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Why Don’t You Just Become A Professional Musician?

July 5, 2016

Hey, Dad, I’m thinking about quitting my job?

You’ve only been there a couple weeks. Why the change?

Well this guy who used work at the restaurant came in today. He’s selling security systems and he’s making $2000 per month. And he’s only sixteen, too. 

Utah is full of people with sales experience. Most young men in the LDS Church go on a two year mission when they are 18. You’ve seen these missionaries. They wear white shirts and ties, with nametags that all have the same first name; Elder. Their entire two years is about engaging with people they’ve never met. The fact that they are teaching religious lessons doesn’t change the fact that what they are doing is very much like selling. 

Like many salespeople, they have a pipeline. They have a method for gathering new contacts. They learn to commit those they teach, called investigators. 

Don’t get me wrong. The message they are sharing is spiritually based and those who commit to join the church, are making a much more important decision than whether to buy a new car, or buy that set of children’s learning DVDs. 

But, the concepts are the same. Those missionaries are from all over the world, but given Utah’s high Mormon population, many of them are from right here in the Rocky Mountains. When they finish their missionary service, they end up back in Utah going to school, starting families and getting jobs. 

There are tons of sales jobs in Utah. We are the headquarters of many Multi-level Marketing, or MLM companies. Young men, and young women, take summer jobs selling around the country for satellite TV services, and security systems, and lawn services, and any number of other door to door sales jobs. 

My son makes slightly better than minimum wage at his job as a cook at a local restaurant. The prospect of $2000 per month is huge for a sixteen year old. and he’d probably be good at it. Not as good as they tell him he could be, but then no one ever is. 

I have friends who work in sales. My experience with sales was very limited. As president of a startup, I convinced 10 companies to put a 50% down payment on the software we were writing. The software was $10,000 per copy. My brother, a brilliant marketer asked me,

So, you sold software that didn’t exist yet and you got people to pay you $5,000 for it?

Apparently, I’m good at sales. I’m not in sales though. I have nothing against it, but it’s not my comfort zone. And it’s that way for many people. But, I’ve seen a tendency, especially among young people just starting out in business, to get excited about the “limitless” commissions. You set your own salary, right? You can earn an amount equal to the amount you want to work. 

My son didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t in sales. 

You just talk to people. It’s literally not that hard.

That’s the attitude that makes whole generations of Girl Scouts feel guilty for not selling more boxes of cookies. It’s the attitude that makes grade school kids uncomfortable when they realize they are not going to sell enough popcorn, or cookie dough, to get the bike. They don’t realize that no one ever gets the bike. 

But, how do you convince a young person that everyone is not a natural salesperson? How do you make them feel okay with the fact that they would rather go to the dentist and take a midterm exam at the same time than talk to a stranger about buying a chocolate bar? 

Aren’t they just being too afraid, and they should get over it?

All of my kids play musical instruments. They sing, or play the piano, trumpets, clarinets, flutes and a couple I’ve forgotten. They understand the more they practice the better they get. They also understand that it’s a skill and that some are more gifted than others.

Sales is like music.

There is nothing about the selling process that resembles learning to play the piano, except maybe practice. But the idea that some people have an affinity for music, is a concept that my kids can understand. 

Some people have an affinity for sales. They are natural salesmen and women. And that’s great, because we need salespeople. But, just because my friend went into sales, loved it and made a ton of money, I don’t need to feel bad. I don’t need to feel like there is something wrong with me because I don’t relish the idea of earning my living off commission. I can watch a talented musician and I understand what what he’s doing on the piano. But, just because I understand it, doesn’t mean I can replicate it. 

My son, started to get it. I could see the realization as he considered the idea that sales is simply another skill. Some are good at it. Some can become good at it. And some should stick to making tortillas at the restaurant. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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