Yes, I know. There are other “ten commandments” lists out there for every profession you can think of. But if you know me, you know by now that I’m fairly self-determined and opinionated. I also think that “ten commandments” for today might be different than a similar list written just a few years ago. As I always say, “Sales has changed more in the last decade than in the 100 years previous.”
So, if you will forgive me this little bit of “I can do it better” egotism, here are my Ten Commandments of Professional Selling – 2023 version:
- Thou shalt produce positive outcomes. Sales is about producing Too many sales philosophies pit the salesperson against the customer in an “I win, you lose” strategy. Make no mistake, if you aren’t producing wins for your customers, yourself, and your company, thou shalt seldom be employed.
- Thou shalt always be truthful. There’s nothing worse than a salesperson who lies. Well, there are – cancer in various forms, for instance – but in the sales profession? If you ever reach a moment where you feel that the only way to sustain your livelihood is to deceive a customer in any way, shape, or form, please do us all a favor and get out of the profession. And if you are directed to be dishonest by your boss, you have my permission to refuse. There’s no room in this profession for liars – and frankly, with the technology that we have available to us, there’s really no way to get away with it, either.
- Thou shalt be active. “Activity management” gets a bad rap by people who enjoy putting sales managers down. It shouldn’t. In sales, all results are driven by activity – the quantity of activity and the quality of activity. The simple equation is: (Quantity of activity) x (Quality of activity) = results. Never fool yourself into thinking that you’re so good that you’ll sell everyone you talk to. That level of pride usually goeth before a big fall.
- Thou shalt embrace technology. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to salespeople who say, “Ah, I’m just not good with computers and I don’t think I can learn them.” Horse hockey. They don’t WANT to learn. In today’s world, if you can’t competently use CRM, Office programs, email, text, IM, and video technology, you’ve placed an expiration date on your career – and that date is in the past, not your future. Anyone can learn this tech if they want to, and if you would like to continue your sales career, you’d better want to.
- Thou shalt giveth value on every customer contact. This one is important. The days when you could stop by, talk football for 30 minutes, and leave with an order are over. If you expect to get face time with your customers, you need to make it worth their while. This means giving value in terms of advice, counsel, knowledge, and other ways to better your customers’ situation – even when you are not making a sale on that particular day. Otherwise, they will see salespeople who will do that.
- Thou shalt keepeth thy commitments. Sales is about commitment – a commitment to your own career, to your employer, and to your customers. Keeping your commitments isn’t that hard (but it is unfortunately uncommon). It means showing up on time, keeping any and all promises you make, and basically living up to your word. It also means never leaving customers hanging about what the next step is in the sales conversation.
- Thou shalt always seeketh to expand thy business. A salesperson should be a self-contained business generation machine. That means that you must prospect – on at least a weekly basis. Great salespeople are never content. Plus, great salespeople recognize that they will lose business – through mistakes, through management changes, and even through companies being acquired or going out of business – and they know that to keep producing, they need to prospect. Whenever a client tells me they interview a salesperson who says they won’t prospect, I tell them not to hire that person.
- Thou shalt be inquisitive. Questioning – great questioning – is intrinsic to great selling. That means asking lots of questions to gain customer information about needs, priorities, situation, and other aspects of the sale. It also means that with current customers, you should be re-asking those questions from time to time. Always remember – the worst question is the one you don’t ask.
- Thou shalt be prepared. Always be prepared to take the sale as far as the customer is willing to take it. That doesn’t mean being obnoxious or pushy, but it does mean being prepared to do business on every sales call and letting the customer be the first one to pump the brakes. It also means having your act together by doing pre-call research (their website, your notes, and even reviews online) and having an idea of what you want to accomplish in the sales call.
- Thou shalt hold thy customers dear. While you should be prospecting, you should also be tending to your relationships with your current customers. That means regular contact, refreshing your knowledge, and staying abreast of new developments with them, and getting “high, wide, and deep” with your contact base within your current customers.
The Ten Commandments of Professional Selling are not industry-specific or even specific to B2B or B2C selling – but if you, as a salesperson, follow them every day, you can and will build a successful sales career.