In talking to people all over the United States, I have found that the term salesperson generates many responses. I seem to hear some of them over and over: pushy, high pressure, hard sell…and it goes downhill from there.
The answers are quite different when I ask for a description of a professional salesperson. Then I hear responses that are a big improvement: thorough, honest, friendly, polite, consultative, competent and sincere.
The question is, what can you do to develop the qualities of a professional salesperson and how do you convey to others that you now possess or are developing those traits?
The answer is simple, although not always easy. The first step is knowledge: become aware of the qualities of a sales professional (which is what you are doing as you read this article.) The second step is action: make a commitment to apply this knowledge and follow through with that commitment.
No matter how nice a person one is, some of us still need to work on one (or several) traits which will help us be more professional salespeople. Let’s consider the key traits, those that can make contact with a potential client more conducive to a profitable, long-term business relationship.
It has been said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first few minutes of a relationship are often the most important. People like to be right about how they ‘size up’ others, so it takes a lot more work to overcome a negative first impression—more than it would have to make a positive impression in the first place. Those first few moments can often make or break a sales call. Creating a positive first impression increases the probability that you and your product will be accepted.
Dress and grooming (image) are one aspect that forms first impressions. Equally important are voice inflection, posture, personality style and attitude.
During one of my seminars a participant said, “People have to accept me for what I am. I’m not going to change just to make the other person happy.” If being unique and uncompromising is more important than making a sale, fine. But that attitude may not be a very profitable one.
I’m not suggesting you change who you are. I’m assuming, because you’re in sales, that you want to be accepted and are willing to work for it, which includes compromise.
Your attitude is showing
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People don’t seem to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” In other words, if we think this is a miserable world to live in, then we live in a miserable world and probably make it miserable for others to live in too.
Our attitudes are reflected in everything we do, including relationships with our clients and with our co-workers. Our attitudes elicit different responses from others, so if we see them as jerks that can be manipulated, their responses will be entirely different than if we see them as fellow businesspeople with whom we have a lot in common.
We can never be truly professional salespeople unless we develop a sincere respect for (and healthy attitude toward) our clients and colleagues. Try thinking of them as valves through which your energy flows rather than as dams (obstacles) who will stop your progress. Only your positive attitude toward them can create and maintain mutual trust, which is vital to doing business successfully.
Depth of knowledge
In all sales positions, the company has the obligation to educate you about the specific product(s) you are selling. Operations manuals and hands-on training workshops will provide you with technical skills and product knowledge. However, this seldom goes beyond what’s required to describe competently the product and its amenities to a client.
I recommend that you set aside time on a regular basis during which you can deepen your knowledge (and hopefully your enthusiasm/love) of your company and industry.
Your responsibility as a professional includes much more than learning elaborate descriptions. If someone were to say to you, “Tell me about the field you are working in,” could you give them an interesting, in-depth explanation of how it started and where it is today? Perhaps you think that knowing the history or theory of your industry is not necessary for your day-to-day selling. The fact is that with an increase in knowledge comes an increase in confidence and authority. The result: longer lasting client relationships and more sales.
Breadth of knowledge
It’s also important to develop an ability to discuss a broad spectrum of subjects. Having depth of knowledge in your industry without knowledge in a wide variety of topics limits the number of people you can relate to and who, in turn, can relate to you. This is a serious handicap for a salesperson.
Anything worthwhile takes effort and this includes expanding your conversational horizons. A fast, concise and convenient way to know what’s going on in the world is to subscribe to a weekly news magazine which will expose you to science, politics, the arts, international affairs, etc. It is not necessary for you to have an opinion on all the issues, but being informed on them and keeping up to date by scanning a good daily newspaper will give you confidence and expand your conversational effectiveness.
No matter how great your conversational skills may be, your efforts will be completely wasted if you are not sensitive to your clients’ needs. It is crucial to be aware of each client’s ‘silent messages’ which often reveal the real meaning behind their verbal statements.
Study body language and try to be empathetic. Observe what people do with their bodies in different situations. Put yourself in their shoes so that you can be open to what’s happening with them, but do it intellectually rather than emotionally.
For example, by studying body language and being empathic, you will be able to acknowledge when your client is too busy at the moment (they’re preoccupied) and arrange to return or call another time when they are more receptive.
It is literally impossible to be a top salesperson without a contagious sense of enthusiasm. To prove this to yourself, try to think of one top salesperson you know or have heard about who does not have a genuine enthusiasm for themselves and their product.
Enthusiasm shows the client that you are sold on your company and your products and/or services. Enthusiasm, good eye contact and overall sincerity will also tell the prospect that you’re an honest person. This will motivate them to establish or continue a business relationship with you. They will become interested in you as a person. This is what you want, both for yourself and your property.
Maturity is a rather nebulous quality. It combines all the positive character traits I have already mentioned.
One thing that distinguishes a mature person is the ability to recognize the need to do things that are necessary and required, like it or not. Mature people accept responsibility for their actions, which means they are willing to admit mistakes and suffer consequences, recognize accomplishments and reap rewards.
Maturity means handling disappointments and setbacks without becoming self-destructive. These people know there are times when things won’t go right and they know that those times won’t last forever. Whenever I find myself in a setback situation, I use my mantra, “This too shall pass.” It always does.
Professionalism is a state of mind and conduct. It is not what you do; it is how you do it. There are many highly paid corporate incompetents as well as many very professional unpaid volunteers in every field.
Pride is the sense of satisfaction you have from knowing that you are important, worthwhile, in control of your destiny and aware of and acting on your potential. Pride will make you stand tall even when surrounded by giants. Professionalism recognizes potential and is, therefore, not stung by small disappointments or undermined by larger ones.
Taking pride in yourself and what you do is the seed from which professionalism grows. It’s the natural consequence of developing the other traits defined here and vice versa.
About the author
Dr. Tony Alessandra has authored 14 books, recorded over 50 audio and video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976. If you would like more information about Dr. Alessandra’s books, audio tape sets, and video programs or information about Dr. Alessandra as a keynote speaker, call his office at 1-800-222-4383, email him at Tony@Alessandra.com or visit his website at www.alessandra.com