An Organization’s Guide to Turning Professionals and Technical Experts into Motivated and Successful Sales Professionals

An arborist expresses her frustration to a co-worker: “I’m in this business to save trees and the environment, not to be a salesperson.”…A carpenter sighs as he hangs up his tool belt to go to yet another sales appointment…An accountant puts off the task of marketing her services…A landscaper quits his job because there’s too much selling – he didn’t want it to be like this.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? In all types of companies, both large and small, there are—more often than not—highly skilled employees, or ‘experts’, who believe that selling and making money are in direct opposition to doing what they love. All too often, the greatest challenge is helping these experts to not only see themselves as sales people but to be proud about selling as their profession. Failure to recognize and help experts overcome this dilemma will significantly impact a company’s growth and bottom-line results.

We believe that being passionate about what you do and making money are not mutually exclusive. Professional and technical experts can indeed be hugely successful in sales—all the while maintaining the respect of loyal clients, avoiding 80-hour weeks, and continuing to do the job they love.

How can you create that reality for your sales people and for you? Here are five steps that move you closer to this reality.

Step One: Sales leadership needs to evaluate their beliefs about selling as well as the company’s culture to ensure that it fosters and reinforces the belief that selling, making money and doing what one loves are compatible and desirous. Whether conscious or unconscious, subtle messages, behaviors and organizational practices may reinforce beliefs that negatively impact SALES success. Sales leadership must adopt sales-empowering beliefs and strategies to ensure that the culture and all its practices support and reinforce these beliefs. Failure to recognize and continually revisit this first step can sabotage all other efforts.

Step Two: Sales people need to evaluate their beliefs about selling. There are several categories of beliefs that sabotage selling success. A few include beliefs about being a sales person; making money; asking about and for money, how and ‘why’ people buy, and what prospects and clients expect from them. Each of these areas and others need to be explored before new empowering beliefs can be developed and encouraged.

Step Three: The organization needs to define their sales process and then train experts to follow it. Most professional and technical experts thrive when given a clearly defined set of steps to follow. They feel most comfortable with order, structure, and a process in place. An organization that has experts selling must define the sales process so that it can be taught, practiced, and followed by these individuals. Having a clearly defined sales process makes the job of training, managing and coaching sales people easier.

Step Four: Identify and provide training on specific selling skills that experts need to be successful. Our experience suggests that the following skills are typically lacking in professional and technically trained sales people: Rapport building, questioning, active listening, influencing and prospecting skills. Too often, experts willingly share their knowledge by giving free technical advice, thus creating a situation where the prospect doesn’t need to buy the services being sold. Likewise, experts are use to ‘giving’ solutions rather than helping buyers discover the potential benefits of buying from them. An unskilled salesperson has a higher potential for selling the wrong product or service, walking away from potential deals and losing opportunities while utilizing and expending the company’s resources. Additionally we have found that many experts are not skilled in building relationships because their academic studies have overemphasized technical knowledge rather than people skills. Everyone knows so very well that customers buy from people they like, which is why rapport-building skills are so essential to sales success.

Step Five: Reinforce and reward the new selling habits and beliefs that support sales success. Supportive beliefs, coupled with a strong sales process and cutting-edge selling skills, allow the expert to develop effective habits that reinforce and result in selling success. Habits are built over time through repetition and reinforcement, as well as through honest, open, and consistent feedback from the sales manager. A well developed and clearly defined behavior plan—one that outlines those behaviors that, through experience, support selling success—needs to be embraced, referred to frequently by sales managers and practiced consistently by sales people.

There’s always a choice to continue doing what you’ve always done, but there is no choice if you want to win -- today’s competitive marketplace demands highly skilled sales people capable of keeping up with the every changing needs and wants of buyers. Professional and Technical experts, who must sell for a living, will only survive if they embrace the belief that selling and doing what you love are the first two ingredients for true selling success.

Author's Bio: 

Theresa Gale and Mary Anne Wampler are co-owners of Transform, Inc. Gale and Wampler specialize in helping organizations and their professionals develop sales, client relationship and leadership mastery. They can be reached at or (301)419-2835.