Professional Salesperson: You Have Got To Earn It!

By Michael Rega

Publication: American Salesman
Date: February 1, 2000

The great mythic animal called a “born salesperson” is finally dying a slow death. However, I’ve come to understand that not only are non-sales types advancing this belief but some salespeople themselves feel they are born with the gift. Wake up salespeople, and learn to earn the prestigious designation of professional salesperson! It is not a gift as though being born tall or with plenty of hair, but a designation to be earned and practiced. Once you convince yourself of this concept, your income level is unlimited. No matter what their profession, your income will surpass 95 percent of your peers.

The great ideas and technological advancements of this world have become practical realities because of one single calling, the professional salesperson. Thomas Edison may have invented the light bulb and Alexander Graham Bell the telephone, but they are not responsible for the electric lights and telephones in almost every home in the country — a professional salesperson is responsible.

Unfortunately, people will generally resist change even when it takes the form of progress. Some ideas are intrinsically good; some frankly are steps backward, but in either case, someone did some selling. The great teachers, the clergy, politicians, engineers and business people all have one thing in common — they understand progressive knowledge development — the concept each piece of knowledge we capture as humans should build on previous information. I don’t care if you’re Albert Einstein — the concept stands.

Being a professional requires a stated position and a dedicated attitude. Good attorneys, accountants or athletes are constantly working to upgrade themselves and their profession. Physicians who do not read medical journals and attend refresher conferences are not just bad doctors, they are dangerous. Attorneys will take time to attend study retreats. Athletes will prepare for a big game or competition by extensive training and long hours of preparation. Sales require just as much time, effort, practice, frustration and study as any occupation.

Why then do some people look down on selling? Selling has been one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and lucrative vocations in the world. It is also the most democratic. It has accepted everyone without any qualifications or reservations. Anyone can get into selling. As a result, many undesirable, fast-talking, quickbuck artists have created an unfavorable image of selling. Some people even look upon the word “sell” as a dirty four-letter word. I doubt anyone reading this article dreamed as a child about becoming a salesperson. If they did, perhaps their parents should have committed them long ago. They weren’t com mitted and now they are salespeople.

The selling vocation has few entrance requirements or screening committees. In contrast, attorneys cannot practice law without at least six years of advanced education and passing the local bar examination.

In the selling profession, all are welcome. Obviously, this has one drawback. The practitioners of shoddy and immoral selling techniques cast a gray image on the entire occupation.

Around the turn of the century the salesperson had the image of the carnival barker or medicine man, fast-talking and quick to take one for a buck. The horse and buggy days are now a thing of the past. Like many things, the current generation has to bear the burden of the previous generation’s negative opinions. Change is slow. The following are 5 key points that will assist you in turning a good sales job into a true profession:

1. Read everything on selling. There are good books and horrible books, but it really is sad when I poll sales classes and no one has ever read a single book on their profession.

2. Attend as many professional development courses as possible. The best of the best are the only ones who attend these types of seminars. If your company does not have a progressive program to develop your skills, lobby for one. Your company is costing you money because they’ve missed the boat on growing their largest asset — you.

3. Suggest a mentoring program for new sales reps. People learn best by teaching and although mentoring programs really help new reps, the real benefit is to the mentor, teacher and the guide.

4. Get out of a poorly organized sales force. If you are good, you can write your own ticket in sales. Do not waste your valuable life in a poor, under appreciated sales community.

5. Headhunters are elevators. Call every headhunter you know and consistently shop your resume. Once your name is on the street, your status as a sale professional will increase. You want people talking about you in your industry and there is no better or less expensive way to do it.

It is not just our professional obligation; it should be our professional calling to elevate this selling profession into an upper level of the executive hierarchy. It is your life’s work, let’s promote the profession to what it should be, a highly skilled, high risk/reward profession!