When I think of a professional, my mind is instantly drawn to doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentists, musicians, architects, athletes or any other occupation that requires extensive education, training and specific practice of skills and knowledge prior to engaging in a particular trade.
Additionally, professionals are typically rewarded with a high level of financial compensation and universal respect. Respect comes from the understanding of the price they have paid in time, effort and financial investment to achieve their specific skills. The dictionary describes a professional as “A person engaged or qualified in a profession: professionals such as lawyers and doctors. A person engaged in a specified activity, esp. a sport or branch of the performing arts, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. A person competent or skilled in a particular activity, having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully, such as a highly competent surgeon.”
When we hire salespeople we think in terms of hiring the very best; someone who can get the job done. We are looking for professionals who can bring profitable sales to our company. Management is dependent upon their salespeople to drive the success of their company. Success begins with the sale. If nothing is sold, nothing is produced. Simply stated, management is held captive by their sales force. However, they have hired professional salespeople so they shouldn’t be concerned, or should they? Professionals by definition are qualified, competent, skilled, having the ability and knowledge to do something successfully. Professionals are educated and trained in medical schools, dental schools, law schools, business schools, music schools, etc., but I’m totally unaware of the existence of a sales school designed for the specific purpose of teaching, training practicing and qualifying individuals for the profession of selling.
A few years ago many of the salespeople we train at The Business Performance Group qualified for a sales incentive trip to Peru. While there, we visited a tiny elementary school in an isolated Indian village in the jungle along the banks of the mighty Amazon River. We participated in a cultural exchange with these children. “What do you want to become when you grow up?” was one of the questions we asked each of the children. Many responded that they wanted to become teachers. Others wanted to become doctors or nurses. A few thought a farmer would be a noble profession. Interestingly, no one said they wanted to be a salesperson. Quite frankly, even in this
I have never met anyone who told me they wanted to specifically pursue a career in selling. Many people study business, accounting, marketing, management, but not sales. Isn’t it interesting that selling is not a profession where people study and practice specific skills and knowledge prior to engaging in the trade?
How many people would consult with a doctor who didn’t have a degree from a qualified medical school? How many people would engage an attorney who had never attended, let alone graduated from law school? How many people would trust their finances to someone who was not certified in the field of finance? And yet, business owners and executives running both large and small companies put the financial success of their businesses in the hands of men and women who have no formal training in the knowledge and application of the skills necessary to achieve sales success. These executives assume that someone who claims to be a salesperson can actually produce the sales necessary to achieve profitability. When these salespeople fall short of the task, there are plenty of excuses. Do any of these statements sound familiar? “The market is down.” “It just takes a while to learn the market.” “People just aren’t buying now.” “I’m doing my best.” “I don’t have the right sales tools.” “The company’s sales goals are unrealistic.” “Our prices are too high.” “We don’t have what the customer is looking for.” “The competition is selling at a loss” – and the list goes on.
Are owners and executives in a “no win” situation? Absolutely not! Here is the answer plain and simple, in terms everyone should be able to understand. Train your salespeople. Training is not a cost, it is an investment. Why train your salespeople? Training is the only way you can guarantee your salespeople will gain the skills, knowledge, experience and practice necessary to become the professionals you expect. There are just a handful of colleges and universities offering a degree in sales. Considering the number of salespeople in the world, many more schools should offer sales as a professional degree. Wouldn’t you just love to have a salesperson that was classroom educated, trained by experienced professionals, coached in the trenches of the trade and certified to exceed their peers in performance and profit? The salespeople who have experienced some degree of training, have more than likely, attended a few seminars and read a book or two during their career. Think about it for a moment. Can a few days of sales training really compare to four years of medical school, internships and residency? Does it equal a college degree, three years of law school, internships and clerking for judges? Can a few days of training measure up to the years of training and practice necessary to become a professional musician or an athlete? Sales training, in order to be successful, should be consistent and long-term. When management invests in their salespeople they will receive a greater return on their investment than any other area within their business. Trained professional salespeople do not hold corporate profits captive.
Here are five suggestions for business owners and executives who want to grow their profits through sales:
- Analyze the performance of all of your salespeople. Eliminate those who shouldn’t be in sales and then train the rest.
- Sales training is very specific to the skills and principles of selling. Don’t confuse sales training with product training.
- Sales training is not “hit or miss”. It is a specific program of principles and skills centered on daily activity and focused effort.
- Doctors and lawyers spend years training and practicing for their careers. To become a sales professional also takes years of consistent training and effort.
- If you don’t make the investment in training your salespeople who will? People don’t learn sales in school, it is an education you must provide. If you make the investment in your salespeople, you will absolutely receive the reward.