During each and every interaction you have with your prospects you should exemplify the qualities of a modern sales professional to encourage a business relationship. But while building that relationship, some sales reps allow casual mannerisms in their speech, dress, or overall behavior to degrade their professional demeanor.

When you are trying to make a good impression on a prospect, lacking professionalism can be costly. Some prospects may even question whether you are, in fact, the right company to do business with.

It’s entirely possible, even probable, that you are making professional mistakes that you aren’t even aware of. Where is the line between professional, modern sales engagement, and casual, business-like chit chat? Here are a few things that may be taking a toll on your professionalism and how to prevent lapses in the future.

What You Say, like, Matters

So, like, um, when you start to talk to a potential customer, and you sound like you are walking off the Valley Girl’s set, your professionalism is going to take an immediate hit.

Not only does your use of “crutch words” — e.g., like, but um, er, so, okay — come off as immature, they also suggest a lack of confidence in what you’re saying to your prospect. That can send all sorts of red flags to a potential customer.

Shape Up Your Speech

There are two steps you should take to help get you speaking like a true professional:

  1. Get with a manager for some call coaching. A lot of people use crutch words so naturally they aren’t even aware they exist. With the help of call recording tools like Gong, you can record calls and search the transcript for words you use repeatedly. So if you lookup your crutch word (try “like” or “um”) and an alarming number of results pop up, you know you have some work to do.
  2. Once you are aware of your crutch word, give the rubber-band trick a try. Whenever you’re on a call, all you have to do is put a rubber-band around your wrist, and flick it when you use a crutch word. It may sound weird, but after a few stings, you’ll begin to recondition your speech, until you speak without the use of the word.

Define “Business Casual”

Believe it or not, what you wear can impact your behavior without you even being aware of it. Imagine for a moment that you wear business formal attire every day. The second you get home and change into your sweats, your demeanor probably changes along with your clothes. You shed the work mindset, and let loose.

In most modern work places, we’ve ditched the suits in favor for casual business wear. But for some people, it’s become too casual. Even if you spend majority of your time out of your prospect’s sight, wearing professional attire can make a difference on your sales. If you’ve ever worn shorts or a ratty old t-shirt to work, did you really feel empowered and ready to crush your sales goals?

Dress for Success

If you want to be perceived as a professional, you need to dress like one. Does this mean we all need to be wearing suits? No, not necessarily, but your clothing should be kept neat and presentable. Don’t wear tattered, wrinkled clothes that looks like you just grabbed it from the bottom of your hamper.

It may be rare that you have a meeting in person, but the use of video in sales is becoming super common. Since video offers a face-to-face interaction with your prospect, you should dress just like you would if they were sharing your meeting room. The way you dress outwards changes your demeanor inwardly. So prepare for your video calls by wearing the apparel that gives you confidence while portraying your professionalism.

Going Off the Cuff

Some reps may honestly believe they can hop on a call or send an email and just wing it. I’ve seen a very rare few pull it off. But for the rest of us, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not preparing, not to mention disrespecting the prospect you are trying to win over. By taking the time to prepare for interactions with your prospect, you put your best foot forward and show you care about them and their business.

In the professional world, you don’t receive good grades for simply showing up to meetings. You need to be well-informed and ready for every single interaction you have with your prospects. Which is why professional sellers need to revert back to the scout’s motto: be prepared.

Prepare Yourself

Start by preparing any notes on the company or prospect in an organized and easily accessible way. Using platforms like SalesLoft, all company details, call recordings, and emails can be logged directly to your prospect’s Salesforce activity history. With your notes logged in Salesforce, you can easily reference them during interactions you and your prospect have.

You should also take time to gather yourself before your calls. If you have a scheduled call time, be sure you are punctual. Even better, get situated five minutes before the call, review your notes, and mentally prepare.

When it comes to emails, make sure you proofread for typos or incorrect information. Even if you are working from a template, you want avoid rookie mistakes like sending messages with incorrect dynamic tag information. If you’ve already been communicating with someone and revert back to their formal name (like “Donna Jo” who goes by “DJ”), it’s a red flag that you didn’t physically compose your email. Do your due diligence, and read over your emails before you hit send.

Even if your company has a more laid back culture, your professional behavior does not need to completely fall to the wayside. Keep your customer in mind when you prepare for your interactions. Bring your professional A-game to your sales so they never have to question your business.


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