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What is Professional Selling?


Written for the Burnside News

The phrase “professional selling” has been a buzzword in my 36-year career in sales, but what does it mean? Ask 20 people and you can expect many different answers.

Some will say that if you make a living selling then you’re a professional. I guess that’s opposed to someone who is volunteering. Others may say it’s about how you conduct yourself, being honest and acting with integrity. Some may feel there’s no such thing and that anyone who sells for a living isn’t in a professional career.

If I asked about how to define a plumber, welder, doctor, accountant, lawyer, actor or musician, I think we’d hear about the training and skill level these people have achieved. Any professional tradesperson takes two to three years at trade school and time in the field working with others, and they attend updates to bring them up to speed on new technologies.

Entertainers likewise serve in an apprentice scenario and practice their craft constantly. And now back to salespeople.

The salesperson that gets by on wits and charm can always make a living. They tend to work at the lowest levels of sales picking the low-hanging fruit and hustling along with the other 90 per cent hoping for the next round of the economy to create jingle in their jeans.

The professional businessperson in sales is a student of human behavior who understands communication and the development of relationships. They’re masters of asking questions, are a heat-seeking missile for information and operate at the advisor level of their craft. Their natural curiosity allows them to engage in conversations that uncover opportunities that may be obvious or hidden. They work with clients to develop a solution that fits the unique criteria of each potential customer and they qualify each situation to either provide services and products that fit, or they disqualify the prospect because it’s not a good fit.

The best professionals continue to learn their craft. Selling changes constantly based on who you sell to and what is being sold. It also depends on the type of selling you are doing – consultative, account sales, commodity and unique value selling all have some things in common, but they all have unique aspects that take different temperament and skill sets.

The best sales people continue to upgrade their skills, develop new skills with training and read the latest books and magazines on selling. Being professional isn’t about what you’ve done to get there. Being professional is about what you’re doing to continue the path.

©2013 Sandler Training Inc. Sandler ( is an international sales and management training/consulting firm. To attend a free session of our monthly Sales Leadership program, call the Sandler Training at 902-468-0787 or e-mail

Eric Fry

Sandler trainer