The Consummate Sales Professional -Do You Have What it Takes?

Consummate Professional

Think about the best sales professional that you know!  This person does those vital things differently, and does some of them in different amounts.  Overall, they have determined what is important, and they execute them things better. Read this and touch the links to see a great picture of the true sales professional.


In previous posts of Black Sales Journal, such as Black Sales Journal 12/16/2010, The Seven Success Essentials of the Black Sales Professional, we examined being the Consummate Professional.  Many of you are very professional already, and this will be a refresher.  This is a great step to being the best and most effective sales professional possible!

Let me first advise, being the consummate professional will never be easy, as it involves preparation, study, forethought, and an exhaustive effort to be “the best” at what you do.  The more difficult aspect of being the best is sustainability and consistency.  You will know that you are ‘the consummate professional’ when you sustain it as part of your personal culture.  The Black sales professional who sustains this culture will be successful!

Being the Consummate Professional is Important

The consummate professional is someone who is effective, efficient, relationship driven, and visionary.  Promises are made, commitments are kept, and there is empathy for the problems of the customers.  Solutions are adequate and on time, because the professional has ‘actively listened’ as opposed to having ‘heard’ the problems, and has prioritized the delivery of the response properly.

Here is my version of the Consummate Professional Checklist:

The Consummate Professional is:

  • Punctual
  • Empathetic
  • Attentive
  • Knowledgeable
  • Organized
  • Responsive
  • Visionary

This checklist forms the foundation for the most solid professional performance for the sales professional, and it also benefits the customer, and the organization.

Let’s Look at Each One

Punctual – Most of you know this, but the punctual professional is seldom if ever late.  Recognize that there is a psychological advantage to being the one that is on time.  It never hurts to have your prospect or customer start out with a brief apology for their tardiness, as it indicates you mean business.  Be punctual to a fault.  Treat your prospects and customers with respect; value their time.

Empathetic – Be genuine in your empathy.  Know enough about your customer’s business to be empathetic.  Recognize why they need your product, why they are hesitant to buy, and how to rephrase and restructure your product explanations to make a consultative sale.  The customer’s business model, market, or timing could get in the way of your sales process, the more you know the better opportunity you have to show the attributes of your product.

Attentive – This means being an ‘active listener’.  When you couple this with empathy, you get someone who is aware and understands the situation.  This gives a powerful edge.  The sales professional that understands proposes the right solutions at the right time.  Practice listening actively with all of your customers and potential clients.

Knowledgeable – This area speaks volumes.  There are many areas of knowledge that you should excel in:

  • Product
  • Territory
  • Industry
  • Process
  • Competition

You might think this too much to master, yet it is a continuous process of learning and retaining.  You might refer to Black Sales Journal 12/20/2010, Your Customer Needs an Expert where we discussed being an expert in Product, Industry, and Territory.  Also note that knowing the competition is an extremely effective strategy.  The competitive landscape changes constantly.  The customer may not give you 100% credibility, yet your views will be listened to.

Organized – Being organized is essential.  Plan your appointments, your workday, and your workweek to the max.  Nothing ever goes totally as planned, yet in reality being organized allows one to prioritize well and be more effective.  Prospects and customers know when you are unorganized by the condition of your briefcase, and sometimes by your delivery.

Responsive – This is a big one!  There are many components that define responsiveness.  Many of the issues have to do with communications, timeliness, and solving problems. You need to return phone calls within less than 24 Hours.  This is a must.  Nothing ‘frosts’ a potential customer like not being able to receive a response to a call or email.  Communicate early and often.  Deliver your bad news as soon as you are sure of the response.  Work to find solutions, and when you cannot produce the desired result, frankly and honestly let your customer know.

Responsiveness also involves responding to customer requests for new products, new services, as well as improvements and betterments in the current offerings.   Listening and working to solve issues exhibits responsiveness.

Visionary – The more knowledge you have of all types, and the more understanding you have regarding your customer and your own company, the better chance you have to find creative real-time solutions.  Being able to see down the road is important.  Anticipate your customer’s needs well in advance as your customer’s organization, and your organization changes over time.  As an example, anticipate the move to retail outlets by your manufacturing customer and be prepared to respond.  Forecast your customer’s need to manufacture in less labor costly areas, and give distribution and supply suggestions that will make them profitable, and you a star.

Be up to date on current events here and abroad, and by all means know what is happening with their competition.  This might sound like a lot, yet in this age of electronic media, it can be done.

In Summary

As a Black sales professional, there are few tactics that will have as much impact as being “the Consummate Professional”.  You might want to check out the following items for a little more “in depth” discussion.  These are links to past Black Sales Journal posts that cover them in detail:

Always remember, your customer wants to work with a professional.  It can be you!

