Webster defines “professional” as someone who does something with great skill, or worthy of high standards. When we think of “professions”, we think of doctors, lawyers, CPA’s, engineers, architects, and teachers. But does the average person think of selling as a profession? In fact, do most people who sell think of it as a profession that is in the same league with doctors, CPA’s, etc.? Survey after survey indicates not. What distinguishes professionals from others? Formal education followed by years of ongoing training, in most cases. And these “professions” often require that their members take continuing education courses in order to keep skills current. What about professional sports? The superstars constantly practice the fundamentals, and employ coaches to fine-tune their skills. They understand that it’s a very slight edge that separates the .300 hitter from the average player, and are constantly seeking those advantages that will take them to the top. Those that make it to the top are rewarded with long and lucrative contracts. Sales is often referred to as a profession, but is it perceived as a profession?
Sales people, over the years, have bought into various “myths” about the profession of selling and the training of people who sell. Three that stand out are…
Myth #1: The Natural Born Salesperson. How often have we heard someone say to a colleague who has an outgoing personality, is the life of the party, and who has a real way with words, “you should be in sales, you’re a natural”?
Reality: While these traits can be desirable, it takes more than the “gift of gab” and an extroverted personality to succeed in sales. In fact, selling requires a great deal of skill if you want to stand out from the crowd. And these skills can be learned.
Myth #2: Product Knowledge. Too often we assume that if someone has a good basic knowledge of the company’s product line, he/she has all the essential tools to be successful in sales. In fact, studies show that 80% of the training companies put their salespeople through is product knowledge, “feature & benefit” oriented training. It is assumed their people can sell.
Reality: Companies work on the wrong end of the problem. Too much product knowledge typically causes the salesperson to monopolize the conversation with a focus on the product itself, rather than on the customer and his/her problem. People buy solutions to their problems, not “features & benefits”, and they buy from the person who has the best understanding of their problems and who can provide the best solution. Furthermore, most of the time the company’s “feature & benefit” story sounds just like what the competitor is saying. Salespeople need to avoid “features & benefits” and learn why people buy and how to ask questions.
Myth #3: Sales Experience. We frequently hear from companies that they hire only seasoned, experienced salespeople, and that training is unnecessary.
Reality: In a fast changing world like we live in, it doesn't take long at all for skills and knowledge to become outdated. Many salespeople with 15 years experience have been making the same mistakes for 15 years. Buyers are changing, and the marketplace is changing; what worked well 15 months ago is rarely as effective today. Competing in today’s dynamic, fast paced environment requires up to date skills, and new selling technology is birthed all of the time. The true sales professional will be eager to evaluate new ideas, and implement those that can keep them at the forefront of his or her profession.
Accident or Excellence?
Does this sound familiar?
Recently a buyer said, “I’m tired of dealing with these salespeople. They all think they've got something I want, but rarely ask what I need, and are desperate to make a sale. I blow most of them off quickly.”
Further, buyers relate that they are frustrated by the following issues…
Most of us got into sales by accident.
After all, what does it really take to start a career in sales? A willingness to work on a draw or commission basis? A cell phone and LinkedIn account? Business cards? People skills? The “gift of gab”? Some product knowledge and your sales manager’s admonition, “Now get out there and sell something.”?
Excellence is a matter of choice.
Doing things the way you've always done them will lead to the results you’ve always gotten. Learning new ideas, keeping skills up to date is a constant challenge, especially for the sales professional.
What league are you playing in? What commitment do you really have and what skills do you possess… Those that would put you in the major leagues of selling or, would you more likely be a .200 hitter in the minor leagues?
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