How to Be a True Professional


Photo courtesy of @NittanyLyonFB

As a lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers, I was just as disappointed as the rest when I saw the news that standout linebacker Navarro Bowman was released by the team two weeks ago. A few years ago, he and Patrick Willis were arguably the best duo of middle linebackers of all time.

Just a few days after his release, he was signed by the Oakland Raiders. Three days later, he led the team in tackles as they defeated the first-place Kansas City Chiefs.

When I think of what Bowman brings to a team, it can be summed up in one word:


Navarro Bowman is a true professional. He will surely be missed by the 49ers, and he has already made an immediate impact with the Raiders. They got a great football player, even better teammate, and a true professional.

The habits and character traits of top athletes like Bowman can also help sales and business professionals succeed. Here are 10 habits displayed by true professionals that we all should strive to live:

1. Showing up every day

Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of success is showing up.” The reality of that statement is obvious. When you show up every day, prepared and ready to work, you will give yourself more opportunities to succeed.

2. Giving 100% 

In his book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr states, “The more exacting the challenge, the more rigorous our rituals need to be.” In my opinion, the reason most people don’t achieve goals is not because of a lack in skill. It’s usually a lack of effort and/or attitude. Conversely, I’ve seen a lot of people with inferior talent develop into top performers, strictly because they were committed and worked hard to improve every day.

3. Not cutting corners

Cheri Huber published a great book in 1988 called How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything. Details matter, in business and in life. Smalls details and rituals, such as making your bed, reading a book all the way to completion, putting the toilet seat down, and always putting away your shopping cart may seem like insignificant things in life.

I disagree.

They show your willingness to do the right thing, to show respect for others, to not exercise laziness, and to see things through to completion. True professionals don’t cut corners in any of the areas listed above. And it carries over into every other aspect of their lives.

4. Solving problems

One of the most sobering questions you can ask yourself is, “Do I solve more problems than I create?” A general rule of thumb within my sales teams is the expectation that I am always open to constructive feedback, but if you have something you’re going to pick apart, make sure you also have a solution to present with it.

Bowman was that player during his tenure with the 49ers, especially in times when some of his defensive teammates were injured. And when it wasn’t possible for him to be that player, he and the 49ers decided it was time for him to find a new place to work.

5. Listening to feedback 

Here’s the fastest way to diagnose areas you need to develop: pay attention to how people respond to you. The comments they make, questions they ask you, and the nonverbals that are triggered from communicating with you give you the sense of how people subconsciously react in your presence.

Amateurs throw the blame back to the person giving the feedback. Professionals listen, internalize, and adjust where necessary.

6. Being a team player

Those who look at what’s in something for them really limit themselves and those around them. It’s no wonder several professional sports teams have embraced the book Ego is the Enemy and invited the author, Ryan Holiday, to speak to their teams.

When you put the team first, success is more likely to come.

7. Showing respect

For the greater part of a decade after college, I coached a high school baseball team in Northern California under is a guy named Jim Stassi. Now retired from coaching, he was one of the best coaches I’ve seen, in or out of sports.

One of the best on-field lessons he taught his players is the importance of showing respect, in this order: respect for the game, respect for your teammates, respect for your competitors, and also respect for the umpire.

Think about yourself in your daily life, both personally and professionally. Are you showing the proper amount of respect to all?

8. Always learning

The best in any industry always stay a student. They continue learning, expanding their skills and knowledge, and finding ways to grow.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, whose early work was the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, once said, “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”

You never know who you may learn from.

9. Putting purpose over self

When Trumaker CEO Mark Lovas was our Regional Sales Director at CUTCO, one of the best lessons I learned was the idea of being “off self and on purpose”.

Professionals don’t walk into a situation looking at what’s in it for them. Instead, they look to contribute to a purpose much greater than themselves.

When you focus on producing for the team, company, or even family, you benefit from their success. Always remember Zig Ziglar’s most-famous quote: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

10. Practicing 

In this day in age, people don’t place enough value on the importance of practicing their craft. In athletic and musical worlds, practice is a valued activity. However, in the business world, people don’t spend enough time practicing their skills in a safe environment.

Unfortunately, the practice most people get is in the setting where it really counts. In front of customers.

Make sure you take the time to practice your presentation, conversation, or interaction before you have to give it live. Trust me. You will be far better if you do.

Ultimately, most people read articles like this and say, “Yep, you’re right. I already know all of that stuff.” The real question is: How many of these habits are you living each day? I encourage to take an honest look at your daily practices and push yourself to do more of the items above.

Are you being a true professional?

Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and Presidents’ Club-winning sales rep and is a top-producing sales leader in the medical device industry. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit

About Bret Barrie

Husband & Father | Sales & Leadership Expert | Baseball Enthusiast
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