We would love your comments.

Changing Racial Perceptions…It’s Up To You!

Changing Perceptions

Unfavorable racial perceptions can be menacing.  We should all be viewed as individuals.  Changing unfavorable  racial perceptions can be even more menacing as you don’t know what experiences a customer, or an employer has had.  But… you can change perceptions, over time, in an effective way with this simple tactic. I do this column almost annually because you don’t have to go out of your way to change racial perceptions, you just have to do what you already do, and keep doing it.  Read on….


The role of any sales professional is challenging, even sometimes difficult.  It is a role that comes with many contrasts for those who are Black.  The perceptions that I am speaking of are racial perceptions, and they are a reality (because perceptions are reality) until they meet someone who starts to change them.  These contrasts paint a picture that does not always work favorably for a Black professional.

The number of Black sales professionals is not representative of the number of Blacks in the workforce.  Some of this was touched on in Black Sales Journal 1/31/11 – Why are There So Few Blacks in Sales?, yet there are so many reasons.  There is one main reason:

There are concerns regarding whether white (or other) buyers would widely accept Black professionals in roles that have strong fiduciary and/or consultative duties.

It is difficult to recognize how many Black sales professionals leave their position before achieving their goals because they are not given an opportunity to show their worth.

Why am I Calling it Easy?

There is simplicity to changing perceptions. It involves a set of basic activities on the part of a large majority of the Black sales professionals and other Black employees that are in the market place.  It does not require a revolution of any kind, and will gradually work to change the perceptions of so many in a positive way.

Note the following statement:

Each Black sales professional or other Black employee must ‘represent’ correctly…being the consummate professional showing exemplary performance in all aspects of manners, skills, and personal interactions.  Being responsive beyond all others, and respectful of one’s time and efforts.

If that is done, we will all be well ahead of the game.  As a matter of fact, if 80% of the Black professionals do this, we will begin to quickly and convincingly change perceptions.  There is no doubt about it.  This would be a game changer that would show the professionalism that a few bad performers could not tarnish.

There are many that will object to my premise.  I understand some of their concerns.  They will say “Why should I change anything when others in the majority do not necessarily change anything!”  My response is simple “If it is what you need to do to be successful and make the living for yourself, and your family, it is worth the consideration, you should consider it.”  If we do that, we can make a living, and also…. change perceptions.

There are times when you do all that is right and still don’t get the credit for “doing the right thing.”  Here is an example of what happens when you do the right thing, yet are subject to perceptions.

Perceptions – An Example from My Past

This is an incident that I cited once before.  I was a sales representative for a major insurance company in commercial business sales.  I was young, and thought that I was on track to get somewhere, yet nothing was assured.

I was at a sales meeting, and was sitting at a table with the Divisional Sr. Vice President, who was someone that I had only seen a picture of in company publications.  I don’t know why he sat at our table, yet we were all exhibiting our best manners.

During a lull in the meeting a sales associate of mine, who happened to be Black as well (there were 3 of us out of 62 sales professionals) began to criticize one of the local college basketball coaches.  He was a venerable older coach who was not winning the big one but was respectable.

The SVP listened to us from behind his newspaper, and then slammed his had down on the table and said, “How dare you criticize him.  One day you will be judged on your record, just like him, and you should hope you stand up to the criticism.” He went on to say, “If you two would stop reading the sports pages, and read the financial pages, one day maybe you will amount to something.”

I wanted to be rude in my response, but was calculated.  It is unfortunate when someone is “judged” like that.  He did not know either of us yet “played his card” by assuming that “all we read was the sports pages”.

To this day, there is nothing that has ever infuriated me like that comment.  He did not know, but I was reading a lot more than the financial pages.  Whether I did, or did not, it was not his business.  We were merely having a conversation within his earshot.  What is larger than that was the perception that we were absorbed in the sports pages, which was something that I seldom read then, and seldom read now.

He made that assumption based on his perception, and how categorically wrong it was.  Needless to say, he was long retired before I was moved up in to a senior and executive management role, yet I have often relived how I should have reacted to him.  When I reached and exceeded that level, I made sure that I respected our young professionals regardless of color and gave good constructive counsel without inserting my view of what they “must” be like.

Changing the View

You will not know how someone perceives you based on experiences and situations in their life.  What you can do is to put your best foot forward, giving them the view of a professional who is prepared for the opportunity.  We have discussed this type of professional many times in Black Sales Journal (Black Sales Journal 3/7/11- Be The Consummate Professional).

You change the landscape by being the professional that you ultimately are.  You show that race and color have nothing to do with being a solid professional, and that you might have more pigmentation, yet the result will be the same or better.

Your comments are welcome.