Problem: Have you ever heard the term “sales profession?” How about “medical profession?” Which one do you think has the most credibility? Admittedly I’m biased; I am a “professional” salesperson. Which would the general public—the people who are our prospective buyers—give the most credibility to as a real profession? My guess is medicine.
Analysis: Medical professionals study for years before they are licensed to practice and then must undergo regular continuing education to stay licensed. The profession is highly regulated, and rightly so, since peoples’ lives are on the line. What about the sales profession? The normal requirement to get into sales is often nothing more than an outgoing personality and a business card. Training ranges from nothing to rigorous, but usually is inadequate. Salespeople are often making recommendations on products and services that can have a profound impact on their customers. Yet, we have no regulating body to keep out the charlatans.
In medicine, they have a term for someone who prescribes medical treatment without an adequate diagnosis of the condition. They call that person a “quack.” A synonym for quack is charlatan, described by Webster as, “Someone who pretends to have expert knowledge or skill that he does not have.”
How many “professional” salespeople prescribe a product or service before they’ve made an adequate diagnosis? It’s no wonder that, almost universally, salespeople are mistrusted. And it’s no wonder that selling is so difficult, given that prospects don’t trust salespeople.
Solution: If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, if you truly want to be regarded as a professional, then begin with a better diagnosis. Tell the prospect that you won’t give a presentation until you understand his situation completely. It would sound something like this; “I understand that you want to hear all about our product and what it costs and at the same time, I don’t even know if I can help you. I haven’t asked you enough questions to determine that. Shouldn’t we do that first…determine if we are even a right fit for you?”
Then, make sure you ask enough of the right questions to be able to suggest a solution that will completely fix the problem. The right questions are the ones you ask to understand the business issues, the costs associated with these issues and the potential upside of resolving these issues.
The wrong questions are ones you ask just to build a quote. Quote questions are typically centered on getting the specs so you can build a quote. They are important questions but only come after you have identified the business issue you can solve, associate a cost to it, and have an agreement from the prospect that it is an important enough issue that they would want to address it either immediately or in the short term.
A professional asks the right questions at the right time.
So after reading this, which one are you—the professional or the pretender? Before you answer, ask yourself this question; “If I was arrested for being a professional salesperson, would there be enough evidence to convict me?”