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The 4 proficiency stages for professional salespeople

“Development comes with time, but time is no guarantee for development. Only the specific and targeted development of your own personality can make you a master of your trade.”
As in any other area of business, sales staff too have to be able to grow into their jobs. Here the notion of ‘growing into’ is not just about product expertise and sales techniques, but above all about the development of the individual personality. If we look at selling as a master craft, the individual stages are discernible from clear criteria. In the first stage, the four management strengths of results, vision, system and integration are well developed. At the same time, sales strengths progress from a rudimentary level to the next level and thereby show both the way forward and the four stages of proficiency in sales:
Stage one
At the start of a career in sales, there is the indefatigable desire to be successful. Like a baby born crying into the world, the fledgling salesperson announces to the world and companies alike, “Here I am, you can all now buy, buy, buy…”. Indeed such “sales Rambos” can be very pushy when selling; for them the only thing that counts is the result, nothing else. Not once does it remotely occur to them to pay attention to their own visions or the actual needs of their clients. In the active pursuit of the clear goal of generating sales, they are interested only in techniques used to achieve this goal. In so doing, however, they are forfeiting their chance of reaching the next stage of proficiency in sales.
Stage two
The next natural step for true salespeople is shaped by their own motivation to develop a sustainable vision for themselves, their products and clients. They ask themselves the question: What does my industry need right now and what can I do today to still be successful tomorrow? In other words, what is my personal vision as a salesperson and how can I express it to clients? And without fail the answer to this question alone means that they will engage more with clients and get a response from those who turned them down previously because of their fixation on profit.
So in this second stage of development, there are answers to the question: What is decisive now and in the future for me and my clients to be and remain successful? Thus in conversation with the client, they can offer solutions that are suitable for both today and tomorrow, whereby current economic success will of course be in the foreground.
A concrete interest in furthering sales techniques also typifies this stage of development. The salesperson will grapple with subtle techniques. They will familiarize themselves with the secrets of neuro-linguistic programming in sales and get to grips with the manipulative techniques of body language. They will also look into strategies and tactics for pitching. They are more aware of the effect their personal presence has and always have an ace up their sleeve to bring a client meeting to a positive conclusion. They will hone their rhetoric and use their verbal skills to increase their sales success. But their strategy will nevertheless remain fruitless with some customer contacts because they have failed to obey the elementary laws of professional sales.
Stage three
A structured approach both to the market and clients as well as a system or ritual for their own free resources and actions play a major role here. The salesperson with the potential to do better recognizes the need to behave professionally with regard to themselves and their clients. And this is where many so-called sales professionals fail, due to a lack of self-discipline. Now the system of sales success must be optimized and the following questions answered: How can we improve the sales process and the pitch? Or do we want to continue to subject our clients to endless monologues and empty promises?
Reaching stage three requires efficiency in terms of action and selecting the right clients. Here too the pitching technique and process can be systematically organized such that the end result is dramatically improved. For sales staff this means noting a client’s potential. They will develop a decision matrix for selecting companies that helps them pick out the “big fish” and thereby define a concrete procedure that will help them close big deals. They learn how to quickly and diligently research their clients, prospects and contacts because they realize that good preparation in the run up to a pitch really is invaluable.
They handle the tendering process and all associated paperwork in a simple and customer-friendly way so that instead of being seen as burdensome, it is simply done and dusted. At this point we can certainly talk of a well developed salesperson, whereby it is important to remember the level at which this is all being played out. All the previously cited development stages can be performed either coarsely and without etiquette or stylishly and elegantly, i.e. played out at a higher or lower level. But only those who have reached a certain cultivation and a higher level in each of the previous stages can strive for the first proficiency stage in sales.
Stage four – first proficiency stage
This proficiency stage is characterized by the ethical cultivation of the selling behavior, if we can still talk of selling behavior here. The salesperson now answers the following questions: How do I actually want to deal with myself, my clients, prospects and staff? What social aspects are behind my actions and how do I value the people I come across when selling?
At this point there is the realization that emotional burdens must be borne too and that not all client behavior need be tolerated. Those who have reached this stage can certainly call themselves professionals because they generate sales volumes not through a naive selling approach but through the personality they have developed, which has such a lasting effect on potential clients that they feel they are in the best company and are willing to be on board any sensible venture. At this stage of development, the four major management strengths are now fully deployed and have both scope and justification. Ultimately today’s critical dialog about revenue, future management, system optimization and human ideals have all found their rightful place in the daily thoughts, deeds and impact of a proficient salesperson.

Christoph Döhle­mann
Döhlemann Training & Beratung,
Kirschä­ckerstraße 25,
96052 Bamberg,
Phone: 0951/297260,

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