Born to Sell? Give me a Break!

I really don’t have an issue with others who write in the sales & sales force management space. I encourage and embrace it.  I just hate it when people write opinions when facts are called for.  We all have opinions.  We all prefer one style over another.  We all have what we believe are better methodologies, strategies and tactics.  But there are some topics that are just begging for data – not opinion – and the author I seem to target more than any other just wrote one such article on whether great sales pros are born that way.  All opinion.  But based on what?  He doesn’t really say.  He simply uses his two kids as comparison.  The problem is, he is dead wrong and the data says so.

He talks about his popular, empathetic 5-year old son who he says will make a great salesperson.  Why?  Because he’s popular and empathetic?  The data doesn’t support that.  While his son might very well end up in sales, the data suggests that he would be among the bottom 74%, not the top 26%.  (Yes, contrary to the popular belief and the author’s use of a top 20%, the data says there is a top 26%.)  Understand that his popular son has strong need for approval or he wouldn’t be so popular.  He simply wouldn’t try. And his empathy?  That will make him more susceptible to all of the excuses, stalls, put-offs and objections he’ll be hearing.  His daughter, who is the opposite, may not end up in sales, but she might be better at it than his son.  The data says so!

Most of the salespeople that make up the elite 5% that I so often refer to don’t have Need for Approval while 94% of the bottom 5% do.  And when you have Need for Approval AND Empathy, uh oh.  Of course, a personality assessment would wrongly suggest that these two traits – empathy and approval – are good for selling.  Find me the data that supports that!The reality is that those two traits are good for customer service and account management!

The readers who voted seem to concur that great salespeople are trained. My data supports that too.  After all, are great plumbers born or trained?  Perhaps only great athletes are born but even they must still be trained – and trained extremely hard. They have the raw physical talent.  With sales, there is raw talent as well but it’s not physical as much as it’s how a salesperson is wired, making some much more suitable for selling than others.  All of the people who are suitable for selling can be trained to become great but most do not start out that way.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan