THE TRUE ART OF PROFESSIONAL SELLING
After recently watching a short video by Noel Walsh, a USA based Automotive and Sales Training expert (and personal friend of mine), I wanted to re-share the following article. I am sure that as you watch the points Noel shares in his seminars and live-streams and then read, and absorb this article, you will develop a better understanding of why Professional Salespeople will always have greater influence, together with a defined advantage over the Sales Representative – today and into the future.
Please read the following information, then dwell on as many points as you possible can from your own perspective, then consider as many points as possible from the prospect’s or client’s perspective – I am sure you will realise why this one factor is as important as it is.
SALES PROFESSIONALS Verses SALES REPRESENTATIVES
After 53 plus years in all manner of sales and sales management, and after training thousands of people in many aspects of sales, I can categorically state that there is a distinctly marked difference between to what many in general business today refer to – as sales representatives, as opposed to sales professionals.
Ironically, the majority of business owners over the past 20 or more years, and I would also add many with a sales manager title today, among those who cannot distinguish a sales representative from a sales professional. Yet, to those who are conversant with both category types, the difference is easily recognised.
In the industry referred to as the sales industry (which could be anything that brings in sales) stands alone as both an industry as well as a category depicting an industry. Allow me to explain what I mean here. Unlike other easily distinguished and also easily categorised professions such as the legal profession, or the many facets of today’s medical sectors, the accounting groups, or the various categories of engineering, and so on, the profession of selling is not formalized.
In all of the different categories of selling today there is no required certification process, and therefore, no readily documented or recognised criteria defining the differences between the levels of proficiency that existing among those in the loosely termed profession known as sales.
However, most agree that there is a vast distinction between the way retail sales are conducted as opposed to business sales. Here it is primarily the business sales sector that we are dealing with (or focusing on) in this instance – and more prominently known or understood as direct sales – however, many of differences tabled here (apart from the going out of the office and physically sourcing clients) can also be applied to the retail sector in varying degrees.
While the two groups being discussed here, namely sales representatives as opposed to sales professionals, may perform many of the same functions or tasks, the main differences between them account for many of the challenges the greater majority of today’s business owners usually encounter while working at growing their businesses.
So let’s take a closer look at the two groups
As already stated owners over the past 20 or more years, the sales sector has sustained a newer kind of salesperson, to which I refer as a different kind of salesperson, a salesperson generally referred to as a sales representative.
Moreover, these days, so many of today’s employers also refer to their salespeople as sales representatives and advertise their sales positions the same way – for sales representatives
Understanding the differences between these two groups (the sales representative and the sales professional) is important for business owners and sales managers alike to understand, especially if they are interested in growing a business through acquiring new accounts.
Furthermore, as we further analyse the two sectors of salespeople being tabled here, the easiest way I know to show the difference between the sales representative and the sales professional is to separate the two in degrees of quality.
The sales representative will simply present products and services to prospective customers and in the process identity, qualify, and follow-up on sales opportunities. Sales representatives will create presentations, schedule sales meetings, and, in the process occasionally make sales.
These sales made by the sales representative are supplementary to their work and not as a direct result of their efforts, which is generally more of a routine they engage in rather than a defined, goal oriented result that must be achieved. In short, they are order takers that stumble over sales because of their ability to be task oriented rather than goal focus oriented.
By contrast, the sales generated by the sales professional are purposeful and orchestrated results because of the thoughtfully pursued work they undertake and the manner in which they undertake it.
To them their pursuit of generating more sales is focused, purposed and mindful of what needs to be done in order to meet the needs and wants of their clients. In short, they are fully engaged in the fulfilment of an objective with the intent of achieving a specific result.
In today’s fast paced world, sales professionals are among the modern business owners’ greatest assets. Today’s sales professionals are those really talented and somewhat tenacious individuals who are prepared to advance and constantly work at the frontline of a business. Their work is vital for realizing and maintaining greater and greater success.
But unfortunately for today’s business owner, these individuals are becoming increasingly more difficult to find – simply because the profession of selling is changing through the increasing influx of sales representatives.
