Are you in accounting? You’re in sales. Are you a janitor? Yes, you’re in sales. How about if you’re unemployed? You are especially in sales, then.
That’s the very straightforward message of Todd Cohen’s book, “Everyone Is in Sales,” which forms the basis of a speech he will be delivering to the Princeton Human Resources Management Association’s dinner meeting Monday, June 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $50. For more information, visit www.hrma-nj.shrm.org.
Cohen’s point is that everyone is not literally in sales, but that everyone in a company should be part of building a sales culture. “Everybody in an organization impacts the customer in some way,” Cohen says. “They may not see it, they may not know it right away, but every single person is in sales because they influence the customers’ decisions to ultimately say yes.”
Take the example of a manufacturing company. An accountant who never leaves his cubicle or talks to anyone affects sales if he orders high-quality raw materials at a good price. That helps sales because the salesperson can offer a better product at a better price because of the accountant’s work. A human resources employee helps sales if they hire a great employee who makes the company better, thus improving sales.
“I’ve got 30 years of building and developing sales organizations,” Cohen says. “Some companies look at sales as somebody else’s job. Those are the companies that are consistently mediocre. Gone are those days of being able to say, ‘Hey, sales are not my problem.’”
To Cohen, sales culture means everyone at the company understanding they make a valuable contribution. “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I can’t wait to be overhead,’” Cohen says. “Everybody in an organization should say, ‘What I do counts. What I do matters. What I do really has an impact.’”
If everyone realizes what they are doing impacts customers, they are going to feel better about doing it, feel more engaged, feel more pride, and ultimately do a better job, Cohen says. An employee who thinks like this can get bonuses or job security out of it.
Cohen grew up in Pittsburgh, where his father was a photographer and his mother was a schoolteacher. He got a bachelor’s degree at Temple and started working for Xerox upon graduation. He then went on to work in sales at several other companies, including Thompson-Reuters and Lexis-Nexis.
To Cohen, the idea that everyone is in sales goes beyond the company. When he says everyone, he means everyone. “We’re selling ourselves every day, internally and externally,” he says. In Cohen’s world view, every conversation between two people is a sale: each person is trying to sell something to the other.
Cohen says he first realized this eight years ago when he started his own business as a keynote speaker. Before that, he worked for database company Lexis-Nexis, which had let him go in a downsizing. At first Cohen thought he would just go find another job, but he started giving speeches in the meantime and discovered he was good at it. He also realized that even though he wasn’t in sales anymore, he was still in sales. Everything he said and did had an effect on whether someone would hire him for another speaking engagement. “I realized every single move I made was a selling move. Everything everybody does has a selling component to it. Every conversation counts,” he says.
That’s why people who are unemployed are truly in sales: they have to sell themselves to an employer.
“It’s all about making sure you can sell yourself,” Cohen says. “Your phone is not going to ring miraculously because you’re a nice person. My next book is called, ‘Everyone is in sales, now stop apologizing.’ Stop apologizing for trying to sell yourself. Stop apologizing for the fact that if you want to get ahead. The only way you can do that is by selling yourself.”