goal setting

Eight Qualities of a Professional Salesperson

By Dr. Tony Alessandra, Author and Keynote Speaker

In talking to people all over the United States, we have found that the term “salesperson” generates many responses. We seem to hear some of them over and over. A few of the most common are: pushy, high pressure, dishonest, huckster, hard sell…and it deteriorates from there.

The answers are quite different when we ask for a description of a professional salesperson. Then we hear responses that are a big improvement: thorough, honest, friendly, polite, competent and sincere.

The question is, what can you do to develop the qualities of a professional and how do you convey to others that you now possess or are developing those traits? The answer is simple, although not always easy. The first step is knowledge: becoming aware of the qualities of a professional, which is what you are doing as you read this article. The second step is action–making a commitment to apply this knowledge and follow through with your commitment.

No matter how nice a person we are, some of us still need to work on one or more traits, which will help us be more professional. Let’s consider the key traits, which will make your contact with a client more conducive to a long-term business relationship.

It has been said that you never get a second chance to overcome a bad first impression. The first few minutes of a relationship are often the most important. People like to be right about how they “size up” others so it takes a lot more work to change a negative first impression to a positive impression in the first place. You will probably agree that those first few moments can often make or break a sales call. Creating a positive impression increases the probability that you and your products will be accepted.

Dress and grooming are only one aspect that forms first impressions (image). Equally important are voice inflection, posture, personality style and attitude.

During one of our seminars a participant said, “People have to accept me for what I am. I’m not going to change just to make the other guy happy.” If being unique and not compromising is more important than making a sale, fine. But that attitude may not be a very profitable one.

We’re not suggesting you change who you are. We’re assuming, because you’re in sales, that you want to be accepted and are willing to work for it (this includes compromise).

Your Attitude is Showing
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “People don’t seem to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” In other words, if we think this is a miserable world to live in, then we live in a miserable world…and probably make it miserable for others to live in too.

Our attitudes are reflected in everything we do, including relationships with our clients. Our attitudes elicit different responses from our clients, so if we see them as jerks that can be manipulated, their responses will be entirely different than if we see them as fellow business people with whom we have a lot in common.

We can never be truly professional salespeople unless we develop a sincere respect for — and healthy attitude toward — our clients. Try thinking of them as valves through which your energy flows rather than as dams (obstacles) who will stop your progress. Only your positive attitude toward them will ensure the mutual trust, which is so vital to doing business successfully.

Depth of Knowledge
In all sales positions, the company has the obligation to educate you about the specific product you are selling. The company operations manuals will provide you with technical skills and product knowledge. This knowledge however, rarely goes beyond that required to describe competently the product to a client.

We recommend that you set aside time on a regular basis during which you can deepen your knowledge (and hopefully your enthusiasm/love) of your field.

Your responsibility as a professional includes much more than learning elaborate descriptions. If someone were to say to you, “Tell me about the field you are working in,” could you give them an interesting, in-depth explanation of how it started and where it is today? Perhaps you think that knowing the history or theory of your industry is not necessary for your day-to-day selling. The fact is that with an increase in knowledge comes an increase in confidence and authority. The result: longer lasting client relationships and more sales.

Breadth of Knowledge
It’s also important to develop your ability to discuss a broad spectrum of subjects. Having depth of knowledge in your specific field without knowledge in a wide variety of topics puts an automatic limit on the number of people you can relate to and who in turn can relate to you. This is a serious handicap for a salesperson.

Anything worthwhile takes effort and this includes expanding your conversational horizons. A fast, concise and convenient way to know what’s going on in the world is to subscribe to a weekly news magazine which will expose you to science, politics, the arts, international affairs, etc. It is not necessary for you to have an opinion on all the issues, but being informed on them and keeping up to date by scanning a good daily newspaper will give you confidence and expand your conversational effectiveness.

No matter how great your conversational skills may be, your efforts will be completely wasted if you are not sensitive to your clients needs. It is crucial to be aware of your client’s “silent messages” which often reveal the real meaning behind the verbal ones.

We recommend that you study body language and try to be empathetic. Observe what people do with their bodies in different situations. Put yourself in their shoes so that you can be open to what’s happening with them, but do it intellectually rather than emotionally.

For example, by studying body language and being empathic, you will be able to acknowledge when your client is too busy at the moment (foot tapping), and arrange to come back another time when they are more receptive.

It is literally impossible to be a top seller in your field without a contagious sense of enthusiasm. To prove this to yourself, try to think of one top salesperson you know or have heard about who does not have a genuine enthusiasm for themselves and their product.

