Why Salespeople Aren't Professionals

For the last few months I’ve discussed some of the things that keep salespeople from becoming really successful. We’ve talked about why salespeople fail, why they don’t achieve their goals and why the traditional sales process is fundamentally flawed. But the problem goes deeper than that. The problem is that most salespeople aren’t professionals.

Most salespeople I know bemoan that fact they are often treated with less respect than other business people. Ask any salesperson and they will tell you countless stories about their calls not being returned, prospects that didn’t show up for appointments, lies they’ve been told and other horrible tales. Why is it that salespeople aren’t treated as professionals?

The simple answer is because they often haven’t behaved as professionals. Think about other business people who are seen as professionals, who have professions, not jobs or careers; doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, plumbers, the list goes on and on. You’d be hard-pressed, though, to find anyone who would put salespeople in general on the list of professionals. Let’s face it- it’s not something many kids aspire to become and it’s not something many parents would wish for their children. The question becomes, how do salespeople change that? How do we make sales an honorable profession?

So what’s the difference between accountants and salespeople (other than the obvious)? Most salespeople treat their jobs as just that - jobs. They find someone willing to hire them with no experience and no training and they set off on their path. They might get a few weeks of training at their new job, but most of it is focused on learning the specs of their product or a canned pitch or how to use a presentation book. After that, it’s the school of hard knocks that teaches them how to survive. And that’s all they learn - how to survive. They don’t take the time or the money to learn how to thrive, how to be extraordinary salespeople, how to help others get the things they want in life while earning a terrific living themselves. Professionals go to school, often for long periods of time. They apprentice with other skilled practitioners. They read countless books on their profession and even after they’ve earned their degrees and have practiced for years, they educate themselves continuously, remaining current in their field. How many salespeople do you know who do that? How many have invested the time and money to become experts, to learn their craft from the ground up, to have sound fundamentals that they practice every day with every client?

Let’s make it more personal. How many books on selling did you read last year? How many classes did you attend (other than what you were required to do for your company) that improved your selling skills or made you a more knowledgeable businessperson? How much different was 2003 from 2002 for you? What did you learn during 2003 that made you better at your profession? Do you know that thing well enough that you use it every single day?

Just to belabor the point, think about if other professionals saw their world the same way most salespeople do. Would you want a surgeon operating on you who looked at his profession from a survival or a “good enough” mode? Would you want to work with a surgeon who said, “Well, I’ve had a course or two in biology, I guess I know enough to operate now.”

I think it’s time we demanded more from ourselves and our profession. It’s time we started investing in ourselves and in our clients’ futures. We can’t continue to do just enough to get by and expect that things will improve for us. Yes, the economy is improving and that simple fact will put more money in our pockets. But it’s still a good-enough way of doing business. If we don’t change the way we approach things now we are just going to get us more of the same; poor treatment and a lack of respect that we’ve earned through our own unwillingness to change our behavior and become professionals. It’s time to make a decision - become true professionals and reap the rewards or continue as we have been and live with the consequences.


Laura Posey (laura@dancingelephants.net) brings much passion to her work as Vice President and Co-Founder of Dancing Elephants Achievement Group. She is a "firecracker" who likes to create and get things done. Over the years, she has received numerous awards and recognition for her sales and management contributions to different organizations. Laura's expertise in sales led her to start four successful businesses. She now translates that sales know-how into a language entrepreneurs can underst...

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