How to Become a Professional Salesperson

Businessman talking to co-workers in conference room
Professional salespeople. Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

Not all salespeople are professionals. Being a professional implies a certain level of ability that not everyone can claim, combined with a certain attitude and behavior. On the other hand, being a professional has little to do with what you actually sell or who you sell it to. Here are some of the attributes that professional salespeople share.


Integrity is an important quality for professionals in any field, but for salespeople, it's even more important. Because salespeople have an unfortunate reputation for shady and unethical behavior, a professional salesperson must not allow even a hint of such behavior. Even the smallest bending of his ethics will confirm others in their belief of the stereotypical snake oil salesperson. Instead, professional salespeople always put their customers' needs first. They don't try to trick or push prospects into buying something that's not the best choice for them. Instead, they work with prospects to find the best possible solution for their needs, even if that means sending them to a competitor.

Pride in Your Job

It's not uncommon for salespeople to hide what they do behind titles such as account executives, customer reps, product specialists, and so on. Professional salespeople are proud to be in sales. They know that the job they do supports both their employers and their customers. Salespeople serve others just as doctors or teachers or even firefighters do, and professional salespeople know that. Salespeople talk to dozens or even hundreds of other people every day. Professional salespeople know that they can make each and every one of these contacts a positive experience for the other person, taking the opportunity to make things a little better for everyone they interact with. Salespeople who are professionals also know that they are the faces of the companies they represent, and they act accordingly.

Continual Self-Improvement

Professionals in many fields are required to keep learning and training no matter how experienced they get. Doctors, lawyers, and accountants, just to name a few, all have continuing education requirements to keep their certifications. Salespeople who are professionals realize it's just important for them to keep learning and growing, even though there's no rule specifically requiring it. Many companies are aware of this need and well regularly send their salespeople to classes or provide them with training material. However, professional salespeople who work for companies that don't provide such opportunities will get training on their initiative. Professional salespeople also keep trying out new things, whether it's a sales channel they never used before, a new cold calling script, or a different approach to closing.

Liking What You Do

Some salespeople hate their jobs. They keep on doing sales because it pays the rent, but they're miserable and they do only the absolute minimum they have to keep their jobs. Professional salespeople, on the other hand, enjoy being in sales. They probably don't love every single aspect of the job, but they do like the overall day-to-day business of being in sales.

Finding new prospects and convincing them to buy is exciting and fun; they thrive on the challenges inherent to being in sales. One caveat to keep in mind is that new salespeople often don't enjoy the job at first, just because it's overwhelming to learn all at once. That doesn't mean that you're doomed to hate sales forever, it just means that you need some time to get used to the job and its tasks. However, if you've been in sales for a while and you still hate it, it's time to start thinking about a change of careers. Why should you make yourself miserable doing something you hate for the rest of your life?