When we think of professionals the image that comes to our mind is that of doctors, engineers, and lawyers. Very rarely do we think of a sales person as a professional. This is largely because of what we see everyday. All around us we have sales people making a livelihood by "tricking" others. The "Ayurvedic"doctor on the road, who claims to cure every disease with one single miraculous medicine, the traveling salesperson on the bus, who sells a defective toy to your child, the footpath salesman selling combs and slippers, are all salespersons. And they are certainly not very highly respected members of society.
But why? Let's step back for a moment and ask-is this only true for the sales and marketing person? Don't we have doctors who are more interested in making money out of the patient rather then curing him? Don't we have engineers who resort to highly unethical practices just so that their own purpose is served? Dont we have lawyers whose primary aim is to fleece you? So what is so special about Sales and Marketing? There are people in all professions who behave in a most unprofessional manner -including Sales and marketing!
The point is that one bad doctor does not make the medical profession unethical. One corrupt lawyer does not make the legal profession unethical. They remain highly regarded professions. And exactly the same is true for Sales. For every footpath salesperson of combs there is an Akio Morita, who started off as a salesperson and went on to build the SONY empire, which is today a tremendously respected name in consumer electronics.
"A PROFESSIONAL" is a person who
Has been trained in specific skills and techniques, and has specialized knowledge
"plans his work and works his plan", that is ,puts in a grate deal of preparation for his day-to-day activities
Must ultimately orient his work towards solving problems of his clients
Displays attitudes and values which makes him a valuable member of the society.
How does a doctor fit in to this definition? Well, every doctor has to undergo specialized training, and must complete at least an MBBS.He has examine each patient as a unique case, and work out treatment specific to him. For instance, you would obviously not go to a doctor who tries to cure your stomach-ache by giving you medicine for a headache just because his earlier patient had a headache. A doctor has to have special skills. He has to know how to check your blood pressure or how to give you an injection.
Now let us see if something similar applies to a sales person.
A sales person has to have specialized knowledge of his customer, of his product, and competitors. He has to have specific skills e.g. communication, questioning, observation, and planning.
He has to plan out a specific strategy for every customer of his. One person may buy a watch because he wants to know the exact time. Another person may buy one because it is stylish. The sales person has to know the buying motivation of each of his customers and then sell accordingly.
Clearly, if a sales persons needs to do all this, and to do all this effectively he must be trained. And this training is no less specialized than that of a doctor? By becoming a sales and marketing professional you are contributing your bit to the satisfaction of needs of everyone else around you. This is in fact a profession to be proud of. Imagine what would happen if the nation's sales people went on strike. There would be no milk, no bread, no bus, no restaurant, no toothpaste and no entertainment!
The writer is a CHARTERED MARKETER B.A. (Hons) (SJ), Dip. M. (SL), PGDM (UK), CIM (UK), MCIM, MSLIM (Senior Management Consultant and Lecturer)