Enthusiasm shows the client that you are sold on the product. Your enthusiasm, good eye contact and your overall sincerity will also tell your client that you’re an honest person. This will motivate them to establish or continue a business relationship with you. They will become interested in you as a person. This is what you want, both for yourself and your business.

Maturity is a rather nebulous quality. It combines all the positive character traits we have already mentioned.

One of the things that distinguish a mature person is the ability to recognize the need to do things whether liking them or not. In addition, mature people accept responsibility for their actions. The result is they are willing to admit mistakes and suffer consequences as well as reap rewards.

Maturity means handling disappointments and setbacks without becoming self-destructive. These people know there are times when things won’t go right and they know that those times won’t last forever.

Professionalism is a state of mind and conduct. It is not what you do; it is how you do it. There are many highly paid corporate incompetents as well as many very professional volunteers in every field.

Pride is the sense of satisfaction you have from knowing that your are important, worthwhile, in control of your destiny, and aware of and acting on your potential. Pride will make you stand tall even when surrounded by giants. Professionalism recognizes potential and is, therefore, not stung by small disappointments or undermined by larger ones.

Taking pride in yourself and what you do is the seed from which professionalism grows. It’s the natural consequence of developing the other seven traits that we mentioned and vice versa.



The Glory of Goals: Define Your Future – Short Term and Long Term

By Todd Natenberg, Author, “I just got a job in sales. Now what?” and President of TBN Sales Solutions

Success comes from purpose. Until you recognize what it is you want to accomplish, you will lack the motivation necessary to accomplish anything. Sales reps burn out easily because they repeatedly ask themselves, “What does it all mean? Why am I doing this?” They lack vision. They can’t visualize the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, because they don’t know what the pot of gold looks like.

If you can’t define “living” clearly, how do you know if you’re successful at it?

Here’s a strategy for setting goals:

1. Write goals down and post them.
2. Make goals measurable.
3. Set deadlines for goals.
4. Make personal and professional goals.
5. Celebrate goals upon accomplishment.

1. Write goals down and post them

Do you know why people love e-mail? They can see the words. When people see things, they become real. Until a visual picture is created, it’s an idea open to interpretation. With email, there is no room for confusion. People know what the message is, when it was sent, who received the message and who sent the message. Even for those of us with bad memories, the information can be re-read by accessing a computer.

Goals are the same. When goals are written down, they magically become real. They remind salespeople why they endure constant abuse from angry prospects, the pressures of obtaining a monthly quota and continual bantering from managers to close deals. Writing down goals lets you see the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow. In addition to writing your goals, post them where you will see them regularly – in your office, your home and somewhere visible in the car.

2. Make goals measurable

Selling 150% of quota, running 10 new sales appointments a week, buying a $65,000 Lexus and owning a $500,000 house with 5-bedrooms and a 3-car garage are all legitimate goals.

“Being happy” is not a goal. “Enjoying life” is not a goal. “Selling a lot” is not a goal. How will you know when you are happy? How will you know when you are enjoying life? What is “a lot?” Selling is based on numbers. Salespeople succeed when they sell. They fail when they don’t. Even more specifically, salespeople achieve a certain level of success or failure based on an exact number. Personal goals must be established the same way.

The more specific your goals, the more achievable they become.

3. Set deadlines for your goals

When are you the most productive? When do you get the most amount of work done in the least amount of time? Usually it’s the day before you leave for vacation! Why? You have no choice. You have no time to think. You just act. You have to focus, so nothing holds you back. You remove all obstacles because of the urgency. Why is the urgency so great? It’s because the consequences are so severe.

How productive would you be in your job – in your life- if you treated every day like you were leaving for vacation the next day?

4. Make personal and professional goals

Enjoying what you do is important. Enjoying what you do because it enables you lead the life you want is even more important. For instance, it will be much easier to make 100 cold calls if those 100 cold calls are necessary to achieve the income needed to achieve your goal – a Lexus. Or perhaps your goal is to stay physically fit. Staying fit will result in a greater alertness, less irritability and make you more productive in your job which will enable you to make those 100 cold calls to achieve that income to buy that Lexus. It’s a never-ending circle – in a good way.

If you asked former NBA star Michael Jordan at the height of his career if he enjoyed lifting weights, he might have had to think about it. But because improving his overall fitness enabled him to be the best of the best, rarely would he miss a workout.

