SECRET SKILL. HIDDEN CAREER – where did it all begin? - 10th August 2017

There’s a story behind every book. The introduction to Paul Owen’s forthcoming book tells you his motivation for writing it and why its aims should mean something to us all.

 A life-changing decision

November 2000, London

At the age of thirty-two, I was £26,000 in debt and earning £8,000 a year in a data admin job which gave me no life skills, no career opportunity and no self-esteem. Nine credit card statements arrived on my doorstep each month. The girl with whom I’d recently fallen in love had left me because of the state I was in. I was living for free in a friend’s small back bedroom. Despite having such kind friends and a supportive family, I had never thought my life would turn out like this.

On 5 December 2000, I got a new job. It was a sales job, the kind of role I’d dismissed for years as something for people less able than me. However, it changed my life. I loved it. Four years later, I earned my first ever annual bonus, taking my total earnings that year to more than £100,000.

The point of this story is not to show you my brilliance but my stupidity. I was nothing special, but once I let go of my ignorance and snobbery about sales, I went from being broke to being very well paid and loving my job.

You don’t need to make the mistakes I made, you don’t need to end up in the position I did, but you may need some help to take the next step. That’s what this book is about.

I’d like to teach you to sell, persuade, influence, communicate well. These skills are arguably the most important ones you will ever learn. In any career, you will need them. Do them well and you’re more likely to be successful. Not only will they help your career, I have no doubt they will help your personal life too.

The great shame is that people aren’t taught how to sell. This life-critical skill is not taught in schools, colleges or universities. It’s not available at job centres or any other place people turn for career skills. I know because I’ve been to many of them and asked.

This shortfall in skills training is a blind spot  that I have been known to call a national tragedy, a disgrace, a shocking omission from our education system and our culture. It’s all of those things and more.

Sales is possibly the largest function in business. If a company fails to persuade people to buy its services and products, it fails. Simple. If it succeeds in selling, it has a better than average chance of success.

This book is my attempt to open people’s eyes to the skill of sales. I hope my passion for it will shine through these pages. I hope it helps every reader to do sales better. Where that will take you, nobody knows, but I remain convinced that the best business apprenticeship is a few years in sales. The career it offers should not be hidden from so many people.

First, I’d like to debunk a whole range of myths about sales, because it was those myths that stopped me from considering a job in sales. Then I’ll give you ten great reasons to consider sales as an early step in your career, whatever you choose to do later, and highlight the attributes you’ll need to do it well. Once you understand what sales really is and why it might interest you, I’m going to teach you how to sell in a way that will see clients return to you again and again because they trust you. Selling done properly is about helping people make good buying decisions. I’ll show you how to do that consistently and ethically.

Finally, you’ll discover how many different career paths are available to people who have developed their communication skills to a high level. Two to five years in a sales job not only earns you good money but also teaches you skills that can be applied to any number of lucrative and exciting careers. Dotted throughout this book are real-life stories of successful business people who have either started in sales or built a significant part of their success on their ability to sell. I hope their stories will inspire you.

This book is aimed at anyone looking for career guidance and improved skills. If you don’t go into sales, you’ll still be better equipped to do well in any field. If sales becomes an option by the end, you’ll be well-informed and well-prepared for your first steps. I want this book to change thousands of lives, but a friend reminded me that if it changes just one life for the better, I can be proud of the time I put into it.

I hope that life is yours.

Paul Owen 2017