Are you automatically a professional because you are a doctor or a lawyer?
I don't believe so. In the same respect, calling yourself a professional salesperson does not make you a professional salesperson.
The definition of a professional is someone who is committed to a calling, who takes the time to obtain the education, training and expertise necessary to do the job in an outstanding manner. An amateur does not invest in him/herself this way. A professional in any profession, be it sales, medicine or law, is different.
A professional also continues to learn his or her trade. Successful salespeople are highly trained and competent. I know many salespeople who have been selling for 20 years. Do they have 20 years of experience? Do they continue to learn and improve their skills? No. They only do the minimum to get by, whatever getting by may mean to them.
It may mean the desire to earn $25,000 to one person or $200,000 to another, yet some salespeople never go beyond monetary considerations. The salesperson who has been selling for 20 years but never improved or learned new skills has one year of experience that is repeated 20 times.
One reason why selling has a negative image is that anyone can call him/herself a salesperson. There is an image problem here. A certified public accountant has to pass an exam to be called a CPA. There is no such requirement in sales. Nor is there a requirement to continue learning the trade (i.e., continuing education).
Imagine what could happen if salespeople put in 10 percent of their time learning their craft, like a doctor, lawyer or a CPA. Successful salespeople take the time to learn their profession. Unfortunately, this represents a very small percentage of the people in sales.
People are hesitant to get into selling, thinking there is no security in selling. Is there security elsewhere? In reality, you have more security in sales than in most other careers because you can sell anything, anywhere, if you have the skills. Successful sales professionals can sell any product, any service and any idea as long as they believe in what they are selling.
Professional salespeople share the following five traits. These are not new magic bullets; rather they are learned behaviors practiced continuously. These traits are taught and emphasized in the Track Selling System and are worth repeating here.
When I began my career in selling, I wasn't looking for a job. I just left a job and wanted an opportunity to build a career. Some people use a sales job to tide them over until a "real" job or career comes along. These people are not sales professionals; they are not interested in selling.
Many start their careers in sales because of the financial benefits. But only professional salespeople, those who are enthusiastic and willing to continuously learn, are successful. These professionals discover their interests shifting from focusing on money to focusing on their customers' needs.
Professional salespeople have acquired the attitude that requires and generates success. Simply put, positive thoughts produce positive results, while negative thoughts produce negative results. Sales professionals don't dwell on the negative but instead find ways to turn negative situations into positive ones.
Professional salespeople have incredible energy to make the calls, do the research and improve a little each day. Selling is very different from other jobs. You control your own time, which is difficult for someone used to an 8 to 5 job. However, this is how you reap the financial rewards. Professional salespeople are focused and make the decision to develop, practice and apply the knowledge available to be successful.
There is a method to selling. Most think salespeople are born to be good sellers. Not true. Successful salespeople are developed just like other professionals.
Successful professional salespeople do whatever is necessary to survive and thrive. This does not mean they dishonor the profession and themselves by compromising their integrity. Rather, they honor their occupation and develop the habits to accomplish the job. Professional salespeople set goals and develop action steps to reach them.
They focus on fostering relationships and offering exceptional service. They define what success means to them, pursue it effectively and achieve what they feel is important. Success is not luck. It is brought about by pure hard work and dedication.
The HR Chally Group's "The Customer-Selected World Class Sales Excellence Eight-Year Research Report" (1994-2002) determined that a salesperson's effectiveness was more important to the customer than the features and quality of the products or service and that the salesperson's failure to understand the customer's business is a continuous problem.
What can we learn from this research?
Customers are demanding professional salespeople who understand their needs and continue to service them after the sale.
How does one become a professional salesperson?
- Invest in yourself and your occupation.
- Dedicate 10 percent of your work time to continuing your sales education.
- Identify your deficiencies, and learn the skills to help you improve these areas.
- Practice the behaviors necessary to develop customer service skills.
- Attend relevant training programs, read books, journals and sales publications and observe other professional salespeople. Learn to set goals, and celebrate your successes.
- Research the businesses you serve, and identify ways to assist your clients, even if these strategies have little to do with the product or service you are selling.
- By making this investment in yourself and faithfully performing these skills, you will become a professional salesperson.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.