From the April 2001 issue of Startups

Just when you think you've got your selling techniques down cold, someone like Landy Chase has to come along and turn those techniques on their ear. That's a good thing, though, because the moment you get too comfortable with selling is probably the moment you'll start losing clients.

So in this month's "Sales & Marketing" column, we're hashing out some important sales basics with Chase, a national sales trainer specializing in training and speaking in the area of professional selling skills. As president of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Landy Chase Inc., a 7-year-old sales training company, and a former director of business development for Arthur Andersen & Co., Chase has given more than 1,000 presentations and worked in 60 different industries. Here, he breaks down his notion that selling as a profession died long ago.

HomeOfficemag: You've said before that the profession of selling no longer exists. Why do you think this?

Landy Chase: What I see happening in the field is, there's no such thing as a salesperson anymore, in the traditional sense. And what I mean by the traditional sense is a person who goes around taking orders and schmoozing with clients. There really isn't a place for that in today's marketplace.

I spent three days last week with three different salespeople, all of whom are making between $400,000 and $500,000 a year. But the interesting thing about these people is that all three of them follow exactly the same model. They're all very different in terms of their selling styles, personalities and the industries they work in, but they all have one thing in common: an extremely high level of technical expertise in their business. They understand what they sell, but more important, they understand what the client needs. And because they have a high level of expertise, their value is amplified considerably in the mind of the client, to the point that they're not thought of as a salesperson anymore. The title doesn't really apply in the customer's mind. They're thought of as a business partner and consultant-somebody who can come into an organization, solve a problem and offer real value. And that, to me, is where the salesperson of today stands. We're at a point in the evolution of business where the traditional idea of a salesperson is extinct.

You've also said that marketing is what you do to get opportunities to sell, and selling is the result of effective marketing. Can you have one without the other?

Chase: I don't believe you can, and to take that one step further, in today's marketplace, it's more important for a salesperson to be good at marketing than good at selling. You can be an excellent salesperson, but if you aren't getting opportunities to get in front of people to sell what you offer, it doesn't matter. So in today's marketplace, the best salespeople are very good at generating leads in the form of quality opportunities to sell, and once those opportunities come to the table, then the selling becomes secondary.

What's the best sales advice you can give to a homebased entrepreneur?

Chase: Understand your market intimately in terms of what your customers are looking for, and be able to separate the people in your market whom I call "top-tier," or quality, prospects from everybody else. I would employ the 80-20 rule there. Twenty percent of the people in your market will produce 80 percent of your business, and the other 80 percent of the territory will collectively only produce 20 percent. When you put together a marketing plan, put together a list of criteria that people would need to meet to be in your top 20 percent. Then enter that information into a contact management software program and begin marketing consistently to those people.

Is there a formula for being the best salesperson?

Chase: I can share with you five characteristics. The first one would be an entrepreneurial approach to their job. All that means is that they take total responsibility for their success. It's not the company's job, it's not the manager's job, and it's not the economy's job. They say, "It's my job and my responsibility." Second, they approach their job from the perspective of running a business as opposed to selling. Third, they have an enormous amount of patience, and they think long-term vs. next-week sales. They're not out for the quick hit. Fourth, they have an ability to rebound quickly from setbacks. Everybody gets lots of nos in sales, but these people do not allow temporary setbacks to affect their focus and what they're doing. And fifth, they're on a constant quest for improvement, personally. These are the people who are always looking for a better way of doing things.