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The Salesman vs. The Professional

Image Credits by Flickr user urbaneapts
I recently went to the showroom of 'Sleek' - a modular kitchen furnishing company. I and my wife were discussing the various options for fitments to be bought when we came to the point of discussing the Chimney. Both me and my wife were sold out on buying a Chimney, but the salesperson asked us if we were non-vegetarian and whether our apartment had a window in front of the stove - the answer to the former being no and the latter being yes. To my surprise, the salesperson suggested we do not buy the Chimney because we will have little use for it. The salesperson knew she was reducing the ticket size of her sale by almost 10% and this was not a discount to make the sale, the discount was to come after this.

The experience reminded me of how we work in consulting - there are times when we tell our clients that they are not ready for a particular initiative or a new software implementation, even though these initiatives would fetch us consulting projects (and a pretty good fees). However, coming from a kitchen furnishing company, it was a welcome difference - given that here was someone who was not hell bent on selling me 'as much as possible' but rather giving me sane advice.

This highlights the difference between a salesperson and a professional.

A professional believes that his/her job is to help their clients take decisions which are in their own best interests. As a corollary, a professional does not believe that s/he sells a product or a service which they make/run, rather their advice is their most valued offering. As a result, they many times also undersell their 'advertised' product / services but are later able to command a premium for the very same product/service if sold and often this happens with the same set of clients who are initially undersold the offering.

To illustrate using the example above, I had visited 3 other modular kitchen furnishing stores before visiting Sleek and found Sleek to be at least 25-50% more expensive than the others. But the quality of their product coupled with the sane and unbiased advice, resulted in me deciding in their favor. Now, even if I do not buy the Chimney, I will surely buy several other fitments which at Sleek are priced higher than what their competitors offer at.

A cloth salesman who tells his customer that the particular color will not suit on him/her is a professional who values his/her advice more than the product s/he sells. A barber who tells you that the particular 'funky' (and expensive) hairstyle will not suit your personality is a professional who values your satisfaction with the service more than the money s/he makes from it. A home theater salesman who recommends a less powerful (and less expensive) set of speakers because your room size doesn't need a powerful one, is a professional who values your listening quality more than the product s/he sells. A consultant who tells his client not to embark on an IT transformation because they are not ready yet, believes that there is honest money to be made in the long run helping the client make the right choice than selling what you sell in the short term.

Integrity of thought and ability to rise above short term monetary targets is what separates Professionals from Salesmen.

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