There was a time not so long ago when accountants, attorneys, doctors, some musicians, certain ball players, the clergy and a few others earned the right to be called a “professional.” But that was about it.
More recently, the dam burst and we’re now flooded with professionals. Everyone wants in the club. It’s as if just calling ourselves a “professional salesperson” is magical, lifting us above all those unfortunates, the “unprofessionals.”
For “professional” to mean something special, something unique, something above the crowd, it requires content that’s specific and concrete, a standard against which a salesperson’s behavior can be viewed and measured.
The only definition of “professional” that makes any difference is how customers define it. Looking through the eyes of customers, take a look at the qualities that describe what it means to be a professional today:
Understands what’s important to a customer. Recognizes that valuing what the customer regards as important is the basis of their relationship.
Takes responsibility. Doesn’t make excuses or blame others when a problem arises.
Asks questions. Wants to understand the issues or the problem before offering solutions.
Follows through. Never leaves issues up in the air or anyone guessing. Gets back to customers quickly with information and answers.
Keeps promises. Doesn’t leave a customer hanging or wondering. Does what’s agreed on without being reminded.
Knows that learning is endless. Doesn’t get to a particular knowledge level and stop, while others stick with outdated products, concepts and solutions.
Seeks performance improvement. Comes away from sales presentations and asks, “What could I have done better?”
Stays in touch. Understands the value of making sure customers and support staff are always in the loop.
Never says, “I’ve paid my dues.” Doesn’t act like a prima donna or expect special consideration.
Recognizes when help is needed. Asking for help deepens one’s knowledge base and is smart business, while “faking it” fosters deception.
Thrives on problem-solving. Views these as opportunities to demonstrate value by assisting customers with troublesome situations.
Understands the harm of “cutting corners.” While taking the easy way out is often camouflaged as saving time, professionals know it can easily become a slippery slope.
Never expects a quid pro quo. Acts in the best interest of the customer, which, at times, may mean foregoing a sale.
Welcomes challenges. Sees difficult tasks as growth opportunities rather than as bothersome interruptions.
Wants to be ahead of the curve. Constantly works to be seen by customers as thoughtful and forward thinking.
Never considers anything “beneath me.” Will tell you that getting his or her hands dirty is part of the job.
Doesn’t like saying to a customer, “I’ll get back to you about that.” With a tablet and smartphone, the professional salesperson works hard at responding instantly to customer requests.
Views selling as helping. The professional salesperson knows that trust is earned by using knowledge and experience to assist customers in reaching their goals, not just closing a sale.
Whether it’s selling a product, service, an idea, a vision or an opportunity, the need has never been greater for those who have earned the right to call themselves professional salespeople.