Everyone should learn sales

I share some thoughts on why you should learn sales. Especially if you work in the tech industry.

“Hard” skills and “soft” skills

Broadly speaking, people’s skills fall into two areas: “hard” skills and “soft” skills.
People use hard skills to produce things, such as a mathematical model predicting snowfall in Washington. Because hard skills are quantifiable (I can weld X horseshoes in Y amount of time), the development of one’s hard skills is also quantifiable (this year I can weld Z% more horseshoes than I did last year).

Hard skills are best appreciated by others who possess similar hard skills. This is because they have also spent years training and developing those hard skills too. Unfortunately, this also means that most people cannot properly evaluate hard skill contributions. While anyone can have an opinion on a final product created with hard skills, only others with the same hard skills will deeply understand the technical effort, breakthroughs, and progress made.

This means that there is a gap between individuals who possess hard skills and everyone else. Luckily, people who have hard skills can use their soft skills to bridge that gap.

Everyone has soft skills

You can’t create anything with only your soft skills. For example, you cannot write a piece of code by being persuasive. You cannot build a table by being charismatic. Soft skills are qualitative and vary from person to person.

Whereas not everyone possesses hard skills, everyone possesses soft skills. Thus, the barrier to entry for feeling like a soft skills expert is quite low or even non-existent. Everyone thinks that they know how to judge and evaluate others, and everyone feels like their judgments and evaluations are correct (at least to some degree).

Why you should learn sales

Soft skills are actually really valuable, though. People use soft skills to motivate others who have hard skills to create and build things they would not have otherwise. I call this the “ability to sell”. The ability to sell is, for the reasons above, one of the most undervalued skills in Silicon Valley.

Most people in Silicon Valley are highly technical and are not interested in developing any sales abilities. Most technical people think the barrier to entry is too low (anyone can sell things, but not anyone can write a highly complex piece of software), so they aren’t interested.

Thus a really valuable skill you should build, especially in a highly technical environment like Silicon Valley, is the ability to sell. You should learn sales because you’ll be able to stand out. You’ll be able to beautifully and effectively sell your vision of the world to other smart people and convince them to work with you on fun problems.

Postscript

While great sales ability can get you really far, it is crucial that the sales are actually based on some sort of reality. Infamous scam artists such as Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) or Billy McFarland (Fyre Festival) reached the heights of success because of their incredible sales ability. Eventually everything exploded, but at one point, they did create billions of dollars in value based on thin air!