Everyone Lives by Selling Something

If you work in the financial services business, you are likely in sales.  Put another way, your job security is far greater on the revenue side of the equation.  Yet some friends might look down on you because you “are in sales.”  You sell securities.  You sell insurance.  They are implying it’s a job, not a profession, like theirs.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous 19th century author of classics like “Treasure Island” made the observation: “Everyone lives by selling something.”  That moves the goalposts.  It’s a game changer.  “But you are a salesman” now becomes “We are all salesmen. “(or women.)

Let’s look at a few examples.  We would all agree financial advisors, insurance agents and real estate brokers are in sales.  Now let’s look at some other professions.

Lawyers.  We might put Perry Mason on a pedestal, but the TV series “Boston Law” introduced the concept of “How much business does he (or she) bring in” as a criterion for partnership.  People good at it are revered as rainmakers.  Lawyers often advertise on TV.

Doctors.   Sales is a little different here.  Because of health insurance, they might not need to beat the bushes for clients, although referrals are also part of the business.  Their sales job is convincing patients they need to change their behavior to live a longer life.

Accountants.  They need to compete to win contracts from business clients.  They need to make the case why an individual is better off paying to work with a professional vs. preparing and filing their own taxes online.  They must show how they add value.

Priests and religious.  Their congregation represents a regular audience, but they seek to grow their flock.  They need to give compelling sermons to keep people coming back.  They need to get people to change their behavior, swapping bad habits for good ones.  They need to raise money to run the parish.

Politicians.  That one’s easy.  Members of the House of Representatives are up for reelection every two years.  It’s been said they start running for reelection the day after they take office.  This costs money.  They need to fundraise.

Charities.  You might think people give because the cause is noble.  That’s true to a degree, but they must compete with many other noble causes going after the same dollar.  There isn’t one charity per category.  In a sector like cancer research, there are multiple charities along with hospitals competing for the donor’s dollar.

Parents.  They raise their children and try to guide them towards making the right decisions such as earning good grades, staying out of trouble, choosing a good career and making life choices.  All this requires persuasion.

Bankers.  Banks represent savings, but they also extend credit.  Credit card companies fit into this category too.  Banks promote home equity lines of credit for home improvements.  They try to make borrowing as attractive as possible for people they consider good risks.

Teachers.  They are in sales because they need to encourage students to learn when they would rather be doing something else.  They need to make the case why a subject a student considers irrelevant and difficult (like geometry) will have applicability later in life.

TV news anchors.  We operate on a 24-hour news cycle funded by commercial advertising.  Their object is to keep you on their channel, or get you to come back often.  You watch commercials.  A certain number of viewers statistically buy things.  The higher the viewership, the more they can charge.  How important is commercial advertising?  According to Quora.com, the average 30-minute American TV show includes 8 minutes of advertising. (1)

Hair stylists.  “There’s no such thing as natural beauty.” was one of the first lines in the play and movie “Steel Magnolias.”  Enough said.

Drug companies.  How many commercials start with the words “Ask your doctor about...”

Personal trainers at the gym.  They need to be encouraging, show you are making progress.  You are paying by the session or group of sessions.  They want you to keep coming back.

Military recruiters.  They need soldiers.  They are selling the military as a career, job training or help for paying for college.

Non-profit development staff.  In many cases, they are selling immortality.  People want their name to live on after them.  Having your name on a museum or hospital wing achieves that objective.  It comes with a price tag.

You can probably think of many other professions that involve persuading people to take action or spend money.  Everyone lives by selling something.  It’s a noble profession.

(1)  https://www.quora.com/How-many-commercials-are-in-an-hour-of-tv  

Related: Why Short Term Trading Is Not Investing