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Professionalism is about Two Factors

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
January 7, 2010

One of the comments I received from a reader earlier this week brought this idea to mind. It stuck with me. Her comment was intended to elevate the field of telemarketing over telesales. But the real difference in her defining of the two fields boiled down to two factors that had little to do with what was being sold or how it was being sold.

These two factors are defining attributes of professionalism in sales (and lots of other things). They are intentions and outcomes.


Intentions speak to the question: “Why?” In days long past, sales was a fairly one-sided endeavor. Salespeople sold goods and services with their primary motivation being their own personal earnings and achievement. That has changed so much in the past three decades that the professional salesperson would be unrecognizable to someone who bought or sold before these changes occurred.

Our intentions now are to create value for our clients and customers. We have moved from vendor and adversary to trusted adviser and valued partner, in part, because our intentions have changed.

Your intentions have to be known, and they have to be felt by your prospects and clients.


But intentions by themselves aren’t enough. Professionalism also means achieving the desired outcomes that we have sold to our clients. It isn’t enough to simply try to create something better for our prospects and clients.

Being competent means that those of us in the sales game have to be well-rounded business people, possessing not only sales acumen, but also the business acumen that includes managing teams, leading complex change initiatives, solving problems, and managing our client’s outcomes.

These skills have to produce the outcomes that you sold. That is what professionalism requires.


You can tell whether there is a high degree of professionalism in a segment of the market by how salespeople are treated. If salespeople are treated as adversaries, then one of two things is true: 1). the salespeople that call on this group of clients lack professionalism in either intentions, outcomes, or both, or 2). that company is treated by its clients as an adversary and therefore, treats the salespeople the way they are treated (in which case, see number one).

True story and great example. I was visiting my doctor a couple years ago, and I happened to be wearing a suit at the time of my visit. I stood at the reception area for an uncomfortably long time, while the people behind the glass looked at me but made no acknowledgment that I was standing there. Even though I was a two feet from them, no one greeted me.

Finally, I said: “I’d like to see the doctor, please.” The women behind the counter said (in the nastiest and most condescending tone in which I have ever been greeted): “You don’t have an appointment.” Of course I did have an appointment. When it finally dawned on me what was going on, I said: “Wait, you think I am a pharmaceutical sales rep, don’t you?” Still using her nastiest tone, she curtly said only: “Yes!” I did get to see the doctor, but I am pretty sure she never changed her opinion of me because I looked like a pharmaceutical sales rep.

To my friends who sell pharmaceuticals, know that I don’t question your intentions. This means the problem is one of outcomes.


1. When you make a sales call, how do you ensure your intentions are right? Are you simply going through the motions? Or do you really intend to help your prospects and clients by creating something better?

2. Do you work on and develop all of the competencies you need as a salesperson to ensure that your clients achieve the outcome you sold them? What skills do you still need to develop to be even more effective at helping your clients with their results?

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 7, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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