Endangered Species Alert: The Professional Salesman

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Sales people. You either know one, are one, or despise at least one. Without them, companies wouldn’t be able to survive, much less thrive. Even non-profit organizations need to sell something in order to stay in business. . . . . a product, idea, or a cause. Teenagers, retirees, stay-at-home parents, and in general, those who are not in the workforce either by choice or due to circumstance- this group of people sells things too. Even if that simply means selling themselves or persuading someone else to buy into their idea. In a roundabout way, “sales” makes the world go ‘round.

So, if Sales is just part of every day life, dare we say almost human nature, why do sales people get such a bad rap? Why do we dread sitting through another. freaking. presentation, and toss those brochures in the trash as soon as we can manage to get the latest traveling sales person out of our office?

Because the sales profession is all but dead.

Did you catch that? Yes, I said Sales Profession.

–          “Wait, did you just say that Sales is a profession?”

Yes, yes I did.

–          “But the term Sales Profession implies that Sales Professionals actually exist. Ha, ha, ha”.

(Crickets. . . . sound of a pin drop)

–          “Well then, why all the negativity toward sales people?”

How many of you, when you hear the word sales, conjure up visions of a man/woman going door-to-door selling cable tv? Or windows? How about religion? If you are a fellow water and wastewater professional, you may think about the “peddlers” that seem to come out of the woodwork when you are in the midst of developing a sizable project, perhaps the last expansion or upgrade you were involved with.

It’s no wonder that we so often think of sales as a painful encounter where someone tries to sell us something that we not only absolutely have zero interest in, but we wouldn’t buy it even if we had $10million burning a hole in our bank account.

SALES does not have to be this way.

A SALE is defined as a transaction in which one party gets a desired good or service in exchange for money. Are you following? The key here is DESIRED good or service. “No means yes” logic has no place in a sales transaction done right.

A good sales person doesn’t’ try to sell whatever they have in their coat pockets to everyone that passes by just to make a buck.  A good sales person doesn’t constantly try to fit a square peg in a round hole to meet his/her quarterly numbers. A GREAT sales person gets to know a potential customer, listens to their needs and wants, and only then offers a product or service that is a genuine fit.

And here is the part where a great sales person becomes a true Professional Salesperson. Does he/she:

–          Nurture the relationship with respect, even during crunch time like

end of quarter/year?

–          Focus on what the prospect wants/needs, not just on their own needs?

–          Work to help the prospect by being a resource and solution provider . . .

even if it means referring the prospect to another provider who is better

suited to meet their current needs?

A Sales Professional will value these principles, and they will shine through during all stages of the sales cycle. Even if the lead stays in the top of the funnel for a longer than average time period. Period.

A Sales Professional creates relationships, not customers- and those relationships will carry through time no matter what products they sell or who they sell them for.

Because those relationships were founded on respect, 2-way communication, and trust.

I have met thousands of sales people during my 17 year career in water and wastewater, and I can say with all honesty that only 2-3% of them have been true Sales Professionals. We have got to set our bars higher. Fellow sales people, we have got to stop placing product pitch on repeat- hitting play on Monday only to pause when the clock strikes happy hour on Friday evening.

Salesmen and saleswomen, let’s challenge each other to step up, to reset our bar, to be a part of a collective movement to change the way our industry views sales people. My challenge to you: put in the work. Continue to educate yourself. Show up each and every day and turn off that autopilot. Only then can you become a true Sales Professional.

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WEFTEC ’18 Wrap Up

Ah WEFTEC. The once a year shebang where we see most of our industry associates all in one place, and catch up on the latest technologies, case studies, and projects. It’s hectic. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It’s necessary. For many of us, it’s part of the job requirement.

For me it has always been fun. But for the last 10 years, my WEFTEC has consisted of me being tied to a booth for three full days, with little time to do otherwise. For the past hand full of years, it has required me to arrive a few days before the show so that I can help set-up the booth- or in more recent years, manage the entire booth set-up for my employer. Oddly enough I do consider that fun. Not in a “I just spent 10 days in Italy riding a motorcycle through Tuscany and seeing the beautiful Amalfi coast” kind of way. . . but. . . “fun”.

2018 was different. In a truly amazing way. . . Being able to step onto the exhibit floor and simply focus on people was so different than past years for me. To really and truly focus on every single person that I ran into, and be present—- it allowed me to listen without background noise, to be attentive without a nagging feeling of having somewhere I “had to be” or someone I “had to fill in for”. I was able to engage, wholeheartedly, with my associates, old colleagues, new acquaintances, and so many that I genuinely call “friend”. I was able to seek out people who I wanted to see and learn about, and catch up with- and take a close look at companies with interesting technologies just because I want to know…. I spoke to media outlets to learn more about how best to support my growing client base. And I had meaningful conversations. One. After. Another.

And you know what else. . . I couldn’t wipe that smile off my face, even after coming back home at the end of a long week at WEFTEC. To say it was a success is an understatement. Success isn’t measured in the number of business cards you take home at the end of the show- but the number of meaningful conversations you have had- and all the times you really connected with another human.

P.S. It was also pretty amazing to see 36 people running around the showroom floor on Tuesday, wearing turquoise polo shirts that I had the pleasure of designing for the Ops Challenge Judges. 🙂


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