Can Sales Save America?

Last Updated Apr 15, 2008 10:41 AM EDT

Dollar United States
I just received a DVD of a fascinating new PBS documentary, "The NEW Selling of America," which claims that America's best hope for a better economic future lies in our ability to generate better sales professionals. Here's an excerpt from the promotional materials:
In the 1960s, the United States dominated the world economy. Today our share of the pie has shrunk to less than 25 percent. The global marketplace has undergone enormous changes. Are we keeping up?
The U.S. is no longer the manufacturing powerhouse it once was. Low cost Asian manufacturers offer high quality products at lower prices. Some industry experts believe our expertise in selling is crucial for us to continue to compete in an increasingly difficult global marketplace.
"The New Selling of America," goes to boardrooms, sales meetings and college classrooms to discover what business experts, corporate executives and educators are doing to make America more competitive by professionalizing sales.
The DVD focuses on education, training and degree programs, but I'm more interested in the basic economic premise. Bi-partisan support of free trade has gutted our manufacturing sector and is now cleaning out high tech, which is rapidly exporting design and engineering jobs overseas. Business-minded pundits (most of whom have been enriched by the process) insist that it's all for the best. Maybe this is what they mean -- that the United States will become the uber-traders of the world economy.

The vision of a million sales professionals riding to the rescue of the U.S. economy is undeniably appealing, but I can't help but wonder whether this vision of America's future doesn't position the United States as a replaceable middleman. After all, the great trading empires of the past (like the Dutch Empire and the British Empire) were also major manufacturers. If the U.S. doesn't design things or make things but only sells items designed and made elsewhere, I'm not sure we'll have a sustainable business model.

What do you guys think?

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