Norton: The positive evolution of professional selling

Think about a time when you decided not to get behind a cause, chose not to buy into an idea or plan, or decided not to make a purchase of a product or service. When I ask people why they chose not to participate, buy-in or make the purchase, one word comes up most of the time — trust. Or rather a lack of trust.

They either didn’t trust or believe in the cause, they didn’t trust the plan, they didn’t trust the person selling them the product, they didn’t trust the product or service, or they didn’t trust the company to stand behind the product or service.

In a recent virtual sales training session that I participated in, the facilitator shared a graphic showing how people viewed certain professions regarding trustworthiness. Would it shock you to learn that salespeople were seen as the least trustworthy of all the professions listed? It did and it did not shock me.

It did not shock me because salespeople have endured a negative stigma for a very long time. Whenever a group of people are asked for words that they think of when they think of salespeople, they typically come up with words like slimy, sleazy, dishonest, liar, unprofessional and many more derogatory characterizations.

It did shock me because I have been around a lot of salespeople over the past three decades. And as I look back at the evolution of professional selling, I have seen how salespeople have evolved, and how companies have become increasingly selective in making sure they hire and develop professional salespeople. More and more companies are investing in the people they hire in providing the right skills-based training. They provide them with industry and product knowledge to make sure that they represent themselves and the company professionally.

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I meet with salespeople every day. These meetings take place virtually and the salespeople are trying to sell me something that they believe I might need or want. When I agree to take a meeting, I do so for two reasons. First, I may actually have a need or desire for a product or service they are selling. Second, I like to see how salespeople are selling. Are they connecting with me, are they professional, are they actively listening, do they ask me relevant questions, do they have their facts and data right? Are they earning my trust?

And I have to tell you that for the most part, today’s salesperson is very professional, they are well educated on their offerings, even in a virtual setting they are engaging and making great eye-contact. They ask relevant questions and take good notes. And they follow up, doing what they said they would do, when they said they would do it. All of this contributes greatly to earning my trust.

It has been said that there are five primary reasons people choose not to buy something, or not to buy-in to something: No time; no want; no money; no need; but the No. 1 reason is no trust. 

So now when I am on a virtual sales training session, I ask everyone to make sure their cameras are on, and I ask them a different question. I ask what they see as they look around at all the faces on the screen and how they would describe the salespeople on their team. What I hear from people these days are words like professional, honest, integrity, successful, great attitude, achiever, smart and more positive and affirming words. The world has changed, and so has the profession of selling. The world will continue to change, and so will the salespeople as they work toward earning and maintaining our trust.

How about you? Have you seen how salespeople have grown and changed? Are you in sales, and if so, have you noticed the positive difference in yourself and in your team? I would love to hear your trust story at, and when we live and work from a foundation of trust, it really will be a better than good week.   

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