiate – a move that can put you right back to square 1.


Conversely, don’t grossly overpay the person. It will stress you out, thus stressing them out, thus hindering their output for your company, thus serving as a waste of money and time training that individual.


Don’t Pitch Stock Options or Equity – The whole point of entrepreneurship is to own a successful company with a multitude of employees.


Thus, giving it away to your 1st employee sort of defeats all the work you’ve just completed to get to this stage.


Also, “entrepreneurs” call my office all the time asking if they can get away with not paying someone a base salary, but instead give them part of the company.


This is always followed by a hugely inflated worth of the person’s firm / idea. Not only do I intuit the inflation – any job seeker will as well.


Keep the relationship strictly “employer” and “employee” not “instant business partner.” You’re looking for someone to work at your company not someone to go to court with in the next few years.


Employee Retention via a Pool Table: Recruiting in the Internet Realm

Employee Retention via a Pool Table: Recruiting in the Internet Realm


I don’t know who did it first – whether it be Microsoft, Google, etc., but the moment a pool table was put into one of those offices, recruiting in the internet realm it became nearly impossible for the small guys to recruit and even harder for the employees of the big guys to leave.


Yes. Compared to any other office I know of or have been to, Google’s office (I was only at one) was much cooler than the average company.


Free lunch, scooters, religious meetings, laundry, massages, billiards, etc.; as I said, much cooler.


However, what started out as probably a fun thing (in 1996), would have profound effects on employee retention within these firms and the day that pool table was delivered, was the day that the small guys in the internet realm lost half their recruiting initiatives.


Why is this so?


Google, Facebook, etc. are now known for being the pinnacle places to work in the internet world. Forget about them being the best, it has to do with them treating their employees to the most perks….and the most expensive perks.


Therefore, if small internet business wanted to recruit from Google, they would be looking to pay up to 50% over the market because they are not only having to buy someone from the giant, they have to pay for his lunch and laundry, too.


You can also add on another 10% towards the end of the negotiation process because the prospective employee will get cold feet because all the lunches, pool games, late nights at the office, etc. turned into not only work for the person, but their social life as well.


As an employer trying to retain employees, of course you want a “campus.”


Because when you leave “campus,” you leave your friends and life behind and, for what – a hit or miss smaller internet firm?


What people don’t understand:


It’s not the pool table or the scooters (which – who the heck is going to roll around on a scooter all day anyway?), it’s the ability to brag that you have those in your office.


Therefore, these internet companies were smart enough to not only make their employees psychologically dependent on perks that really are not used too often, but those employees go and brag about them.


Of course there are unhappy employees there.


Where there is a job, there is an unhappy employee (even Elvis supposedly hated his boss).


However, the management of these firms is a lot happier than their smaller competition who can’t afford a billiards room nor 15 stations of pasta and, at day’s close, so are the employees.



The Fight That Is Young Entrepreneurship

In order to be successful any entrepreneur has to have an undying drive to not only sculpt his or her vision, but regardless of barriers and other outside forces, implement it.


When it comes to creating this vision, it’s not the most intelligent who wins; it’s who is willing to go toe to toe with the most intelligent and do the necessary work to beat them.


Doing so gets especially tricky when you are much younger and thus less experienced (and maybe less funded) than your competition.


1. It’s Not “I Believe I Can”, It’s “I Believe I Deserve It” – successful entrepreneurship at a young age starts and becomes successful at the point where the young entrepreneur realizes that if he or she doesn’t do it, someone else will.


Where the young entrepreneur falls short in experience, he must make up with ego. At first, this mentality can seem daunting for younger business owners, however that is because it is a different way of thinking that becomes habitual; that should become habitual.


2. Goals Higher Than Anyone Has Achieved – when an inexperienced small business owner enters an industry, nobody pays attention.


As a matter of fact, people immediately write them off.


It is for this reason that he or she has an advantage – if and only if they set their goals higher than not only their previous ambitions, but rather set their sights on dominating their respective industry.


While this a long climb, the ascent, when taken step by step is as challenging as it is fun and lucrative.


3. Reliability On Oneself – I’ve learned from experience that if the small business owner does not do a particular task him or herself, it won’t get done properly…period.


Many aspiring business owners feel that they should use their strengths when, phrased more properly, they should continue to expand on them.


Since I’ve started my company, I’ve had to learn things that I never thought I would and the work load is intensive, but I know that having someone else do it properly is too expensive and being able to dabble in multiple parts of my business not only makes me a better CEO, it kills the mundane feeling of a corporate job.


4. Resiliency Separates the Business Owners from the Resume Writers – when you successfully penetrate an industry, especially as a young entrepreneur, you are going to ruffle some feathers.


Unfortunately, instead of improving their own business, many times people will attempt to knock you off your game.


They figure you’re young and can be manipulated much easier. When my company started to become known in the industry, I received hate mail from time to time. Though, this drove me to further succeed. Getting knocked down is something that happens to all of us.


However, know that it happens to those who want to become successful more than it does to others. In the end, those who relentlessly and, thus successfully pursue their dreams are the ones who learn to get up and keep on going. As a young entrepreneur, you’re not alone, but remember that you are your own best friend.


