"The book salesman should be honored because he brings to our attention the very books we need most and often neglect most"
I was recently sitting on a plane heading back to the United States from Asia.
There was a man sitting next to me who looked to be a businessman dressed in a suit and tie.
After some time we struck up a conversation and exchanged the bits and pieces of cordial information... where did you just come from?... where do you live?... what do you do for a living?... are you married?... do you have kids?... when you’re not working what do you like to do?...
The kind of stuff typically bandied about during cocktail parties where you scarcely know anyone there besides the person who invited you.
Idle chitchat with a stranger on an airplane helps to pass the time on a long voyage and might also help you develop new friends and acquaintances.
After some time, the flight attendant came through the aisle passing out landing cards, those forms one must complete upon entering the United States, asking for basic passport information and customs declarations.
In one of the spaces provided, the form asks the question, "occupation"?
Without much thought, I routinely print "sales" on that blank line.
Shortly thereafter, my seatmate happened to glance over at my form and seeing "sales" he asked, "I thought you said that you were the president of your company... at least that’s what your card read".
I looked over at him and replied, "I am the president of OptiFuse, but I like writing down sales because I think of it as a more noble profession."
He then gave me a cynical look that made me feel as though I had been lying to him all along, but that now he had caught me in my own web of deceit.
"Really", I tried hard to explain, "Professional sales people are typically held in the highest esteem at most companies. Think for moment about your own company, who is responsible for making sure that customer service continues to receive new orders, that manufacturing is kept busy building things, that accounting has clients to bill, and that engineering knows what types of products to create... nothing in business happens until a sale is made!!"
Now don’t get me wrong... there are a lot of non-professional sales people out there in the world.
There are the "used-car" type salesmen, dressed in a clashing jacket and tie, who is long on promises, when you find yourself on his car lot and short on delivering once you’ve left the premises driving off in one of his lemons.
They are only interested in the quick buck from an unsuspecting buyer. "Buyer Beware" is their motto and information is good... as long as they are the only ones to have it. They live by the iron-clad contract, the small print (written of course in their favor) and the quick get-away... which they hope will protect them from the legal disputes which are sure to follow. These are the swindlers and the thieves of the profession.
The second type of salesperson that often gives sales black marks are those who play upon the uninformed to sell them a variety of products and services that they don’t want or need, but because they are supposedly professionals, they are trusted by their clients.
Stock brokers (I think that they like to be called "wealth managers" these days), insurance agents, doctors, lawyers, accountants, auto mechanics, IT specialists, and a wide variety of other respected professional service providers that have very specialized knowledge, knowledge that is acquired over years of education and practical experience.
Many times their deceptions go unnoticed by their clients who must trust them to look after their best interests. This might include a doctor, who may get referral fees from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing certain brand medications, an attorney who tells you that you’re getting screwed in your divorce settlement so you should fight to the bitter end in order to create billable hours for them, or the auto mechanic who misdiagnosis car problems causing you to replace parts / systems that never needed replacing in the first place.
In my opinion, these are far worse offenders than the "used-car salesman" in that you probably never really trusted the car salesman in the first place...
These people are your trusted advisors. You would be willing to buy almost anything that they recommended because you have transferred your trust to them. Once a person has gained your trust, you have provided them with the combination to your safe.
Now, I am in no way advocating that some or all of your trusted advisors are crooks... and in fact, a great vast majority are indeed worthy of your unadulterated trust... but there are a small few who will spoil the reputation of an entire industry.
A true professional sales person is nothing more than a resource, helping their customers find the best solutions to their problems.
Sometimes the customer’s problem is not well-defined and so the sales person’s first and foremost job is to ask insightful questions in order to understand what the customer wants and/or needs... sometimes even before the customer knows that they need it.
A great doctor will find ways to keep their patients healthy rather than try to find ways to cure their patient’s illnesses.
The same principal applies to sales people. They are there to help their customers stay healthy... which in my industry means better, faster, and less expensive (OptiFuse’s products are NEVER cheaper than our competitor’s products... but we are often less expensive than they are).
A professional sales person will invest their time and energies trying to solve problems, not make a sale. They will become a resource for their customers, often sending their customers to other professionals who specialize in solving very specific problems.
Contrary to popular opinion, a professional sales person job is not to sell... it’s to help and assist.
The true sales person should know their products and/or services inside and out... they should be aware of the many applications where they can and can’t be used... all they need to find out is more about their customer and their customer’s specific products or services.
A professional sales person doesn’t sit in front of a client rattling off specs... but rather they should be asking questions... lots of them!!
The professional sales person doesn’t think about how a sale will help them earn a commission... but rather how the customer can use their product or service to make money for themselves.
I am proud to call myself a professional sales person... more so than calling myself a company president or entrepreneur...
...because I enjoy the trust placed in me by my customers to help them when they need it the most... and in the end... that’s what business is all about...
Thank you for enduring support of OptiFuse where we work hard each day to earn your trust and help to solve your problems...