The Selling process is becoming more complex
In today’s modern selling world, there are a growing number of main objectives that are required to be undertaken by sales management as necessary sequences that become factors of modern selling processes.
This will generally include finding, isolating and qualifying prospective clients; scheduling appointments with pre-qualified prospective clients; profiling, focusing on and identifying leveraging points; clarifying the factors that should create the urgency to buy; obtaining next-step commitments such as time lines, delivery/installation requirements, an after sales program with a prospect, and working on a combination of relationship development with the client together with referral gathering from the client and his/her associates.
Then, if the selling needs to becomes more complex, additional associated steps may be required in order to make a sale. It is the ability to identify and include the prospect-specific steps required in the selling process that usually becomes a challenge a seasoned sales manager and salesperson alike.
Moreover, an initial need to grasp whatever may be necessary to get the initial appointment underway must be understood in order to accommodate any new or additional steps as they arise in the pursuit of selling to the prospect.
Sales professionals are visionaries
The average sales representative will generally lack the visionary foresight a sales professional will focus on and initiate. More often than not, sales representatives will give little or no thought to modifying any of the sales procedures they have been taught to follow, whereas a sales professional will become creative, then adopt and modify as necessary in order to take the prospect to the next step.
Sales representatives, in the main, are not concerned with maximizing the effectiveness of their processes and endeavours, whereas sales professionals consistently strive to gain insight and advantages to create solutions in sales situations and create the opportunities required to ensure the success of their mission and to convert potential sales into actualized sales.
However, it is for the sales manager to understand that sales representatives can be taught and encouraged to develop their vision and improve their sales by thinking deeply, questioning effectively, not assuming things based on their past personal experiences, reasoning out the “why,” “how,” and “what” factors at every point of the selling process and working towards a win-win outcome for both parties.
It’s these basic differences in the thinking processes of the sales representative as opposed to the way a sales professional thinks and acts, that account for the higher level of sales successes by the sales professional as opposed to failure of the sales representative to understand why they are not achieving better sales, higher value sales or why they are closing fewer sales than the sales professional.
Preparedness is one of the basic Professional Sellers objectives
The sales professional understands that to engage in any sales pursuit requires an investment of time and materials. They will source a budget to work with from their sales manager or senior management before they embark on any sales pursuit. And they sell their management first on their vision of selling to a certain client or industry group, because they understand that if their sales manager or senior management isn’t supporting her/his salespeople in the activities essential for selling in today’s world, both the business and the rep will typically lose in competitive selling situations involving competition that is better prepared.
On the other hand, most sales representatives are not as focused, or are as prepared to put as much energy and time on getting sales from a certain client or industry group as is the sales professional.
The basics of preparedness for most professional sales pursuits are:
1. Applying an appropriate breadth and depth of knowledge of the prospect and the buying opportunities available to the prospect.
2. A number of strong sales momentum and leveraging points.
3. Anticipation of prospect’s responses to the presentation and considered responses to any peripheral issues that could impact the process of the sale.
4. A fallback approach for reengaging a wavering prospect.
5. A step-by-step application process for securing the sale.
Sales professionals are also always prepared to engage and nurture sales opportunities, whereas, the wast majority of sales representatives tend to simply go through the motions of call, meet, and follow-up and usually without sufficient preparation – and definitely without the level of preparation a sales professional will work at and implement.
Sadly, sales is just a numbers game for many sales representatives who hope that eventually something will come from “all of my work.”
The majority of sales representatives however can quickly and easily improve their sales and presentation preparedness by simply asking (then answering for themselves) questions such as:
1. What data might help me really engage and intrigue my prospect?
2. What is the main focus objective of my meeting with this prospect?
3. What possible issues might be the ones that really influencing my prospect’s buying decision?
4. How can I create and then work a desire for my product in my prospect?
5. What questions might my prospect ask me and how can I best answer them?
6. What hurdles can I anticipate between where the sale is now and what will I need to do to finalize the sale?
7. How will my presentation help my prospect understand the real value of the offer I make?
© Copyright Peter Collins, Profit Maker Sales, Sydney, Australia, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2017 all rights reserved.
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