An age-old question on the mind of many people who have ever been in sales or managed anyone in sales or had to hire anyone in sales is, “Are great salespeople born or made?”
In trying to answer that question myself, I first reflected on my own path to sales and realized that I have been selling since I was a very young child. At seven, I was making presentations to family and friends on any topic I could get them to sit still for. My favorites were a series of filmstrips on foreign countries—I had a projector and everything. I would serve popcorn and invite people to be seated in the living room while I held forth on France and India, among other fascinating topics. Adults used to tell me I could “sell ice to Eskimos,” which I can only imagine meant that I presented compelling arguments and usually got what I wanted.
I was also known to weave a complex tale or two for babysitters in order to get bedtime extended, be allowed to drink soda, or any number of off-limit snacks for my siblings and I to enjoy late into an evening. And don’t even get me started on teachers. Suffice it to say, I was well liked and usually often called on, entrusted with many tasks saved for the teacher’s “favorite.” I cannot recall being called an apple polisher to my face, but I would not be surprised if I was often referred to as such.
Steve W. Martin, who writes a blog
for the Harvard Business Review
, had this to say about the issue:
“Based upon my research, experience and observations, I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. Conversely, less than 30 percent of top salespeople are self-made—meaning, they have had to learn how to become top salespeople without the benefit of these natural abilities.”
When I think about what these “natural abilities” could be, here are the first few that pop into my mind:
1) A natural comfort in talking to all kinds of people.
Obviously, being successful in sales requires that you do a lot of talking. But a true comfort in being with strangers just means that you will be able to network, strike up that conversation with that potential customer in an elevator, and put people at ease. The key word here is natural.
2) The ability to read verbal and non verbal cues.
I have always believed that one reason I’m able to forge so many long-lasting relationships is that I had an uncanny ability to read people. This means that you just somehow “know” when a person is receptive, is ready to expand and open up, or conversely having a bad day and you should move on. When I come across someone who does NOT possess this skill, I find them kind of annoying and clearly leading with self interest.3) A competitive nature.
Simply put, this person wants to win. Winning an account, winning a sales contest, “winning” big commissions. Born salespeople like to play the game, and they play to win.
So what about you? Are you a born salesperson or are you self-made? I’d love to get your story in a Comment.