What is a sales professional
edited: Wednesday, November 10, 2004
By Tim Connor
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, October 11, 2004
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The critical skills and attitudes for success in sales.
What is a sales professional -
For years, I have been hearing people use the word “professional” – especially when they are referring to salespeople. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to other professions.
How would you define a professional person? I have been asking salespeople for years how they would define this word or concept as it applies to this profession, and I consistently get a variety of answers, such as:
· Well groomed
· Well dressed
· Good attitude
· Doesn’t bad-mouth the competition
· Customer focused
· Creative problem solver
· Good at sales follow-up
This list could go on for several pages. Again, I ask you, how would you define being a professional? To me, being a professional is not what you sell, but how you sell what you sell. Let me explain. Many people selling Amway, Tupperware, and Mary Kay cosmetics may think of themselves as less than professional because they sell soap, bowls or lipstick. By the same token, many salespeople selling for IBM, Hewlett Packard, Lear Jet or Mercedes Benz may tend to think of themselves as the cream of the professional crop. Well, I have news for you folks. I have met some pretty sleazy salespeople selling very expensive products or services, and I have had the pleasure of doing business with some really great salespeople selling low cost business and personal-use consumables.
Selling is not what you sell, but how you sell what you sell. How are you doing when it comes to being a professional? How do your clients or customers think you are doing? How do you think your competitors think you are doing? How does the marketplace think you are doing? Don’t wait for the results to come in from these sources. If something needs fixing, fix it now.
Selling is a process -
One of the biggest problems for many salespeople is not understanding that selling is a process, not a transaction or an event. Effective selling is not just closing the sale, better prospecting or more effective sales presentations – although, all of these are important in their own way. Effective selling today is blending each of these together for a successful outcome for you, your organization and your customer.
For many years, traditional sales training has focused on the “close of the sale” as the most important element in the sales process. Then the 70’s and 80’s rolled around and the hot topics were prospecting, qualifying and getting to the key decision-makers. Then it was the 90’s and consultative selling. What will this current decade bring? Who knows for sure? What we do know, that to sell successfully is only half of the task – the other half is keeping the business once it has been sold. Organizations expend millions of dollars annually to attract and sell new business only to lose it for any number of negative reasons and then have to replace it. And, so the saga continues.
Selling is about finding good potential prospects who can benefit from your products or services, persuading them to buy from you, and then maintaining positive ongoing relationships with them to ensure repeat and referral business as well as the ability to have positive references from them.
Each element of the sales process is related in some way to all of the other elements. For example, let’s consider prospecting. If you have a poor prospect, it will be difficult to give a positive sales presentation. It will be virtually impossible to overcome their sales objections, and closing the sale – forget it.
How about the attitude issues in the sales process? Let’s say you lack confidence in the quality of your products or services. This will affect your willingness to find new prospects. If you do find some, it will negatively impact your ability to give a confident sales presentation.
How about one more? Let’s say you have a fear of rejection. This will impact your willingness to ask questions, to qualify your prospects and ask for the business.
I am sure you see my point. If you are going to sell successfully, you can’t just improve one aspect of the sales process. You can’t make up for poor prospecting with a tricky close. You can’t make up for poor product knowledge with fancy footwork. You can’t make up for a poor attitude with more activity. You can’t make up for poor closing skills with better presentations.
Successful sales professionals know that in order to have consistent success no matter whether they sell $10 million dollar jet aircraft or a $50.00 wigit - success is not about perfecting just one aspect of the process but all of them.
Maintain control -
One of the biggest mistakes poor salespeople make is that they lose control of the sales process. There are many ways they accomplish this feat. Here are a few for your consideration:
· They quote price – just because the prospect has asked (before they have had a chance to build value).
· They don’t ask enough questions early in the sales process. They just ramble on.
· They send out literature when asked, without first qualifying the prospect.
· They deliver proposals to the prospect’s door and wait patiently for an answer.
· They fail to set appointments that are convenient to them – always bowing to the customer’s desires.
· They lug heavy equipment or samples around all day to demonstrate in the prospect’s office rather than getting the prospect to visit their office.
· They don’t get deposits or acceptable terms and hope the prospect will pay someday.
· They leave ‘will calls’ when telephoning a prospect.
· They use e – mail as their primary contact method.
I could go on but I am sure you get my drift.
Control is one of the key elements for success in sales. Successful salespeople understand that control is not manipulation, but it is in the ultimate best interests of the prospect or client.
I will bet you have a prospect right now, as you are reading this, with whom you have lost control. You are waiting for this prospect to respond to your offer, appeal or whatever. I know because I teach this stuff and I am guilty from time to time of making the same mistakes. How do you get and keep control? It is simple, but not easy. The best time to get control of the sales process with a new prospect is in the early stages of the relationship. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get it back later if you don’t get it early. One of the best strategies is: get information before you give it. Questions always come before your presentation, pricing and literature. You must also learn to pay attention to the early signals you get from the prospect. I’ll bet you have a customer you wish you didn’t have – because they are difficult to work with and no matter what you do it is never enough or right.
Successful salespeople determine not only the buying habits and payment philosophy of the prospects and clients they have, but also the respect they receive and the manner in which they are treated by these prospects or clients. I have some great clients. Their behavior makes me want to do an even better job for them. I also have a few difficult clients. Guess what? They told me indirectly they were going to be difficult in the beginning, as well as in the early stages of the relationship. It is your responsibility to keep control of the buying and selling process.