It’s been almost ten years since I last went on a rant about the sales “profession” and what we can do to make it even more professional. So, here I go again!
First off, I want to say that I’ve been in sales for over thirty years and I’ve been proud to call myself a salesperson. But let’s face it, sales is not a profession and probably never will be. This doesn’t mean that selling can’t and isn’t being done in a professional manner but we’re not a profession.
I know that you’ve probably made sales a career choice, consider yourself a professional, and are among those of us who lament the fact that, despite our best efforts and intense wishes, salespeople are still looked down upon by the population at large.
Con Men and Crooks
One of the reasons selling gets such a bad rap is that there are innumerable con men, crooks, liars, cheats, and downright dishonest people out there who use sales techniques to take money away from others. They are not salespeople, they’re crooks! They are lowlifes who use sales techniques to take away money from others under false pretences.
Another reason that salespeople get dumped on as a group is that too many “salespeople” are more interested in “selling” something than helping the customer make an informed buying decision. In other words, they are more interested in getting the customer’s money than in having a happy and satisfied customer.
Even though these so-called salespeople may be in the minority, the public paints all of us with the same brush. One bad apple spoils… well you know the rest of that one.
A Professional Non-Profession
While I still feel strongly that there are a lot of professional salespeople in the world, that’s different from being a “profession.” Let me explain:
- Unlike most professions such as medicine, law, engineering, etc, selling doesn’t have a self-appointed body to oversee and monitor our activities.
- Selling in general, has no formally defined code of ethics for us to believe in, adhere to and enforce.
- Overall, selling has no formal, or informal, educational requirements. Anyone can call himself or herself a salesperson (and too many do).
- Apart from the Canadian Professional Sales Association in Canada and the National Association of Sales Professionals in the United States, we have no national or international body to champion our cause, whatever that might be, or to lobby on our behalf.
- We don’t proudly wear any badge of office like many of the professions do (the engineer’s ring, the doctor’s white lab coat and stethoscope, the lawyer’s robes, etc).
So, if selling isn’t a profession, could we at least consider it a trade — like being a skilled carpenter, electrician, or mechanic? I’m afraid not!
While there are a lot of people who can do carpentry, electrical work, or fix a car, the people who have earned the right to truly call themselves carpenters, electricians, or auto mechanics have all had to complete a prescribed educational program, serve an apprenticeship under the wing of a seasoned member of the trade, and be formally licensed by the government before they can officially call themselves a member of their trade. There is no such criterion for being considered a salesperson.
We’re Making Progress
Having said that, both the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) in Canada and the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP) as well as the United Professional Sales Association (UPSA) in the U.S. have been championing certification programs in their respective countries.
Some industries, such as the automotive industry, have set up their own certification programs. These programs are, by their nature, industry specific whereas the CPSA, NASP, and UPSA programs certify you as a salesperson period, not just a certified automobile salesperson.
I strongly applaud the efforts of CPSA, NASP, and UPSA. In fact, I’ve gone through the CPSA certification process myself.
The CPSA program has made an effort to address many of the elements of being a profession that I noted above. They have a code of ethics for us to live and work by. They’ve established educational criteria and experience levels required for certification. They have a formal examination, both written and oral, that you must pass — and not everyone passes. I know, because I’m an examiner for them and if you don’t know your stuff, you don’t earn the right to wear the CSP designation.
What Can You Do
Unfortunately, I feel these programs will only take off after more and more of us get our CSP designation (Certified Sales Professional) and more employers start asking job candidates if they are a CSP.
As a salesperson, isn’t it time you looked into getting certified? A grass-roots movement by sales professionals to get themselves certified and then display the advantages of certification to the business world might just get us recognized as the professionals we strive to be.
Certification would also help differentiate us from the sales wannabees who haven’t the interest, drive, and discipline to develop their professional selling skills.
Isn’t it time for the many of you who do have the interest, drive, and desire to make a difference to do something about it. Getting certified is certainly something you can do.
If you’re in sales for the long haul, why not take the time to earn your professional salesperson designation, whether it’s the CSP in Canada or CPSP in the US. Show people you’re not just a salesperson, but a professional salesperson. Show your prospects that you’re worthy of their trust and their respect.
Whether or not we truly become a profession depends upon us. Will you do your share?