The Top 10 Myths About the Sales Profession

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Myth 1: Sales People are all Shady!

In the Broadway play "Death of a Salesman" Willy Loman was a down and out emotionally spent Salesman trying to understand his life after 34 years of traveling up and down the roads selling his products. The negative stereotype of a Salesman is rooted deep into the subconscious of society. Images of the fast talking, scheming, shady, over-the-top, and high-pressure Salesperson make you feel uncomfortable. You definitely would never trust or make this dishonorable person your friend.

I have personally seen salespeople portrayed negatively on children's cartoons such as Jimmy Neutron and Spongebob Squarepants! Evidence to support this negative stereotype continues to today and some sales professionals harbor these feelings restricting their ability to become stellar performers and have fun doing it. They mask this repressed feeling of choosing a "dishonorable" profession with false optimism and deflected identities (i.e. I'm not a "Salesperson," I'm a "customer experience engineer").

Almost everyone has had a "bad" buying experience. As a result, they feel burned and think that sales people are shady. Ironically, all professions (not just selling) have fast talking, scheming, shady, over-the-top, and high-pressure people in them. And all professions have extremely professional individuals. In the eyes of many people who make purchases, Salespeople are "all about money", and we're just "trying to take money from us."

You don't have to be that way, because most of the "real professionals" who have chosen this as career are not like that.

Here are some examples of what leads to negative stereotypes. Hint: If you are just entering in the sales profession, don't do this!:

? Shady sales people who simply pitch and not converse with the client

? They spend no time in prepping for their Sales call and they don't practice delivery their presentation

? They don't focus on what the audience cares about. They only care about what's in it for them.

? They tell all about their product factoids, but not why they matter.

? They don't listen, and at the end of the sale, they ask for the order without building trust.

Luckily, most high performing sales professionals do exactly the opposite of the above.

Salespeople have rights too, and non-profit trade associations dedicated to the profession are trying to help organizations realize the value of their sales people. Because they realize that most sales people are effective and they have done their homework to understand the needs, concerns and interests of the people they are selling to.

Find out about one such organization, the United Professional Sales Association I started for individual sales success at

Myth 2: If You're a Schmoozer Then You're a Closer!

A schmoozer is someone who has the ability to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection. This is almost the definition of "Networking" in business terms. Schmoozers are not closers because they are trying to talk with someone or build a relationship with them for only one thing-the money. Schmoozing to build a "fake rapport" is something that people can smell for miles away, so don't do it. Schmoozing doesn't help you close deals -- successful networking does!

Someone who works hard at developing a personal connection with people on a non-business level first and develops a plan to truly help that person will reap the rewards. In other words, if you give, you will receive! Schmoozing doesn't allow for that. Schmoozing is all about getting, with no giving.

Myth 3: There is no such thing as an Ethical Salesperson!

Every day working people are faced with ethical challenges to conducting business. Ethical decisions require making the right decision, even when nobody is looking! Ethical business practices stem from the understanding that an ultimate payback may take awhile to attain.

A company's ethics and integrity are directly reflected in the relationship between the Salesperson and the customer. As a result, most great salespeople who have been doing this for any length of time have had to build their "Sales reputation" through happy clients. You cannot be unethical in the Sales profession and stay at the top of your game. This philosophy is the same with any other profession as well.

Those who have engaged in unethical behavior in sales are out there, don't get me wrong. But bad apples exist in any other profession. By reading great books, attending sales training and knowing right from wrong, you will set yourself apart in your business dealings.

As an example, you will come to realize that your decision to work with the client affects the profit and loss issues of your company and their company. You will also realize that your business relationships also affect how much business you are able to conduct in the future and the quality of the relationships you build with your customers.

The best decisions are made when one examines the short term and long term effects of the decision and keeps their clients success at the forefront.

Here's another fact:

Most prospects and customers actually feel that it is "OK" to tell a lie to a sales person during the sales process. It's a defense mechanism built up over hundreds of years of being treated poorly. Today, prospects are able to find out more information than the salesperson sitting across from them and they will often play one salesperson against the other. Somehow this is seen an "ethical" and "ok." It's ironic that salespeople are seen as unethical, while the pendulum is swinging the other way with unethical buying practices needing to be regulated by the federal government in some cases! Prospects even learn sales tactics (such as closing techniques) and how to "counter" them. I personally think it's time for everyone to get real (including unethical sales people), but that's another book. Myth 4: Marketing and Selling are the Same Thing!

One of my professors I had while taking my Master's Degree once told me that you can only do one of three things in business: make it, sell it, or count it.

The problem is the definition of "selling it" comprises two divergent but inextricably entwined functions -- sales and marketing. The more appropriate elements (especially in today's world) should be, in business you can only: make it, grow it, or count it.