5. Celebrate your goals upon accomplishment

Too often, people let life pass them by. They try hard to achieve something, but when they do, they ask, “Is this all there is?” That’s because they never take a moment to enjoy how monumental their achievements are.

When you accomplish what you set out to do, be proud. Celebrate your success. Remind yourself that you accomplished your goal. The blood, the sweat and the tears were worth it. If you won an award, post the plaque. If you received that $50,000 commission check, frame it. (Cash it first!) Narcissism is acceptable in celebrating success situations. Whoever gave you those prizes thought highly of you. Think highly of yourself.

Brag to yourself. Take your significant other out to dinner. Buy a nice gift. Spoil yourself. You earned it. When you enjoy success again, you will want to repeat the feeling. Make it memorable.


Take a sheet of paper and list your goals based on the criteria we just discussed. Do the following: Make two columns – Personal Goals and Professional Goals. List under each column a timeframe: 1 month, 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. Under each timeframe list the numbers 1-5. There will be 40 items total. Write down your goals.

You can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you want to be. If you don’t know where you want to be, no roadmap will get you there.

Want Better Sales Results? Try Recognition!

By Dr. Bob Nelson, President, Nelson Motivation, Inc.

“You get what you reward” is probably the single most validated principle of managing performance known to mankind. Certainly money is an important motivator to sales people of all types, yet recognition is at least equally critical to their ongoing success, as well. In fact, recognizing successful sales people may be the single most effective way to boost sales results.

When it comes to motivating sales people, however, I find sales managers often overlook the value and importance of recognition, or worse, tend to fall back on the same old things they’ve been doing for years (read: boring) as a means of getting a new level of focus and commitment from their sales staff. They completely miss what would truly motivate their sales staff and more times than not, they are disappointed as a result.

Where Did Recognition Go Wrong?
How did we get to this state of affairs? It seems to me that recognition sales efforts have lagged shifts in employee preferences for several reasons. First, managers look backward to “what we’ve done,” thus limiting their options to past practices, rather than current employee desires. This is to say, managers, and the companies they work for, tend to be reactive rather than responsive to what motivates today’s employees, looking to change or improve things only when there is overwhelming evidence that what they’re doing is not working.

If other organizations are continuing with similar recognition efforts, the status of such efforts becomes perpetrated, even as recognition efforts become stale, stagnant and irrelevant.

Second, the $32-billion-plus incentive industry, with its focus on moving merchandise, travel, and promoting expanded expenditures on existing recognition programs hasn’t helped the situation much either. The incentive market has lagged the reality of what’s really important to employees today and are more focused on continuing to move and customize merchandise, awards and plaques, and not necessarily on motivating employees or enhancing performance. Once a program has been budgeted, it is easy for an organization to continue that funding year after year and difficult to stop and reassess if the monies are being spent wisely, or even if there is any return at all.

Third, the fact that employee expectations have changed, has amplified the disconnect that exists today. Today’s sales employees expect to have more meaning in their jobs from their very first day of work, more support and involvement in their jobs, more thanks when they do good work, more flexibility in their working hours, and more balance between their work and personal lives. Recognition practices have not kept up with these changed expectations on the part of the sales staff.

Following are some thoughts as to what you might consider doing differently to motivate your sales staff.

Tailor to Unique Needs
Incentives are motivating if they are specifically personalized to the unique needs of those sales people you are trying to motivate. For example, a sales manager at Xerox asked a sales rep what he could do to thank him for the great job he had done. The sales rep asked for a “day in his honor” and got it in spades: Everyone in the facility answered the phone “Xerox Corporation, today we’re celebrating Jerry Smith Day. They held a lunch in Jerry’s honor, did fun things throughout the day for him, and even created a scrapbook of the day’s event as a memento for him.

Chuck Piola, Executive Vice President of Sales at NCO Financial Systems in Blue Bell, PA, started a new reward at his company for junior salespeople. “This guy was a year out of college, and one month he finally broke through – so I took him out and bought him a new suit.” The new suit has become a tradition of sorts with Chuck. He also lets salespeople who have a great sales week borrow his Mercedes for the weekend.

Richard Meyerson, President of Traveltrust Corporation in San Diego, CA, offered to remodel a nursery in a sales manager’s home to accommodate a newborn child if she made her sales goals. She met her goals, and while the remodeling was done, she had the access to an empty house owned by the corporation to live in.

Be Fun & Creative
Don’t use the same old incentives that you’ve used for years, just because you’ve used them. Try new ideas and build on those that work. The most motivating incentives are also often the ones that are the most fun and creative.

