Say What?!? Sales is a Profession?


What exactly is the sales profession? Without a common dialogue and context for the sales profession, sales professionals and corporate executives who choose to engage marketing, sales, and customer service functions through a sales effort are often left scratching their heads when it comes to understanding what sales really is. What do we make of the numerous and powerful "How to" concepts defined and implemented within the sales profession? These "How to" concepts are invaluable, but they only define one-half of what is needed to be considered a profession. Without the other half, we're doomed to non-professional status. Let me explain?.

When a student studies any new subject matter, their first objective is to understand an overview of the entire subject matter. For example, when studying medicine, students first understand all the systems of the body, the different medical terms, and a high level overview of the entire field before they ever operate on anyone. In effect, they learn "what" the field is and then learn the "How to" tactics associated with specific actions.

Let's look at the sales profession within this context. To understand how to apply sales knowledge, one must first have an effective overview and framework of "what" the profession is and "how" it relates to other professions.

A good place to start understanding "what" Sales is would be to understand the attributes that define other professions. There are five attributes generally identified as common to all recognized professions. These attributes are

1. A Unique Body of Knowledge: This encompasses concepts and principles that are unique to the profession and are documented so that they can be studied and learned through formal education. In most professions, the body of knowledge is taught in graduate or professional schools.

2. Standards of Entry: Defined minimum standards of entry into a profession imply progression in a career. Entry standards define the place from where a career path begins. All professionals must have an accepted route open to the public by which a person can become a recognized member of the profession.

3 A Code of Ethics: Ethical Standards, or a code of ethics, is common to most professions. Its purpose is to make explicit appropriate behavior and to provide a basis for self-policing of unethical behavior, thus avoiding or limiting the necessary legal controls.

4. Service Orientation to the Profession: The service orientation is actually an attitude of the members of the profession, an attribute by which members are committed to bettering the profession itself. Professionals will commit their money and energy to publishing their ideas and experience, attending conventions, and generally contributing to the body of knowledge and the administration of the profession.

5. A Sanctioning Organization: The authenticating body or sanctioning organization has many purposes. It sets the standard and acts as a self-policing agency. It promotes publications and exchange of ideas, encourages research, develops and administers certification programs, and sponsors and accredits education programs.

By understanding the "what" of sales and "how to" apply it is crucial for the sales profession. Just as a DNA molecule contains a double helix comprised of a "what" and a "how" to form the basic building block of life, so too must sales professionals define "what" and "how" of the sales profession.

Brian is the Chairman and Founder of the the United Professional Sales Association (UPSA). UPSA is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington DC that has addressed the concerns and challenges of individual sales professionals. Brian has authored the world's first universal selling standards and open-source selling framework for free distribution. This 'Compendium of Professional Selling' containing the commonly accepted and universally functional knowledge that all sales professionals possess. The open-source selling standards have been downloaded in 16 countries by over 300 people. Over 30 people have made contributions.

Because UPSA is not owned by one person or any company, it is a member organization and guardian of the global standard of entry into the sales profession.


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