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To Create a Job, Make a Sale
Economic growth doesn’t come from Washington. It’s built one customer at a time
When Pat Hughes was a salesman for Employee Benefits Plans Associates in Hampton, N. H., his job was to convince his prospects to self-insure their basic health-care costs, and then let his company provide the needed claims services on a per-employee basis. His Third Party Administration business grew rapidly. Each new account required the addition of more service people at EBPA to work with new clients.
Hughes not only created jobs; his company had to add temporary buildings to house all the new people. At one point, the premises looked like one of those elementary schools with a half-dozen portable classrooms connected to the main facility.
Five or six million American sales professionals get up each business morning to spend their days driving the growth of our economy by selling new business, which spawns yet more jobs—those dedicated to producing the goods and services to fulfill customer orders. Three trillion dollars’ worth of gross domestic product is fueled in this way, one sale at a time. (Initial jobless claims rose by 10,000 the week before last, the highest number in several months.) The nation’s salespeople must make more calls and close more sales to attempt to turn this tide yet again.
Selling new business is what creates jobs. Our economy’s not a weather front that passes overhead while we wait for sunshine or brace for a storm. It’s a gigantic, manmade enterprise that creates wealth and jobs in direct proportion to the rate of development of new businesses.
But, too often, we’re led to believe in a fairy tale: that the president, Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman can go to their offices and flip switches that somehow will turn the U.S. economy on (or up, or down) and create jobs.
The tale continues thus: The companies then make profits, put them in the bank or pay them out as dividends to shareholders. And then, if the companies are not too greedy, on occasion they might buy some new equipment. Finally, the tale ends when, out of the goodness of their hearts, they add a few jobs.
Not All Inventors Sit in Research Labs
“Nothing happens ’til somebody sells something,” was the motto of the late Arthur “Red” Motley, onetime chairman of Parade magazine. He sold the advertising that moved the goods of his time.
It is as true today as it was then that, in order to thrive, sales professionals have to be as imaginative as the inventors of the products and services they sell. By creating the desire for new products and services in their customers, salespeople create jobs and wealth.
Before you can consider profit and loss, of course, you must first deal daily with revenue and expenses. You forecast revenues and then budget your expenses accordingly. You then must generate revenues and control expenses to produce the earnings.
The last thing most companies want to do is add people—because people are still the most costly component of business. Companies add to their payrolls only when increasing sales drive them to it. The engine that drives growth and job increases has always been rising sales.
The Knock-On Effect(s) of Knowledge
Sales professionals are the ultimate knowledge workers in our society. They listen to what their target account is trying to accomplish. They also tell their prospects what others have been able to achieve with the goods and services being proffered.
If common goals are found, the two sides might then agree to take some risks together and move a new product or service successfully into circulation. (Trusting business relationships are critical to business and economic progress.) Economists can tell us about the results of such activity, but they must recognize the causal relationship of sales to jobs to wealth creation if they want to offer valuable analysis or policy judgments about economic growth.
The price of oil or onions is of importance only to those in the petrochemical field and those selling vegetables. Everyone else can make minor adjustments to changing prices of oil or gas by doing with less energy. Or if the prices of cabbage or cucumbers get out of hand, they can go without salad.
Tax incentives and the cost of money are factors, but the driving force is the chance of future gain. Encouraging clients to take that chance is what salesmen must do, often against great odds. For example, almost daily, they must overcome the doom and gloom being forecasted by the nightly TV news anchors.
Conversely, each morning, to get business moving, sales professionals must establish the good news they hope to spread in order to win the contracts that will keep them—the salespeople—in business and the economy humming. They sell the hope of future gain, cost reductions, or profits, against the caution and wait-and-see attitude engendered by the talking heads of the evening before.
This is what gives birth to jobs—a promise of reward for risk. Few clients will take risk without good reason, and good reasons are what sales agents must provide. They must work vigorously, too, against that well-known international company, “Status Quo Inc.”
In down times, sales professionals must work harder with a smaller return on the effort invested. They have to make more calls to set up more meetings, to gather more information to put more deals on the table. Risk aversion and caution will reduce the number of deals that close. Minor bad news delivered 24/7 has major economic impact.
Harder to Drive Than an 18-Wheeler
In business, the hardest number to drive upward always has been the sales line of the income statement. But when that number finally rises, everything else follows. And only then can new products or services be developed, new facilities built and new jobs created.
Not every sales proposal will work; that’s the variable in the dynamic. There is nothing as frustrating as an idea whose time has not yet come. Yet on occasion, an idea can be brought to the light of day, after great effort—and if it’s cleverly conceived and executed, a new concept, a new approach or a new product results that rewards its creators handsomely.
This is how our system works: As new sales are created and new jobs result, the old order slowly changeth—and the new order must be joined in order to assure survival. It is not quite Darwinian evolution, but it is close enough to keep us all on our toes, and constantly talking to the in-the-field salespeople that are out there, acting as the eyes and ears of our economy, as well as its drivers.
A Dynamo Grows One Client at a Time
Pat Hughes adjusted to the changing times of the group health-care marketplace. After becoming sales manager and eventually president of EBPA, he has moved on to found W.P. Hughes & Co., his own group benefits agency, to offer different approaches to the challenges his new customers face. He’s now a consultant in the group health-insurance field, and a licensed insurance broker.
After he won his first new account, he had to hire an inside person to respond to his clients’ needs. A job was created. He went back into the field and convinced a former associate that it was time to upgrade his company’s health-benefits package. Similarly, a former vice president of Fleet has started a new bank in Worcester, Mass., that offers more individually-tailored services than the behemoth banks. New jobs created so far: about 50. Additional jobs are being created one new client at a time, as new ways of solving business problems are being developed. All this is slow going. Creating jobs is hard work. Creating confidence is even harder, but it’s key to driving sales, profits and the need for additional people to get what’s being sold out the door.
Our economy does it better than any economy in human history, but we still do it one sales call at a time. We win some, we lose some and some are postponed but those in sales are out there every business day doing their best to create jobs. When the next monthly payroll numbers are reported, remember where those jobs came from and who made them happen.
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JACK FALVEY is a freelance business writer living in Manchester, N.H. He is founder of MakingTheNumbers.com, a best-practices advisory firm for sales professionals.
Editorial Page Editor Thomas G. Donlan receives e-mail at
January 17, 2005