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Common Questions and Answers
Sales professionals are among business owners’ greatest assets. These talented and tenacious individuals manage and advance the frontline of the businesses they serve. Their work is vital to the success of sales goals and company profitability. Unfortunately, these professionals are increasingly difficult to find. The Sales occupation continues to change from an influx of more affordable representatives into the workforce.
Can You Sell Or Do You Represent?
While there are several types of salespeople, there are but two fundamental classifications of salesperson–the Sales professional and the Sales representative. In recent years, the Sales occupation has sustained interest in mere representation. The difference between these groups is important for business owners and managers of Sales to understand, especially if sales growth requires new account acquisition.
Most business owners and Sales managers cannot distinguish a Sales rep from a Sales pro. Unlike other professions, such as accounting, the profession of Sales is not formalized. Qualification is arbitrary. In a hiring situation, HR or a hiring manager must resort to their sense of judgment or some “common sense” standard by which to identify and assess “qualified” candidates. There exists no assurance of competencies–such as what a degree or certification would suggest–in the actual qualitative differences among salespeople. So, when looking for a Sales professional, it “takes one to know one.” And, these day especially, there are fewer who can recognize a pro from a rep. This is a problem that, for obvious, reasons needs to be resolved.
While these two groups–reps and pros–perform many of the same functions, the differences between them account for many of the problems business owners experience with growing their sales.
Drawing the Line
The difference between Sales reps and Sales pros can be expressed in terms of a degree of quality. Sales reps will present your products and services to prospective customers, identity, qualify, and follow-up on sales opportunities. They will create presentations, schedule Sales meetings, and, in the process, occasionally receive a sale. The sales of the representative are incidental to their work, which is more mindless (as of a routine) than it is mindful (as if engaged in to ensure the fulfillment of an objective). By contrast, the sales of the professional are orchestrated results of his/her work, which is thoughtfully pursued with the intent of achieving a specific result.
Vision, preparedness, investment, and skill provide categories for good examples that can more clearly highlight the differences between Sales reps and Sales pros.
There are several main objectives in most Sales sequences, including finding and qualifying prospective clients, scheduling appointments with prospective clients, profiling and identifying leveraging points, clarifying urgency to buy, and obtaining next-step commitments with a prospect. As selling becomes complex, additional steps are required in order to achieve a sale. Identifying and having a vision of the often arcane, prospect-specific steps can challenge a salesperson. And an initial vision must often adapt in order to accommodate new steps as they arise in the pursuit of sales.
Sales reps lack vision. They give little or no thought to modifying general Sales procedures. Sales reps are not concerned with maximizing the effectiveness of their endeavors. Sales professionals consistently strive to gain insight and advantages into sales situations and opportunities to ensure the success of their mission to convert potential sales into actualized sales.
Sales reps can develop their vision and improve their sales by thinking more deeply, questioning, not settling with their assumptions, and reasoning the “why,” “how,” and “what” beyond the ostensible. This thinking process accounts for the main difference between many sales successes and failures.
The basics of preparedness for most sales pursuits are: (1) having a breadth and depth of knowledge about the prospect and the sales opportunities the prospect represents; (2) strong leveraging points; (3) anticipation of a prospect’s responses to your presentation, and consideration of any peripheral issues that could impact achieving the sale; (4) a step-by-step vision for securing the sale; (5) a fallback approach for reengaging a waning prospect. Sales professionals are prepared to engage and nurture sales opportunities. Sales representatives mindlessly go through the motions of call, meet, and follow-up without sufficient preparation. Sales is a numbers game for the Sales representative who hopes that eventually something will come from “all of my work.”
Preparing a salesperson to engage in a sales pursuit requires an investment of time and materials from the business owner. If the business owner or Sales manager 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.
Sales representatives can improve their preparedness by asking and answering for themselves questions such as:
1. What data might help me engage and intrigue my prospect?
2. What is the main objective of my meeting with this prospect?
3. What possible issues might be influencing my prospect’s buying decision?
4. How can I create desire for my product in my prospect?
5. What questions might my prospect ask me and how will I answer?
6. What hurdles can I anticipate between where the sale is now and finalizing the sale?
7. How will my presentation help my prospect understand the value I offer?
A Sales rep rarely considers what his/her sales pursuits cost her/his employer. Profitability is not a consideration for the rep. Sales reps see a sale simply as a sale, and their effort in any Sales work as equally valuable. Sales professionals are more valuable to employers and will consistently outperform Sales reps by simply knowing where and how to invest their skills. Professionals know which prospects to pursue, when and why a sales pursuit should be abandoned, how to negotiate and achieve profitable transactions, and strive to improve their skills in order to maximize profits from their endeavors.
Sales representatives can improve their value as salespeople by periodically questioning themselves:
1. Am I on-track for reaching my goals, and, if not, how will I change that status?
2. What overall value does this sales pursuit represent to me and my employer?
3. What priority should I give this pursuit in helping achieve my goals?
4. How does the work I’m doing right now rank in helping achieve my goals?
5. What can I do in order to increase my productivity and ensure reaching my goal?
Salespeople must develop a multitude of skills in order to consistently bring sales opportunities to fruition. Sales reps often neglect developing their skills. Sales representatives and Sales professionals, therefore, vary to the extent that they diverge in possessing the skills required to sell most effectively.
Consider the components of most sales work and their respective demands:
Conducting research > Requires resourcefulness and creativity
Qualifying > Requires logic, and breadth and depth of industry knowledge
Setting appointments > Requires technique proficiency, discernment, and assertiveness
Presenting > Requires strategy formulation, positioning, and presentation skills
Nurturing business > Requires patience, resourcefulness, persistence, creativity, and subtlety
Selling professionally requires a multitude of skills working synergistically. Those who possess and refine such skills become top performers. Most people employed in sales, however, do not improve their skills, and thus, remain ill equipped to succeed consistently.
As you strive to improve the sales of your company, understand which skills are required to meet your specific challenges. Consider your Sales methodology. Understand the rationale behind what you are practicing, and require the same from your salespeople.
Certainly, one of the greatest Sales skills to develop is critical thinking. Sales professionals think critically about sales situations and, therefore, are able to figure out how to effectively manage those situations in order to achieve success. Convert your Sales reps into Sales professionals with process-based Sales training, training exercises (such as role play), performance standards, and appropriate support, and you’ll enjoy greater sales success.
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