Were You Born to Sell?

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.”

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • Marc Welch

    In the high touch segment of technology I look for 3 things; work ethic, technical knowledge and sales skills. You cover work ethic with competition and sales skills with your other points, but technical skills is becoming the largest differentiator in successful sales people today. Unfortunately all 3 are necessary and 2 out of 3 is never going to yield expeced results.