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3 Things That I Would Never Thought I Would Have to Do to Get My Business Off the Ground

3 Things That I Would Never Thought I Would Have to Do to Get My Business Off the Ground



I feel that the biggest difference between successful entrepreneurs and the ones who blog about their business all day (me being the latter) is not intelligence nor dedication: it’s the willingness to put yourself out there via focusing on achieving a goal and doing everything possible to achieve it.


This perseverance, which eventually turns into resiliency (a key component of business success), comes about despite the fact that I would put myself in situations that were above my head, but somehow managed to swim, since I considered it my only option (another necessity for successful entrepreneurial endeavors).


With that being said, here are 5 that came to mind:


1) dot-edu links for Google ranking – Trying to figure out a cost effective way to advertise and get business to come to me when I was starting out, I began to study how Google works in order to get my website to rank higher in what are referred to as “S.E.R.P’s” – a fancy acronym for how highly you rank on the first page when some Googles a relevant term.


Part of the way that Google works is that they like other sites to reference your site via links.  Google holds accredited colleges’ and universities’ websites in higher esteem than your average site.


Therefore, I think I called about 600 universities to get my company listed on their site, only to be approved by a mere 6.  This meant that over 550 career center people deemed my expertise to be not worthy – a swimmingly good feeling.


The best was when the Penn career center would not put me on their recruiter list even though my brother is a donor to the school which sort of stung.



a) Though, nothing compared to _____ (public university in Virginia) who not only denied me, but completely tore apart my little company which I was so proud of.


Frustrated and wanting to prove to these people that I was just as good as the 100 other recruiting firms listed on their site, I preceded to answer a comprehensive list of 70 interviewing questions which comprised about 14 pages in Word, only for them to tell me that I was not a fit for this random list that probably nobody else looked at.



2) Teaching College – I had this odd preoccupation with how cool it would be to teach a college class without getting a MBA.


Therefore, to get the exposure, I went to the Entrepreneurship Centers of about 150 of the colleges and began cold-calling to see if they wanted guest speakers.


Frustrated that I wasn’t getting anybody’s attention, I eventually called one college and when the assistant to the Dean answered I told her that I disagreed with the Dean’s business views (I was currently in business for about a year at the time), despite not reading them.


Bored or mad at the individual, the woman patched me through to him and I was teaching 3 college classes 3 weeks later.


3) Getting Published – When a mentor of mine, Harvey Cohen, was dying of pancreatic cancer, I had just published my first article on some little unknown site.  The last time I saw Harvey, I promised him that I would get into the NY Times.


I’ve never been someone of too much finesse when trying to achieve really lofty goals like this because finesse doesn’t get people moving.


A year later, I had the article “When You Find a Mentor Like Harvey Cohen” in the WSJ, AOL, NY Times, Business Insider, FUSE, USA Today and a bunch more.


A promise is a promise and the best takeaway from this article is that I made not only a promise to Harvey, but to myself to continue to set goals that were higher than the ones I had currently achieved and not allow my own self conscience or ego stop me.

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How Entrepreneurship Should Be Taught to Younger Generations

How Entrepreneurship Should Be Taught to Younger Generations


I took one of my interns out to lunch today and during, he preceded to tell me what types of businesses students proposed opening during college and which ones he was impressed by.


As he proceeded to go down the list, the ideas just got wackier and remained as unrealistic as they did immature.


It’s not a huge deal and entrepreneurship is about thinking and weighing business options as well as being fun, but where failure lurks in a business plan, professors need to be more candid that these plans will, ultimately not work (or have significant odds against the business owners).


Who’s fault is it?


It’s about 50 / 50, 1/2 falling on the professors and the other 1/2 the students.

How should entrepreneurship be taught?

Entrepreneurship needs to be taught in a realistic sense based on if the young entrepreneur can sell the product, not invent something and hope it goes gangbuster, thus selling itself.

Therefore, when choosing a business, the aspiring entrepreneurs need to be confident that they can sell the product or service as well as determine who they are going to approach and what they are going to say once in contact with these targets.

An entrepreneurial concept must not be based on getting VC backing b/c the odds of that are so astronomically low and, when the aspiring entrepreneur does get their backing, the business is pretty much taken away from them because venture capital firms turn young entrepreneurs into employees.

The following should be touched upon:

1. Who you are going to sell to (not companies, but specific people or divisions within those companies).

2. How you are going to get to them (remember, the product is not going to do it for the young entrepreneur; the person must).

3. What is your pitch going to be.

When I first formulated my pitch for my company, I wrote it down hundreds of times, adjusting it as I would say it to the prospect as well as mull it over in my head.

Without verbal communication, an idea, by definition simply remains an idea or a tree that fell in the forrest only to prove it does not make a sound.

4. What type of visuals are going to be given to the prospects?

I am convinced that you can not be an entrepreneur unless you know how to program and formulate a website based on persuasion factors.

Here’s the problem.

You can have someone else program your site for you, but they are going to charge you more than it’s worth and every time you want to update that site, you’re in the hole for about $120.

*When I say cannot, I mean that there are exceptions, but they are so few and far between that you can’t teach an entire class based on what 1 person (probably less on average) can pull off.

5. What type of written material is the young entrepreneur complimenting the above with?

After the majority of clients speak with a business owner, they want something tangible that they could go back and give to the decision maker.

If poorly written, forget about how good #1-4 is; it won’t work.

This is just a beginning, but I would approach teaching an entrepreneurship class as described above.

For one thing, you’d see a dramatic drop in the number of inflatable beer pong table companies.




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