How I hacked my education to rise above the competition
Very seldom when I speak with a college student and ask what they are studying does he or she say, “I’m studying sales.” I may be a bit biased, but I find the lack of that response (or some version of it) disheartening and I can’t help but wonder whether students are turned off by their perceptions of sales. What I find even more interesting is that when I speak with a person who is a little further along in a career or business venture, he or she often says, “I wish I’d learned more about how to grow revenue when I was in college.” It makes sense that people who are a little further along would want to know about the art of selling. After all, profitable revenue generation is what keeps businesses alive and enables them to thrive. I think it is fair to say that a way to be indispensable and rise above the competition is to be really good at growing a book of business.
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Much of being highly effective at whatever career you choose is about getting on-the-job experience. Nothing beats the experience of surviving the ups and downs of sales. However, I believe that there are a few areas of study that can set us up with a solid foundation for success in revenue generation.
When I first entered university, I came close to following a path of hard sciences. However, thanks to the hours I spent playing cards and ping-pong in the student center, I failed miserably at science. However, one subject did capture my attention—psychology. I immediately fell in love with how the mind operated and what motivated people. I became intrigued with human relations and learned much of the theories related to it in psychology class. I also credit psychology with forcing me to reflect more about myself and my motivations. It planted the seeds of personal development and the idea that, with focus, I could improve myself.
After my two years of general studies, during which I completed thirteen psychology courses, I decided that the best way for me to monetize my passion for psychology was to pursue a business degree. I was far from extroverted, but I realized early that in order to be effective I needed to be able to present my ideas. So, I enrolled in electives that required me to step outside my comfort zone, including classes that involved group work and presentations. Marketing and Communication, in particular, was beneficial, because it taught me both why people buy and how to present to groups of people. The presentations were recorded and critiqued. I made a conscious effort to improve each time I presented.
In my opinion, the college major that applies most closely to sales is entrepreneurship. For a sales professional, most days are clean slates. Each day is important, and the effort put in today determines the level of success in the months to come. Like entrepreneurship, sales involves bootstrapping and trying new things to see which work. Very seldom are sales professionals given exact formulas for success.
This skill may not be found in any particular course of study at college. But when I review my contact list and identify who is doing well in revenue generation, I see a high correlation between success and social activity. Now, I am not suggesting that you become the university beer rep (although they seem to know everyone). However, realizing early on that your network of connections is your number one asset and treating that network with respect is a smart decision. I graduated from university nineteen years ago and am still in regular contact with at least twenty of my fellow commerce graduates. I meet a number of them for lunch every couple of months, and we have each other’s backs. Take advantage of opportunities in college to build and grow your network.
This is the formula that I used to become a revenue generator.
Did you hack your education to lay the foundation for what you are doing today? I welcome you to share your story in the comments below.
About Chris Spurvey
I write books and help entrepreneurs and sales professionals feel and act more confident as they sell their product or service. I am the best-selling author of It's Time to Sell: Cultivating the Sales Mind-Set. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on sales and personal branding.
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