A professional sales career is founded on ethics, caring and service.
Therefore, a professional salesperson must be well schooled in how to utilize these qualities to build lasting client relationships.
Most sales literature and training today focuses almost exclusively on closing the sale.
Sales trainers pay lip service to identifying customers' needs and building long-term relationships and downplay the importance of these goals in achieving the sale itself. Unfortunately, this distorts the entire sales process.
To serve the customer, and to maximize your own success, the sale must be considered one step -- an important one, but nevertheless, only one step -- toward establishing long-term relationships with satisfied, well-served clients.
Today's competitive marketplace is forcing companies to scale back costly sales operations, leaving room only for top performing salespeople.
The seller's market that existed for many years has become a buyer's market. Companies don't need salespeople to take orders; they need salespeople who can sell. Incompetent salespeople are becoming unemployed salespeople.
Only the cream-of-the-crop salespeople will remain.
As companies reduce their number of vendors they will look to create partnerships with those they retain. They will turn from salespeople who will not forge such partnerships to those who are invested in helping them succeed.
Ultimately, a salesperson's success will depend on the success of his or her customers. Clients want salespeople who help them solve problems and who enlighten them on ways to improve their business.
Over 12 million people in the United States give themselves the title of "sales professional," yet 80 percent of all sales are made by just 20 percent of those salespeople.
Four out of every five salespeople a customer meets are mediocre and incompetent. Even some of the best in the upper 20 percent are downright ineffective.
Thus, when we talk about true sales professionals, we're talking only about the top 10 percent of salespeople.
The average prospect tends to meet, and subsequently have negative experiences with, the other 90 percent who call themselves "salespeople" but lack the training, skills or interest.
These charlatans aren't really salespeople; they're only pretending to be. As a result, the sales profession has been marred by their unprofessional behavior.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with selling. There is, however, something wrong with the way most people sell -- the negative image that shoddy, untrained salespeople have left in the minds of the general public by unethically manipulating them into buying a product or service that does not fit their needs.
To place yourself in the top 10 percent of salespeople and distinguish yourself as a true sales professional, you must make a paradigm shift -- to see the world of selling in a new way.
A savvy salesperson understands that the old ways of selling don't work and understands that today's corporate environment expects integrity in the sales relationship.
Buyers are demanding more than just a good price; they want honest value for their investment. Today's prospects want salespeople to be honest and upfront, to "tell it like it is."
A successful sales professional is one who chooses to adopt an ethical philosophy -- a win-win attitude of being entirely focused on serving the needs of the customer.
This is the way to transcend the mediocrity of 90 percent of salespeople in the country.
It will help you to grow into an accomplished sales professional capable of creating a solid sense of career continuity in an otherwise tumultuous economic climate.
You have nothing to lose in changing your approach, in creating a sales relationship that is a win-win situation. If serving the customer will ensure that your sales wear well, that you will have more pride in yourself, more fun and increase your profits, can you think of any reason why you shouldn't make the paradigm shift to becoming a sales professional with a win-win philosophy?
Naturally, it's human to be nervous about operating as a sales professional in a changing environment. However, you never need to con or pressure a prospect or do anything against your standards or contrary to your personality.
Instead, focus on creating a solid sales relationship with your customers, where your product or service fills their needs and where your sales increase not as a result of maneuvering, ambushing or tricking your customer, but instead as a result of serving them.
Forthright, empathetic, professional salespeople serve their customers as advisers, counselors and even partners.
It is a helping relationship, similar to the doctor-patient or lawyer-client relationship, and is the key to successful selling.
Thirty-five plus years of sales experience and contacts with thousands of salespeople have convinced me that to succeed, today's salesperson must make the customer's needs primary. If the customer doesn't benefit from a sale, the sale should not take place.
In becoming a true sales professional, you help eliminate the stereotype of a salesperson as an insincere, pushy individual. Instead, you model professional behavior by doing things for the client rather than to the client.
Imagine what it could be like to shed that negative image -- to practice the philosophy and principles that will help you make the right decision every time -- to take pride in your expertise, your professional appearance, your listening skills and your ability to establish a warm, sincere rapport with your prospects.
As a true professional, you can take pride in your work, your human relations skills and your ability to be of service to your prospects and long-term customers.
Think about what it would be like to make a cold call and know you were really going to help someone. Most salespeople walk into a prospect's office with their hands sweating, their heads almost bowed. They walk in apologetically, on the defensive right from the start.
This is because they think they have to sell their prospects on something. A professional salesperson knows that he or she is there to serve, whether the prospect buys or not.
If the prospect buys, the salesperson has been of service. If the prospect truly does not need what the salesperson is selling, then leaving gracefully -- thus leaving a positive impression of what a sales professional truly is -- will be in the prospect's best interest. The salesperson hasn't lost because, either way, he has been of service to the prospect.
If that salesperson were you and you knew you were prospecting with the sole purpose of serving the potential customer, wouldn't you walk into the prospect's office with your head held high?
Wouldn't you feel a sense of pride knowing that you chose to conduct yourself with the highest level of integrity by always placing the needs of your customer first?
Becoming a true sales professional, one who belongs in the top 10 percentile, is about choosing to make the paradigm shift to adopt a win-win philosophy to serve every customer, every time.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.