We’ve all been brain-washed. We’ve been duped. We’ve been indoctrinated by this hollow concept we call professionalism, and it’s sucking the life out of us. This concept called professionalism has killed one of the most important requirements for sales — passion!
Passion is critical to selling. It takes the sale to an entirely new level. I’m not talking just about traditional B2B selling either. I’m talking about all kinds of sales, the interview, the sales cold call, fund-raising, asking someone out, promoting an idea, college application, etc. You name it, if you’re trying to influence someone to do something, passion is by FAR the most critical soft skill. When we’re passionate, we are far more believable. Our commitment to the cause becomes apparent. Passion captures our audience. It lures them in. Passion is emotion and emotions are memorable. Emotion connects people to one another. Connection creates trust and camaraderie, all key elements of establishing great relationships.
Unfortunately, professionalism squashes passion in many cases. With this expectation of “professionalism,” we’ve come to accept and in many cases demand, watered down versions of our messages, our stories and our presentations. In an attempt to be “professional” and not isolate anyone, we sacrifice a little bit and some cases a LOT of our passion and with that our unique selves.
What does professionalism mean anyway? In today’s world it’s come to mean watered down, conforming, politically correct, unprovoking, white-washed, unoffending, boring, stiff don’t offend anyone, communication designed to ensure that you are not seen as being different or offensive. Let’s keep it real, professionalism is playing not to lose. There is no benefit or upside to being professional. It’s a play not to lose strategy.
I see people being “professional” lose every day. At A Sales Guy Recruiting, we use a video hiring tool called Hirevue to evaluate candidates. It can be painful to watch. We see people we’ve talked to on the phone with crazy personality and enthusiasm just come across as duds the minute they have to go “public.” Their answers are boring, canned and carefully crafted to appear professional and clean, and they suck. There is no passion, enthusiasm or excitement in their answers. They just crash and burn. All in an attempt to look and act professionally.
I see it all the time on sales calls too. The sales person walks through the sales call like a stiff piece of cardboard, lacking any passion, enthusiasm or connection to their product and the audience. They’re doing a demo or asking discovery questions, and they just can’t connect with their audience. Why? Because they are trying too hard to be professional. They are using big words; they are overly formal with the prospect or client. They are giving way too much reverence to the situation and the audience, and the entire presentation is a train wreck. In spite of what would otherwise have been a good fit, the sale was painful.
Professionalism is a passion killer. I’m going on record as saying that right now. We need to stop demanding professionalism and demand more passion and heart. We need to stop questioning clothes, tone, grammar, and posture and start focusing on heart, passion, enthusiasm, and engagement. We need stop worrying about how professional someone is and worry about how much passion they have.
For those of you who are getting your panties in a wad about the idea of not being professional, cool your jets. I’m not talking about being “unprofessional.” It’s not OK to be unprofessional. Unprofessional is being disrespectful. It’s calling people names. It’s being disrespectful towards people’s beliefs, race, or gender. It’s inappropriate jokes. Being unprofessional is being disrespectful, and that’s not OK. But, it’s not disrespectful when someone doesn’t wear a tie, or a dress to an interview. It’s not disrespectful to get excited and passionate about your product. It’s not disrespectful to use slang in an interview. Being disrespectful takes a lot and so I think it’s time we widen the gap between being “professional” and being “unprofessional.” Just because someone isn’t “professional” doesn’t mean they are unprofessional.
Sales needs more heart, more passion, more excitement, more enthusiasm and less formality. Sales needs fewer rules about formally presenting and more rules about capturing imagination through stories. Sales needs fewer professionalism critics and more engagement critics. Sales needs more people passionately engaging their clients and prospects and fewer stiff robots towing the professional line. Sales needs more people who aren’t afraid to say fuck professionalism; I’ve got something you need to hear, and I’m damn excited about it. That’s what we need more of. It’s time we give people permission to push the limits, to kick “professionalism” in the ass and get better at telling good stories that excite and enchant. Let’s give them permission to engage informally and connect on a human level. Let’s give salespeople permission to be themselves and shed the mask of “professionalism.” Professionalism has shackled us for too long, and we’re all losing because of it.
You wanna increase sales? Don’t let “professionalism” squash your passion. It’s not worth it.