At a pizza party to celebrate a record sales month, Michael Phillips, director of sales for Seattle-based Korry Electronics, told his sales force that if they ever beat their new record he’d shave his head. “Everybody got involved in trying to break the record, even the customers,” he reported. To celebrate the “Unbelievable” month, Phillips brought in his own personal “Hair Terminator,” who shaved Phillips’s scalp in front of approximately 565 employees at a rooftop party. The first snips were taken by sales reps who had contributed the most sales. Key customers and sales reps from around the world were present.

Robert Partain, a sales manager for Westinghouse in Los Angeles, CA, threw a barbecue lunch for his 17-member sales staff team the first time they made their group’s sales goal. He promised to do it again if the group again made its goal. Seventeen months later, he had done sixteen team barbecues, missing only the month of the Northridge earthquake.

Create a Themed Celebration
You can also organize your sales team’s recognition around a theme. Here are three examples of companies that developed fun incentive programs centered around cars:

Xerox Corporation used a sports car theme for its “Fast Track” sales incentive program, which also involved technical support employees and their managers. Participants accrued points that were redeemable for merchandise or cash awards. Battery-powered Ferraris and spark plugs were distributed to “spark new ideas.”

Cars were also an incentive for operators of Chick-fil-A, an Atlanta-based restaurant chain. If sales increased by 40 percent over the previous year’s sales, operators earned the right to drive a Mark VII Lincoln Continental for one year. If the increase was repeated the following year, they got to keep the car for good. More than 100 operators have been given this reward.

Valvoline Oil Company organized a unique incentive trip-a racing school-for its top performers from various U.S. distributorships. Individuals were awarded with a two-day trip to a racing school at Road Atlanta, a Grand Prix track in Braselton, GA. The first day, distributors attended school to learn handling techniques like braking, skid padding and heel/toe down-shifting. The second day they raced around the track, practicing their new skills.

One More Time: How Do You Recognize Sales Employees?
While there are numerous possibilities for recognizing sales efforts, perhaps the most effective is still a sincere thank you for a job well done. Increasingly, today’s sales people expect more from their job in the way of feeling valued, respected, involved and appreciated in the organization if you want them to perform at their best.

In the fast-moving, ever-changing times we live in today, employees want more personalized forms of recognition as well and they want them now. They view themselves as working more for other people than for any given organization. And it’s those people they work for and with that can most make recognition meaningful and special.

So what is most important when it comes to how employees prefer to be recognized today? In a recent study I conducted, some 78 percent of employees indicated that it was “very” or “extremely” important to them to be recognized by their manager when they do good work and 73 percent of employees stated they expected that recognition to occur either “immediately” or “soon thereafter.”

Ironically, it’s the simple forms of sincere thanks that still mean the most to employees. In fact, of the top 10 recognition factors employees indicated as most important for them to receive when they did good work, four were types of praise: personal, written, electronic and public – each typically done by those individuals they hold in high esteem at work, given to them in a timely, sincere and specific manner.

As Irene Elliot, an account executive for United Postal Savings, explains: “Informal day-to-day acknowledgments mean a lot. Especially welcome are the spontaneous calls from upper management congratulating me when I exceed a sales goal. Without the personal touch, this job would just be about money, and money can only motivate you so much. Recognition gives me personal pride and means something.”

The other top-ranked motivators I found included “support and involvement,” that is, providing information employees need to do their jobs, involving employees in decisions (especially those that affect them), asking employees for their opinions and ideas, and supporting them when they make a mistake. “Autonomy and authority,” such as allowing them to decide how best to do their work, allowing them to pursue ideas they might have for improving things, and giving them a choice of work assignments, also ranked high for employees, as did “flexible working hours,” “learning and development opportunities,” and the “availability and time of their manager.”

What do these factors all have in common? They are all intangible, interpersonal, and highly situational. Granting the above items in response to good work when it occurs is the most desired form of recognition cited by today’s employees. These actions say “I’m here as a person, not just a manager, when you need me the most.”

You Can’t Legislate Excitement
There is no substitute for the personal touch today and real-life communication with your sales employees about what they value, need and want to be more effective contributors to you and the organization. Effective managers today know this and realize that it’s what you do with your sales staff more than what you do to them that counts. You’ll get the best results from your employees and keep them loyal to you the longest when you show them you personally care. And you can show you care the best today through your daily efforts and behaviors in recognizing and thanking employees when they do good work, and doing so on a timely, sincere and personal basis.