I say grow it, for two reasons. One reason is the marketing department and the other reason is the sales department. The problem with the two professions is each of believe that their occupation is the dominant half of the pair. Marketers generally think of salespeople as golf-playing monkeys or pushy placement professionals whose sole purpose is to repeat the same sales pitch (that they have developed) over-and-over again to new prospects. Salespeople generally think of marketers as lazy liberal arts graduates who use the words "focus groups" and "corporate brand" to describe activities that are nothing but "a colossal waste of money."

Ultimately each function needs the other if the company is to GROW. To that end, sales and marketing are separate but equal professions from a business perspective.

What's less obvious is how we should all work together. Marketers believe that marketing should play the dominant role. After all, marketing defines the product, articulates the positioning, and creates all the sales tools (ranging from glowing CEO profiles in "Fortune" magazine to the ubiquitous corporate logo wear that serves as the de facto currency of the modern professional). All sales has to do is to follow orders, right?. Salespeople believe that selling should play the dominant role. After all, selling is where the rubber meets the road, where the tough get going, where everyone gives 110 percent, and where slogans reign supreme. Salespeople bring home the bacon. All marketers do is provide brochures and take all the credit. The truth is more complicated but more rewarding.

Suffice it to say, let's just say that selling and marketing are NOT the same thing. What both departments SHOULD agree on is the need to stay focused on what the client's and customers want, in an effort to provide them value. Can't we just stay focused on that? That's another book too.

Myth 5: Selling is about Winning Over Your Customer!

Selling isn't about wining over anyone. It's about helping your customer win. If you think of making a sale as "winning", that means someone has to lose. If you are winning and your customer's are losing, you'll be selling a very, very short amount of time.

It's about both you and your customer winning. Enough said. I just wish that prospects and buyers thought that all the time too!

Myth 6: Selling isn't a Real Profession!

If you're embarrassed about being in selling, this is the myth you're subscribing to. You have to be proud of being in selling in order to be successful. One way to do this is to realize the important people you'll be working with on a daily basis. When sales professionals sell, they are often sitting across the table from the following formalized professions:

? Chief Financial Officer (formalized by the American Finance Association)

? Legal Counsel (formalized American Bar Association)

? Project Manager (formalized by the Project Management Institute)

? Marketing Professional (formalized by the American Marketing Association)

? Information Technology Professional (formalized by numerous associations and organizations)

? Procurement Professional (formalized by the Institute of Supply Management and the National Association of Purchasing Management)

The question is, what exactly is a "formal" profession?

There are many formalized professions in our society, including doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, dentist, and other recognized and formalized occupations. These occupations engender a level of respect from the population as a whole because their standards of entry require education and training specific to their respective fields. Professions generally provide a service to the population as a whole, but the average recipient of that service has little opportunity to judge the qualification of the professional. This, the individual who wishes to make use of the services provided by professionals must rely on their professional membership to determine qualifications.

There are five attributes generally identified as common to all recognized professions . Think about each in relation to the sales profession. I believe all five aspects exist in the sales profession, but they are not fully recognized and understood. The future of the profession lies with those choosing selling as an occupation and advancing understanding of these five elements (that's you!).

A Unique Body of Knowledge: This attribute encompasses concepts and principles that are unique to the profession and are documented so that they can be studied and learned through formal education. In most professions, the body of knowledge is taught in graduate or professional schools. For example, the specialized body of knowledge of the legal profession is taught in law schools. A degree does not necessarily qualify an individual to practice in the profession, but it does provide a means of assuring that the individual has at least been exposed to the basic principles in which the profession is based. Every profession has at least one degree that can be earned by those wishing to demonstrate knowledge of the profession's principles.

In the sales profession, there are only a very small handful of degrees in selling. There is a large body of knowledge, but until the United Professional Sales Association defined the framework for that knowledge, other professions didn't understand how complex professional selling was. This attribute of a profession is the most important, and it also has the longest way to go. To help in this area, you can help get the United Professional Sales Association standards adopted by your selling organization.

Standards of Entry: Defined minimum standards of entry into a profession imply progression in a career. Entry standards define the place from where a career path begins. All professionals must have an accepted route open to the public by which a person can become a recognized member of the profession. Law, engineering, accounting, medicine, and teaching all have entry standards. These standards usually involve formal education leading to an academic degree, several years of experience as in an apprenticeship program or as a beginner in the profession, test score requirements, which may or may not be legally enforceable, or some combination of the three.

A Code of Ethics: Ethical Standards, or a code of ethics, is common to most professions. Its purpose is to make explicit appropriate behavior and to provide a basis for self-policing of unethical behavior, thus avoiding or limiting the necessary legal controls.

Service Orientation to the Profession: The service orientation is actually an attitude of the members of the profession, an attribute by which members are committed to bettering the profession itself. Professionals will commit their money and energy to publishing their ideas and experience, attending conventions, and generally contributing to the body of knowledge and the administration of the profession. A professional's commitment to the profession is frequently stronger than to the employer. In many cases, professionals will leave their employing organizations rather than violate the professional's standards or ethical practice.

