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Professionalism

Here are four universal traits of a professional in any job position:

1. Professionals are responsive: When I entered the store, the salesperson made immediate eye contact with me. It was sincere eye contact that said she cared that I was there. And as soon as she was finished with her customer she came right over to help me and apologised for the wait.

The store was busy. But I noticed that everyone was being helped. The salespeople had mastered the art of handling more than one customer at a time while making each customer feel like he/she was the only one. None of the salespeople looked frantic, just responsive.

2. Professionals are knowledgeable:This salesperson knew about shoes. On the other hand, I know very little about shoes. Seeing that this was the case, she took charge of the situation and made sure that I was getting shoes that were right for me. I benefited from her knowledge.

There is an art to sharing knowledge, I admit. Some customers may say, "I know what I want. Just get it for me." By briefly talking to me, however, she realised she could make a recommendation for me, that I was flexible. Professionals read the situation and adapt to the personality and needs of the customer.

Of course, all of this means knowing your product. Professionals are constantly learning about their products and their customers. The only way that the Walking Company salesperson could steer me to the right pair of shoes was by knowing shoes and feet. Professionals know their stuff.

3. Professionals care about what they do:My Walking Company salesperson could have easily brought me the pair of shoes I originally asked for. But she wasn't selling shoes -- she was selling the right shoes. That's the difference. Professionals aren't happy just selling a product. They want it to be the right product for the customer.

4. Professionals teach you something:I left the Walking Company knowing more than when I walked in. I now know to ask for extra arch support in my shoes. Not a big deal, but I will always remember that advice.

Think of some of your best service experiences: the waiter who made the perfect recommendation, the computer helpdesk that gave you a tip on how to make an application more effective, or the clothing store employee who helped you coordinate colours.

In most cases of outstanding service, the employee left you more knowledgeable than when he/she found you. The new information might not change your life (though it could), but it does make your life a tad better.

Conclusion: Professional behaviours are simple. What's not simple is the consistent application of them. Being a true professional takes thought and effort. But, once you are truly professional you can go just about anywhere.