COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JEFFREY GITOMER

Pushy, aggressive, obnoxious, assertive, or professional; which are you?

Sales reps get a bad rap for trying to sell too hard.

You’ve heard the term “pushy salesman” or “aggressive salesperson” or even “obnoxious salesman.” How do those phrases make you feel?

And salespeople go to great lengths not to be perceived as pushy, or aggressive, or obnoxious – so they (maybe you) go to the opposite end of the spectrum and try to be or be known as professional.

Beware and be aware: A professional sales call is okay, but boring. Professional meetings typically have no outcome. Or worse, they result in never-ending follow-up, void of sales. Not good. Here's a good way to think about professionalism: your customer must perceive you as a professional person. It's more of a look on your part, and a perception on the part of the customer. In today's world of selling, professionalism is a given. Your words, actions, and deeds take over from there.

Professionalism is not bad, but professionalism alone will not net sales.

Major aha! Between pushy, aggressive, obnoxious, and professional lies a middle ground – a ground where sales are made. It’s known as assertive.

Caution: Assertiveness is not just a word – it’s a strategy and a style. It’s not just “a way in which you conduct yourself.” Rather, it’s a full-blown strategy that has elements to master way before assertiveness can begin and be accepted as a style of selling.

Beware and be aware: Assertiveness is a good style of selling as long as you understand, and have mastered, the elements that make “assertive” acceptable on the part of the customer.

Where does assertiveness come from?

* The root of assertiveness is belief. Your belief in what you do, your belief in who you represent, your belief in the products and services that you sell, your belief in yourself, your belief that you can differentiate yourself from your competitor (not compare yourself to), and your firm belief that the customer is better off having purchased from you. These are not things you believe in your head. Rather, these are things you must believe in your heart. Deep belief is the first step in creating an assertive process. Until you believe, mediocrity is the norm. Once you believe in your heart, all else is possible.

* An Attitude of Positive Anticipation. In order to be assertive, positive attitude or yes! Attitude is not enough. You must possess an “Attitude of Positive Anticipation.” This means walking into any sales call with a degree of certainty that the outcome will be in your favor. It means having a spirit about you that is easily contagious – a spirit that your customer can catch, and buy.

* Total preparation is the secret sauce of assertiveness. This must include customer-focused, pre-call planning as well as creating the objective, the proposed outcome, for a sales call. Most salespeople make the fatal mistake of preparing in terms of themselves (product knowledge, literature, business cards, blah, blah). The reality of total preparation means preparing in terms of the customer First. Their needs, desires and anticipated positive outcomes – their win. If these elements are not an integral part of your preparation, you will lose to someone who has them.

* The assertive equation must also contain undeniable value in favor of the customer. This is not just part of preparation, this is also part of the relationships you have built with other customers who are willing to testify on your behalf, and other proof that you have (hopefully in video format) that a prospective customer can relate to, believe in, and purchase as a result of.

Reality: It’s not about changing your beliefs, it’s about strengthening your beliefs. It’s not about changing your attitude, it’s about building your attitude. It’s not about changing your preparation, it’s about intensifying your preparation. It’s not about adding value, it’s about delivering perceived value.

Bigger reality: When you have mastered belief, attitude, preparation, and value as I have just defined them, then and only then, can assertiveness and assertive selling begin to take place.

Biggest reality: Incremental growth in belief, attitude, preparation, and value offered will lead to assertive sales calls and an increase in sales.

Your stature is the glue: Your professional look, your quiet self-confidence, your surety of knowledge and information that can help your customer, your past history of success, your possession of undeniable proof, and your assertive ability to ask your customers to be responsible to their customers and their employees. (Responsibility is an acceptable (and assertive) form of accountability). No customer wants to be accountable to a sales rep – but every customer has a mission to be responsible to his or her customers and co-workers.

When you combine your belief, your attitude, your preparation, your value, and your assertiveness, the outcome is predictable: It's more sales.

Gitomer is the author of "The Sales Bible" and "The Little Red Book of Selling." President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at trainone.com. He can be reached at salesman@gitomer.com.

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