Every month as the Director of Sales for a suburban community newspaper I have the pleasure of doing business with hundreds of customers. I truly love what I do, and find interaction with other business owners interesting. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities. Helping others with successful marketing campaigns is gratifying despite occasional frustrations. Unfortunately, salespeople are frequently treated poorly and looked upon as an intrusion. Some deserve this reaction but most do not. I must admit I am biased and view sales as a profession rather than a job. If you stop and think about it everyone has to sell a product or themselves, as a professional, to earn their livelihood. Physicians, College Professors, Real Estate Brokers, Jewelers, even Clergy must, by reputation, "sell" their skills in dealing with people. Retailers, wholesales, and tradespeople are more obvious, they have a defined product or service that people need and sales are driven more by value. Yes, we all "sell" something. The foundation of our modern economy is based on the sale of goods and services. What separates a professional from the rest of the sales people? Knowledge and information, service to the customer, and business ethics.

Knowledge & Information:
Successful professionals always keep informed. They constantly upgrade their skills and research new trends in their industry. Your customer needs to be informed of all their options in order to make the best choice possible.

Service to the Customer:
Not only you’re best effort but sincere desire to help fulfill your customers goals and objectives. The public will, occasionally pay more for goods and services if the sales person conveys professional attitude and offers genuine service.

Business Ethics
This is the one that usually gets away! It eludes us. This is where honesty and integrity along with high moral character are so important. A professional places his customers’ needs above his own gain. Treat EVERYONE the way you want to be treated.

Interestingly enough these are the same characteristics that apply to professional buyers of goods and services. These are the qualities I look for in a good customer. Unfortunately, many businesses and their employees seem to operate in a vacuum. They do not understand the basics necessary for successful business relationship. They have very low or no business ethics. Certainly companies are under no obligation to be a customer or to buy anything. We all realize as professional you cannot "sell" everyone. Some customers are just not a match for us. But everyone should be treated with respect and exercise good business ethics. A direct "no thank you" is always preferred by a professional. What happens when your relationship with a customer becomes a one-sided proposition? When do you try a "firm" approach? When do you try a supervisor? When is it time to walk away? These are tough questions that only a professional can cope with. I use the word cope, because there is no correct answer. Each circumstance is different and you need to call upon your expertise and experience to make a judgement call. I’m not referring to someone who had a bad day. There are people in the business community who refuse to return phone calls. There are customers who rather than say no thank you will "create" work for you. There are business owners who allow subordinates to deliver messages or make excuses rather than face you personally. These are all examples of poor business ethics.

What can we do to help promote business ethics and professional behavior? The sad truth is that in many cases, we allow this type of bad behavior to go unchecked. Misguided company policy or bad attitude toward the customer will continue without review. A professional may send a comment to a supervisor or main office. Ask other professionals how they have been treated in the past. You may be able to recognize a pattern of behavior. By not sending that comment you encourage continued bad behavior. If the company condones this behavior you can select another vendor in the future. Always vote with your feet. If they are sincerely distressed by the way you were treated they will attempt to make amends an apology or meeting. Either way you know if they are concerned or not. In rare cases they may be breaking the law. Others would benefit from your initiative.

As a professional, you need to first double check your own attitude and behavior before you examine the policies of the company you are approaching. You need each other to create business that is prosperous for both of you. You allow each other to serve each other and conduct business. You are the only one that can demand high ethical standards and customer service. It starts with you.