What does it mean to be truly professional? Perhaps you have heard of an employee being dismissed because he or she was not professional. And it is not uncommon for bosses and supervisors to report to their employees, “I think we could have been more professional.” In the environment of professional sales, you have to do more than practice being professional – you have to embody that practice.
So what does that mean?
In truth, the meaning of the term professional can be quite elusive. One dictionary definition states a professional is “one who is paid to do an activity as the significant portion of one’s income”. This definition could be taken to mean you just have to show up for work and cash your paycheck in order to be a professional. But in sales, this won’t help you get ahead of the game either dealing with clients or your career.
Another definition states a professional is “one who practices an occupation after successfully completing the required education and training”. This definition specifies a professional must graduate before showing up for work and cashing his paycheck.
But the version of professional so often heard in the workplace speaks of a standard or a benchmark – a way of conducting yourself. Being professional usually doesn’t show up on a job description. It is expected. If you want to work and be effective, you are expected to be professional.
Here is a list of attributes that people chose when asked to describe the word professional.
Being professional means to:
- Be Courteous
- Be Tactful
- Be Respectful
- Be Objective
- Have Good Manners
- Be Punctual
- Be a Good Listener
- Be Honest
- Be Integral
- Have Good Hygiene
- Show Self-control
- Be Patient
- Be Fair
- Be Gentle
- Be Presentable
- Be Competent
- Be Able
- Be Ethical
- Be Responsible
- Be a Good Learner
- Be Studious
- Be Optimistic
- Be Tidy
And the list continues! Being professional seems to be a tall order. However, this list of professional attributes is quite ideal. Truthfully, each of us is a work in progress, and not many among us can claim all of these qualities to be our own. As a salesperson, if you aren’t professional in these areas, it makes it harder to gain the trust of your employers or your clients.
So how do you ensure that you are professional? Be the best version of yourself while being mindful of others. Do not hide your colors beneath a three-piece suit if you would rather go casual. Being professional is not about conformity. It is about being your best, while being mindful of others.
What Does Being Professional Look Like?
It is your first important meeting at work. You know that you are expected to dress up for the meeting, but you are not that type of girl. You like pants, and shoes without heels.
Okay, so pants and shoes it is! You have thought of you, now think of others. Your boss probably will not let you get away with just any combination. So choose your classiest setup—the ones you like and the ones that say “business class”.
It is really that easy to show your true colors. Conformity looks stiff, but color is refreshing. Too often, in fear of messing up, we just conform rather than boldly sharing our colors. Bosses want color, but conformity is quicker, easier and dependable…so everyone wear black, please!
Here is another example:
You and your family take pride in the fact that you are open, honest and direct in the way you speak. You do not beat around the bush or butter people up; instead, you “tell it like it is!”
So now you have been involved in a conflict at work. Your boss calls you into the boardroom with the parties who are involved. After enduring your boss’s failed attempts to bring resolution to the issue, you explode into an accurate discourse of what you believe to be the truth.
Although you may have been right, your comments go over like water on a grease fire.
Remember: Be the best version of yourself while being mindful of others. In this particular situation, it was “you” to just “tell it like it was.” But were you being mindful of others? Perhaps you could have shown some tact.
Tact means to show sensitivity when dealing with others. There is no trouble with being direct and honest, but to some it can come across as harsh, angry or even mean. A professional individual would have allowed tact to complement their direct nature.
So what does it truly mean to “be professional”?
Professional is about being mature and respectful in your actions and thoughts. Doing your best. Setting aside any childish behavior, taking the high road to respectability – for many people, if you aren’t professional at work, you are seen as disorganized, untrustworthy, shifty, or even unreliable. In the area of sales, being professional and having the image of a solid salesperson, is often a deciding factor about your reputation. It is about being the best version of you, combined with a constant commitment to getting better and a decision to be mindful of others.
You can be professional and be yourself, just remember to think of others too. People do not mind “different”; they actually appreciate it. It is tact that makes the presentation of “different” acceptable and enjoyable.