A Sanctioning Organization: The authenticating body or sanctioning organization has many purposes. It sets the standard and acts as a self-policing agency. It promotes publications and exchange of ideas, encourages research, develops and administers certification programs, and sponsors and accredits education programs. Through public information and recognition of professionals, such organizations provide the voice for their profession. To summarize, the purpose of the authenticating body is to administer the profession.

Myth 7: Selling isn't That Hard! Anyone Can Do It!

Selling is a hard profession to master. It's one of the most complicated professions in the world. Where else do you have to understand organizations and individuals with such depth and clarity? Where else do you have to build rapport with so many different types of people, in so many different locations, buildings, or business types?

On top of this complexity is the reality that Selling is one of the few real pay-for-performance professions, with over ? of the compensation "at risk" or based on commission.

A lot of sales professionals feel stress in their jobs. In the engineering profession, stress results from the application of a constant force to an immovable object. In selling, the force is your "quota" and the immovable object is your customer's expectations.

If you guess, you stress. It's that simple.

Selling is about taking the guess work out of what the future will hold. True, it isn't as much as it sounds for real sales professionals. The key is to learn about the truth of the sales profession and banish the myths. When you accomplish this, you will find selling concepts that make sense that can immediately put into practice. Above all else, you will persevere when so many others will quit, and that's what will make the difference to your company's bottom line.

Myth 8: Selling is a "Numbers Game"!

Undoubtedly, you will hear this one within your first week of selling: "Selling is a numbers game." Make the calls, make the presentations, and work your way through enough people, and eventually you will make a sale. You'll hear it within three hours of being on your first job in Sales. Someone will say "it's a number game" I guarantee it.

It goes something like this. The more phone calls you make, the more sales you will make. "So, make 100 phone calls" someone will say. "Of those 100, send 10 proposals. And of those 10, you will close 2. The more numbers you have the more you will sell. Now, there's your phone. Good luck!"

Remember this always! Quality supersedes quantity. Your goal in selling must be to find prospects that have a propensity and a motive to buy your product or services. If they don't want to buy or need to buy your product or service, then I don't care about the numbers!

I would rather make two phone calls and close two sales than make 100 like our example above, wouldn't you? If someone is tracking your progress, how do they know you are calling the right people, with a want and a need?

I know of a large insurance sales organization, who provided sales reps with contact lists for life insurance and investments. The only problem was most prospects lived in a low income area and were highly unlikely to buy any life insurance because they didn't need, or want it. I don't care if you call 1,000 people that don't fit the profile. You're still wasting your time. Quality over quantity.

Rather than buying into the myth that selling is a numbers game, think of a game of darts. By aiming your effort (the dart) at a clearly defined target (your pre-qualified prospect on the dart board) your chances for hitting the mark (a sale) are greatly enhanced. Contrast that mindset with a pure numbers game, where you stand outside and try to get hit by lighting or crossing your fingers multiple times with the hope of attaining good luck. Myth 9: You Must Like Rejection!

Many sales courses, sales books, and sales training will tell you to keep a very stiff upper lip when you get "rejected." A rejection can occur when you are rebuffed on the phone, not granted an appointment, or simply told "no." These courses will also tell you not to let a "no" get you down. The problem with this approach is the fact that once you accept the simple proposition that you have been rejected in the first place, you have given up the psychological high ground and put your self-esteem into retreat! Simply put, your sales team needs to reject the notion of rejection.

Once salespeople understand that all they are doing is helping people, every outcome should be the same. If prospects don't want your help or choose not to deal with your company for whatever reason, it is not your salesperson's problem. He or she simply has to locate another prospect that needs your company's products or services. Regardless of the response prospects give, the salesperson is still the same person with the same amount of product knowledge, experience, and competence. When you teach your team to stop linking, no matter how subtly, their sense of self-worth and accomplishment to a prospect's response, then selling ceases to be hard work and instead becomes a game. In general, the healthiest mindset for you to teach is: "You, Mr./Ms. Prospect, have made a decision to move forward without my services. I'll be here when you come to your senses and change your mind. It's not my responsibility to straighten you or your company out."

Myth 10: Selling is a Dead End Job!

Did you know that 85 percent of the company leaders and entrepreneurs in America today were once salespeople? They carried sample cases, made cold calls, dialed for dollars, did product demonstrations and handled objections. Today, they're the majority of corporate presidents, CEOs and the like. Selling is a dead-end job all right--especially when you consider that the end may be at the very top of an organization!

Brian is the Chairman and Founder of the the United Professional Sales Association (UPSA). UPSA is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington DC that has addressed the concerns and challenges of individual sales professionals. Brian has authored the world's first universal selling standards and open-source selling framework for free distribution. This 'Compendium of Professional Selling' containing the commonly accepted and universally functional knowledge that all sales professionals possess. The open-source selling standards have been downloaded in 16 countries by over 300 people. Over 30 people have made contributions.

Because UPSA is not owned by one person or any company, it is a member organization and guardian of the global standard of entry into the sales profession.

Find out about the membership organization and understand the processes and framework of professional selling at the UPSA Website at Find out more about Brian at:

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