Sales and Marketing

Salesman or Sales Professional? 5 Ways to Distinguish Yourself

June 3, 2021

Sales is a necessary aspect of most businesses. Here is how you can distinguish yourself as a sales professional.

Photo of a sales professional buttoning up his suit in front of his striped tie.

The Salesman of the Past

Even if you have a product that “sells itself,” a sales force is an important component of many businesses.  Still, just the sound of the job title “salesman” makes some people bristle.  The negative connotation of a salesman is often accompanied by an image of someone going door to door with a vacuum and not leaving until the homeowner reluctantly makes a purchase.  So, many salespeople have done away with the title “salesman.”  Instead, they prefer to call themselves “sales professionals” or “sales reps” to distinguish themselves from the salesmen of the past.   

In order to continue to separate ourselves from an image we’d like to shed, it’s important to do more than simply change our moniker.  We also need to practice being good sales professionals in the way we behave out in the field.

Read on for a list of five techniques you can use in order to avoid becoming exactly what you don’t want to be—the pesky salesman.

No Thanks: A Sales Rejection Story

Photo of a sign with the word NO busried in the trunk of a tree.

Before I get started highlighting ways to distinguish yourself as a sales professional, here’s a little tale of my own experience being on the receiving side of a sale.

Now, selling isn’t always about new products or services.  In fact, recruiting someone for hire is very much a sales process.  Every now and again, I think about the time an acquaintance pursued me for months in hopes I would join her sales force.  In this particular case, the woman wanted me to join her multi-level marketing business. 

Long story short, I kindly rejected her proposal because I already had a career I was passionate about.  At that point, she became frustrated and replied, “Well, let me know when your gig doesn’t work out.”

That’s when I decided to stand my ground. 

I Called Foul

“Ok,” I said, looking her square in the eye, “the main reason I don’t want to join your team is because I don’t want people to see me coming and think I’m only trying to sell them something.” 

She gasped before saying, “Well, no one thinks that about me!” 

Seeing the end of the battle in sight, I used the hardest sales trick in the book to master—I sat in silence letting the information sink in on her end.

Needless to say, she didn’t try to recruit me again.  However, did it end our friendship?  I suppose so, considering she hasn’t called me since.  Although, if I’m honest, I still don’t believe our relationship was built on much more than her desire to have me join her team to help her make money.

Distinguished Sales Professionals

Now, my tale of sales torture is far from the only one out there.  Smart salespeople will tread lightly so as not to earn a bad reputation in their sales career.

Here are five ways you can distinguish yourself as a sales professional so that you can avoid leaving a negative taste in your prospect’s mouth.

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1: Be Honest

Image of Scrabble blocks spelling the words SPEAK TRUTH.

The first way to distinguish yourself as a sales professional is to be honest.  In other words, don’t try to be a yes-man by overselling.  There is no magic pill for anything, so it’s a bad idea to pretend your product or service can solve all the world’s problems.

Also, never bash the competition.  It’s entirely possible to highlight what your company does well, even as you admit your competitors’ strengths.  If you go into each sales call determined to sell with honesty and integrity, you can’t go wrong.

2: Discover Pain Points

The second way to distinguish yourself as a sales professional is to listen to clients.  Through active listening, you can discover the real pain points that exist, which are the reason you have been given an opportunity to present your product or service. 

As you present to your prospect, avoid talking at or over your audience.  It’s more important to hear what they have to say than to give them a rehearsed spiel. 

3: Stay at the Surface

Image of a computer half shut, with the screen light glowing from within.

The third way to distinguish yourself as a sales professional is to keep your information basic.  Especially where technology is concerned, don’t go too deep too quickly.  Now, this can be challenging, especially in today’s technologically advanced society.  However, the deep dive into all the bells and whistles should be saved for the people who will be utilizing the product, and not necessarily the decisionmaker. 

Furthermore, if you get into too many details during the preliminary presentation, the transition from their existing service to yours may seem overwhelming or daunting, and it may prevent them from wanting to switch.  When it comes to technology, answer the questions they ask, but keep the presentation simple in the initial meeting.

4: Keep Your Composure

The fourth way to distinguish yourself as a sales professional is to keep your composure.  Whether you feel you are about to get the deal or you feel you are about to lose the deal, don’t get pushy.  Putting too much pressure on a prospect can cause them to do exactly what you don’t want to do.  Pushiness can make you come across as desperate and self-serving. 

Ultimately, the most important goal in any sale is to improve something in the prospect’s world.  So, if you seem like you only care about getting the deal, that is contrary to what’s best for the prospect.

5: Remain Close

Photo of two arms wearing dress shirts extended in a handshake.

The fifth way to distinguish yourself as a sales professional is to remain close even after the sale.  In other words, don’t ghost your new client.  One negative quality of self-serving sales reps is they often close the deal, pass it off to customer care, and then the client never hears from them again.  Distinguished sales professionals will follow through with the transition and check on the client after implementation.  Periodically, they will pop in or call to see if the client is still satisfied.  As a plus, truly happy clients are often glad to give referrals, which of course is great for business.

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Still, if you don’t get the deal, revisit the prospect.  If possible, refer business to them.  Even if they never become a client, it won’t be for lack of trying on your part.

Alternate Endings

Now, let’s circle back to my personal sales recruitment story.  Did that particular sales manager do anything wrong by trying to recruit me?  Absolutely not.  In fact, she did the right thing by putting the ask on the table.  After all, how can you get the deal if you never ask for it in the first place?

However, where someone could say she went wrong was she became desperate when she felt she was going to lose the deal.  First, she should never have spoken negatively about my career.  Next, when I responded honestly about my perception of her as a salesperson, she should have listened and heard it as a pain point.  Then, she could have responded with something like, “Perhaps you’re right.  Perhaps people do see me coming and think I only want to make a sale.  However, the truth is that I’m just so passionate about our products that I want to make sure everyone knows they are available.  I want them to know they can contact me if they have questions.”  Finally, if she were truly interested in more than just the sale, she would have remained amicable thereafter. 

Might I have joined her team if she had responded in a way that put my concerns to rest?  That’s the thing about losing a sale; the world will never know how it could have turned out. However, if the sales manager had presented herself as a distinguished sales professional, I feel certain things would have ended better than they did.

Photo of a woman in a striped shirt sitting on a couch with a computer in front of her and starting off into space.


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