What does selling mean, anyway?

August 14, 2000
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Selling is truly a respectable profession. It is also the only way a client can get a more comprehensive perspective of a product, along with someone who takes a personal interest after the sale is complete.

So why do so many people still view salespeople as kin to something scaly and slithering?

Bad apples

One reason is that there are many salespeople who are not good at what they do.

Consequently, they take an unprincipled approach to the profession, which often manifests itself in behaviors such as badgering and lying to customers.

These salespeople not only show a lack of pride in their profession, but they have lost track of what selling is truly about.

Sales is about referrals, repeat business, and building a reputable company name.

It is also about being ethical.

Define 'sell'

Webster’s dictionary shows several different meanings for the word “sell.” The noun “sale” is the exchange of anything for money; demand (for article); public exposition of goods. However, when the word makes a transition from noun to verb it gains additional interpretations.

Sell becomes: To dispose of for an equivalent, usually money; to betray for money or a consideration. Dispose of means to get rid of.

Persuade or convince, another definition, conveys the idea that someone is doing something to someone else. Even the phrase “closing a sale” implies that something is being done to the customer.

Is it any wonder customers are wary when encountering a salesperson. People are afraid they’re going to be talked into something they don’t want.

This mixed attitude about selling seems to be inherent in our culture. Whether we can blame Judas with his pieces of silver, that serpent who sold Eve the bill of goods in Eden, or the many people who got into sales for the wrong reasons, we need to overcome the underlying attitude many people have about selling.

You can accomplish this by practicing integrity.

Attitude and ethics

The first thing a good salesperson needs to conquer, however, is his/her own attitude. Many folks get into the profession, then feel secretly uncomfortable about it.

Remember the old snake oil salesman who made sales and then got out of town fast? Well, as a salesperson you don’t have to feel guilty about how that guy cheated great-great grandma, and you don’t need to get out of town fast.

Sales has evolved to a position that evokes professional pride. Pressure from sales managers and quotas are two reasons that salespeople give as a temptation to lie or deceive; however, that is dishonest and counterproductive to what sales is all about.

Skilled, knowledgeable, honest salespeople who take pride in what they do are unlikely to resort to underhanded methods to make a sale.

Ethics is one of the subjects that emerged when industrial psychologist, Gregory M. Lousig-Nont, Ph.D., developed his sales skill test — the Sales Success Profile.

He surveyed more than 1,200 businesses, searching for common qualities shared by successful salespeople.

When he asked sales managers what characteristics a sales applicant needed to be successful, he received a consensus of opinion in 13 different areas. Besides the routine categories of prospecting/cold calls, qualifying, overcoming objections, time management, telephone technique, approach/involvement, presentations, and closing, he also discovered particular people skills.

Courtesy, ethics, warmth, friendliness, problem handling, and call enthusiasm all emerged as beneficial qualities for a salesperson to possess.

Sales skills

With this in mind, Lousig-Nont developed the Sales Success Profile, which tests for these 13 people skills. The software was designed to produce several confidential management reports that rank those people being evaluated against over 300,000 successful salespeople in the scoring database.

“It’s like an IQ test for salespeople,” said Lousig-Nont, president of Lousig-Nont & Associates, a Las Vegas-based human resource consulting firm.

Managers also revealed that their usual trial-and-error hiring methods yielded an average turnover of 320%. Multiplied by the expense of training, it becomes extremely costly to hire salespeople.

In addition, just think of how many negative impressions these people can leave upon your potential customers if they are less than honest.

“Not only does ethics involve conducting yourself with integrity, it involves presenting your product or service honestly,” added Lousig-Nont. “That’s why it is so important for a salesperson to believe in their product and service.

“If you don’t believe you represent something of quality that will really benefit your customer, how can you present the product with honesty and conviction? There is nothing as compelling as a salesperson who presents his product or service with the enthusiasm that only comes from a sincere belief that what he has to offer is a great investment.”

Ethical behavior is not only what your clients want, but as evidenced by Lousig-Nont’s studies, so do future employees. Selling is an honorable profession that you can take pride in when you have the necessary selling skills.

Give your clients the gifts of integrity and trust. That’s what selling is really about.

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