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Sales 101: Defining a Salesperson

Updated on September 25, 2014

Handshake rules

Most salespeople have the bad habit of thrusting out a hand every time they meet someone. The fact is, the majority of people prefer not to shake. Handshakes spread germs, sweat, body oils, dirt, lunchtime food aromas, and cause consternation over how hard one should grip. The only redeeming feature of a handshake is that it connects people in a very personal fashion.

In ancient times a handshake was a way for soldiers to prove they were unarmed and had good intentions - their hands were empty. Although weapons beyond mobile phones are rare for most people to wield these days, the good intentions of the common handshake is ingrained, but sometimes unwelcome. So, how should a salesperson act instead?

  • Break the habit of pushing out a hand just because you walk up to someone.
  • Let the other person make a move first.
  • If the other person does not indicate through body motion that they expect a handshake - RESTRAIN YOURSELF!

Tough as it may be, salespeople should stave off the automatic handshake and let the potential client have control over bodily contact. This helps alleviate some of the stress of meeting someone new, because stress it is. Why else would one get sweaty palms over a simple handshake?

Definition of a "salesperson"

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a salesperson is “one who sells in a given territory, in a store, or by telephone.” This seems rather flat and incomplete. Instead, we are all salespeople, although some of us are more adept at moving certain types of merchandise; that is, closing the sale.

Looking at the broader picture, all of us present a definite personal image to the world. From the homeless person on the street to the President of the United States, we each sell a certain view of ourselves every moment of our lives, whether we actively try or not. The difference between us lies in our success at passing off the image we intend to present.

What makes a professional salesperson is the talent to intentionally depict a certain image in a manner designed to convince others to buy something. Instead of simply presenting oneself, a salesperson must actively represent products and services too. Therein is the difference between people and professional salespeople: the ability to weave an overall presentation tapestry based on sales techniques and product knowledge to the end of closing the sale.

Most “salespeople” do not have a clue about what they are selling, much less how to present themselves to others. There seems to be two camps: those who believe flash and flare will sell anything, and those who do not care whether clients purchase anything. Talk about opposites! If only these extremists would bone up on the traits of a professional salesperson, they could become great. The nine marks of a professional salesperson are:

  1. Neat appearance.
  2. Businesslike manner.
  3. Knowledgeable in his or her field.
  4. Desires to improve performance.
  5. Honesty prevails in all dealings.
  6. Integrity is revered as a Way of Life.
  7. Courteous toward others.
  8. Appreciative of opportunities.
  9. Thankful for business!

If these “sales values” were accepted by the majority of self-professed hucksters, our business world would be booming right now. The problem is most salespeople never reach out to embrace even one of the nine traits.

True salespeople would never let a single trait lapse within themselves. It is a matter of pride. These people are easily spotted as they unobtrusively go about their business of making sales opportunities. That’s right! Professional salespeople create opportunities. All others simply take orders, no matter how glitzy or slovenly their appearance. Pride in oneself is what equalizes the extremes and causes a mediocre salesperson to become a super one.

The nine marks of a professional salesperson add dimension to an otherwise dry definition, just as education stretches the depth of one’s mind. Of course, these lofty ideals are for naught unless the salesperson embraces them and strives daily to live by them. The practice of these traits makes a salesperson stand out from the crowd, which is perhaps the most important reason to follow them.

To become a better salesperson, one should break down each of the nine marks until fully integrated into his or her character. This process could take years of study and practice, but the effort will be justified by the results. Benjamin Franklin used to say, "Empty the coins in your purse into your mind and your mind will fill your purse with coins." The nine marks of the professional salesperson are an educational roadmap. Until the road is walked—until the mind is broadened—a salesperson will remain flat like the dictionary definition.


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