The Sales Professional Program?

Ten requirements for turning “salespeople” into “sales professionals”

Consider the urgency when needing a “professional” for a medical emergency, or perhaps legal help if you are sued, or a tax wizard in April…and, by all means, a professional who can grow market share, build and maintain relationships with customers, get results and protect your margins. Help! Is there a sales professional in the house?


The profession of selling is a high calling—I think higher than even that of a doctor. There is so much to know and so much skill required in the profession of selling. Salespeople must help clients see and accept their pain and then get them to pay to fix it—without the luxury of a third party insurance company to pay the bill!

Yes, we urgently need sales professionals. Red Motley said, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” Sun Tzu, in his ancient manuscript called The Art of War, gives us a glimpse of how serious this is. He states:

This is war.
It is the most important profession in the nation.
It is the basis of life and death.
It is the philosophy of survival or destruction.
You must know it well.

Your company’s future is in the hands of your front line salespeople!

We can talk about sales and market share growth, but where it happens is all day, every day, by each sales professional out there on the front lines, doing what they do as a profession. This will take more than just salespeople with talent, desire or even experience. Each front line salesperson must be trained and practiced in the skills needed to win sales. I have dedicated my career to developing the Sales Professional. I believe in this. I live it and wear it on my sleeve.

What Is a Sales Professional?
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines profession as: “A calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.”

To become a sales professional, we must know what that looks like. I have identified at least ten requirements for this profession.

The Sales Professional knows products and applications and creates and orchestrates solutions. This is a must. Today it is essential to possess product and application expertise. Customers want problems solved and needs met. We are solutions providers. Sales professionals must continually study and learn product. They must learn about their customers’ business as well. Armed with this knowledge, they must think and be creative!

The Sales Professional is a consultative partner and builds long-term relationships. This is a logical outgrowth of product/application knowledge, partnered with people skills. Solutions are created and effectively communicated, or “sold.”

People buy from people—people they like and trust. The sales profession is all about people. People skills (such as communication, listening, style adaptation, courtesy, trust, etc.) must be trained and practiced in order to truly be effective as distributor salespeople.

The Sales Professional is a sales team player. Team selling is here to stay. The sales professional works with management, inside sales, installation, manufacturing and the entire selling team. With the implementation of CRM and other customer relationship management tools, the salesperson must be a team player who can utilize all tools available to do this effectively.

The Sales Professional is skillful at selling distributor value and can justify and sell a win/win premium price. We don’t just sell product anymore. Product and brand will not sell themselves. We have to “sell the house.” That is one thing the competition does not have: your differentiator! Why should customers choose you and do business with you? Why you? Ever had a customer ask that? If the salesperson does not know that answer, who does? Sell yourself, sell your service, and sell your company. Sell the house!

The Sales Professional has mastered benefit selling. Ever heard of features and benefits? Ever heard of blocking and tackling? They are similar fundamentals. Even in the Super Bowl, if you want to win, you must block and tackle. The same is true with selling. If you want to get sales, you must help the customer see how they will benefit. Great salespeople know that in order to get the desired action, they must tap into the buying motives. People buy for their own goofy reasons! Find out what makes ‘em tick, and find out what ticks ‘em off! Unfortunately, most salespeople are weak here. Benefit selling is a skill that must be mastered.

The Sales Professional takes ownership of territory and results. This really comes down to each sales professional aggressively selling and getting the growth in his or her realm of responsibility. My nephew is just getting into sales and he asked for advice. I told him to “get scared early.” The demands of your company’s planned growth and required sales performance should haunt the salesperson every day—that comes with the territory! Salespeople must take ownership of their accounts and territory. They need to get their arms around them! They are the quarterbacks. They are well positioned to know and manage the market, customer, internal resources, etc. Sales management can’t hold their hand! A sales position is a leadership position. Salespeople must take ownership.

The Sales Professional does account strategic planning. Stepping back and looking at each account to prioritize, assess profitability, potential, competitive situation, etc., is a critical activity of the sales professional. Developing long-term strategies to win and keep accounts is essential. Salespeople are often entangled by activities (putting out fires) that may not be goal-oriented or profitable. Salespeople must invest thought and research into the status and direction of each account. They must step back, look at the big picture and take control. The discipline of strategic account planning is the only effective way to secure major key accounts. The “big ones” will not just land in your lap. They must be won with careful planning and hard work. This will not happen by accident. It must be done on purpose!

The Sales Professional does pre-call preparation and planning. And now let’s look at the tactical part of being a sales professional.

Each time a salesperson has one of those precious face-to-face interactions with the customer, that is where selling really takes place. We do not want salespeople to “show up and throw up.” Salespeople must prepare and execute brilliantly. Every call is different, and every call counts! Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Pre-call planning is imperative. The days of winging it are over. Albert Grey, commandant in the Marine Corps in the early 1990s, said, “The common denominator of all success lies in forming the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” Pre-call planning is one of the most important disciplines of the sales professional. As a sales trainer, I spend a significant time teaching and equipping salespeople to build this into their daily regimen.

The Sales Professional is an effective sales negotiator. Negotiation is a part of everyday interactions with customers. Today there is no fixed price. Agree?

Ten Requirements for Becoming
a Sales Professional
  1. Know products and applications, and create and orchestrate solutions.
  2. Be a consultative partner and build long-term relationships.
  3. Be a sales team player.
  4. Become skillful at selling distributor value and able to justify and sell a win/win premium price.
  5. Master benefit selling.
  6. Take ownership of territory and results.
  7. Do account strategic planning.
  8. Do pre-call preparation and planning.
  9. Be an effective sales negotiator.
  10. Be highly trained and well-practiced.

We hear: “Congratulations! We have selected you and two other vendors as qualified sources—now let’s get your price and terms in line.”

Or: “We’ve picked this product. Three distributors have it, all good stores. Let’s get the price resolved and you can get this huge piece of business.”

And before we know it, we are thrown into negotiation. Price, terms, service levels, salesperson involvement, schedules, training, additional services, price locks/ guarantees, contract length, etc., are all open game.

What do these cost you?

Are we leaving money on the table?

Are we too easy?

Are we surprised, scared or nervous?

Do we have bad habits or faulty habitual responses? (“Where do we need to be?” “Let me ask.” “I’ll see what I can do.”)

Many buyers are trained, savvy and experienced. Salespeople are under fire. They must be able to respond instinctively, under pressure. They must be comfortable with the uncomfortable! They need top gun training! Proper response to the tactics and ploys of trained and savvy buyers is a learned and practiced skill that must be done in the “simulators” first. And that reinforces our final requirement…

The Sales Professional is highly trained and well-practiced. Winners execute fundamentals skillfully, by habit. Today, every call counts. Every customer interaction counts. And during that precious face-to-face or phone time, sales professionals must execute brilliantly. Knowledge, experience, even talent, untrained and unpracticed, will fall short. Just like professional athletes, each must be ready for each play both strategically and tactically. Vince Lombardi stated, “Truly, I have never known a really successful man who deep in his heart did not understand the grind, the discipline it takes to win.”

And so the choice is yours.

Coach Lombardi also said, “I would say that the quality of each man’s life is the full measure of that man’s personal commitment to excellence and victory—whether it be football, whether it be business, whether it be politics or government.” (And I would add…or SALES.)

I challenge each sales leader to raise the bar; to teach and expect the fundamental disciplines; to practice and perfect the skills that we considered together today. May each salesperson become the Sales Professional.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
49b_buttreydon Meet the Author
Don Buttrey is the president of Sales Professional Training Inc., located in Beavercreek, Ohio, and on the Web at