Are Sales People Born … or Made?

By Richard Fouts | October 5, 2009 | 6 Comments

How many times have you said, “She was born to be a finance manager, or a realtor, or a cab driver … or a competitive analyst?”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone link DNA to these other professions, but plenty of people still think sales people come from the factory with special “sales genes.” 

Convinced that this question was old school and antiquated – I decided to poll 10 clients just for fun. “After all”, I thought, “Sales is a business process just like any other business process.” 

And can’t it be learned as we learn other processes?  No one has ever said to me, “You were born to be an IT analyst.”

But interestingly enough, the results came back 50/50.  Yup, half the respondents to my informal survey said with absolute conviction that salespeople are born, not made. Are they right?

6 Comments
  1. 9 October 2009 at 3:46 pm
    Jill Konrath says:

    I am not a natural salesperson. I have never been a natural salesperson. I have studied hard to be good in this profession and continue to study it today – even though I am considered an expert in my field.

    I have made innumerable mistakes, picked myself up from them and kept trying till I figured out what worked. And that’s why I’ve been successful.

    If you want to know just how much I had to learn, check out this most embarrassing, but true story, “Sales is Not for the Faint of Heart.”

    http://www.greatsalesgive.com/blog/sales-is-not-for-the-faint-of-heart.html

  2. 9 October 2009 at 4:32 pm
    Richard Fouts says:

    Talk about an honest answer … many thanks Jill.

  3. 10 October 2009 at 3:28 pm
    Bobbi Fouts says:

    Ms. Konrath’s story illustrates some very good points. I’ve been the administrative person who is charged with buying copiers, printers, etc. The biggest turn off, and the people who never got past the first cut, were the ones who showed a lack of respect for both me and my boss. By trying to get to the President and CEO who had much more important things to do, they were essentially saying his time wasn’t all that valuable and he had the time to worry about things like copiers, when there were million dollar deals sitting on his desk. They were also insulting me by questioning my competence to perform the task my boss had given me. Next!

    As far as whether sales people are born or made, I feel as I do about all things, it’s a little of both. It takes a certain type of person to be effective at sales. Part of that is personality, something we are born with, a certain charm and natural ability to persuade people. Some people just don’t have the “knack.” Humans are capable of learning just about anything, but what separates the really good ones is that innate quality they possess but someone else may not. For instance, I took singing lessons, and I have a pretty good voice, but I could study until the cows come home and I will never sound like Barbra Streisand. She has worked very hard at her craft, but started with a talent, a gift that no vocal coach could ever teach. So, I don’t think people are born into sales, but I do think they are born with a quality that makes them exceptional sales people.

  4. 15 October 2009 at 10:27 pm
    Melissa Paulik says:

    I think a good sales person starts with the right material, but like a seed it has to be planted in the right soil and tended to.

    I don’t believe that the “right stuff” for a sales person necessarily has to be an outgoing personality and a love to be around people. I think the best sales people respect people, but they don’t necessarily like them all the time. They are conscientious, motivated and probably smarter than the average person.

    But then again, what do I know? I’m a marketer.

    All the best!
    Melissa

  5. 11 November 2009 at 1:57 pm
    Naithan says:

    Respect indeed plays a role in it.

    I would say that sales is two parts art and one part science.

    The subtlety of the art is in the ability to cognitively understand and appreciate human behavior and sociology, and to be able to guide the moving parts of it by nature. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a “type A” (god I hate that term). It simply means you have to be comfortable enough in your own skin and intelligent enough to know how much you really matter. T o position yourself appropriately.

    The science is the process, which is why we talk to experts like Richard and some of the CRM people. Even the best best process cant subplant the human element but it can at least provide an adequate guide rail that will give the motivated amongst us a chance to achieve the goals of the organizations we serve.

    Even the most gifted relationship builders cannot overcome a lack of discipline though. Eventually comes down to having a “mothers sauce”. There has to be a methodology that tells you when you are full of it.

    Sales people need this, and if we don’t have it, we will glide on our gift. That is until the ugly truths start to show itself. This happens usually when personnel changes in key accounts.

    The best of us understand that Sales is a discipline like any other. There are some rules, though none are seeming hard or fast rules, and there are guiding principles and indicators that must be adhered to.

    to answer the question. It is talent plus good methodology that equals a good sales person. It is the talented sales person that disciplines themself and buys into the processes.

  6. 8 January 2010 at 8:38 pm
    Grant Cardone says:

    My first sales jobs I was a miserable failure at. The only thing going for me was that I was motivated and the only thing missing was that I didn’t know what I was doing.

    Once I was provided with the right sales steps and understanding that sales requires a game plan that can be learned by anyone I was able to duplicate it. By dedicating myself to observing what worked and what did not I was able to learn how to depend on approaches to win at the game of selling.

    There are no born sales people, we are all born as babies. And like babies they learn to be children, then adults and hopefully contributing members of society. But each of these steps require a commitment to training and education just like sales.

    My commitment to learning everything about sales evolved into an entire business opportunity for me that I am grateful for today.

    Grant Cardone, Sales Expert

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