Can You Learn Sales Skills or Are They Innate?
Have you ever met someone who seems like a natural-born salesperson?
Maybe this person is charismatic and knows the perfect way to immediately earn someone’s trust and confidence. Maybe this person is extremely professional and has nailed down the ideal salesperson persona. If you’ve read Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, or you’ve seen the 1985 film adaptation starring Dustin Hoffman, then you know exactly what we mean.
If you’re new to sales, or you’d simply like to improve your sales skills, then you may be wondering, “Is it even possible to compete with these pros?”
While some people believe that sales skills are innate, others are certain that these skills can absolutely be taught and developed over time with practice.
Are There Natural-Born Salespeople?
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, author Steve W. Martin writes, “I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with ‘natural’ instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success.” This is true of most professions, but sales especially. The natural instincts that contribute to a successful sales professional are skills they have probably been developing over time.
Over the years, these people have discovered that they can be very persuasive, and they likely enjoy trying to convince others to take a specific action. This characteristic is probably discovered in childhood and used on guardians and peers. This means that unlike some other professions, a salesperson may start developing the innate skills they need to be successful extremely early in life.
As a result of these early successes in charming those around them, they could decide to study sales in school or through other training and then apply their skills in a professional context. They get rewarded for their natural abilities.
Of the 30% of salespeople who aren’t born with ‘natural’ sales instincts, 40% will fail or quit, and only 20% will be above average, according to Martin’s research. So it is possible to develop sales skills even if you aren’t a natural.
However, you’ll have to work harder and focus on developing the most important sales characteristics. Whether the necessary skills are innate or not, a sales professional will not achieve their potential earnings or gain career satisfaction without development and training.
You Can Learn Sales Skills
Martin believes these skills include language specialization, modeling of experiences, political acumen, and greed (greed in this instance actually doesn’t have a negative connotation).
Language specialization refers to the ability to carry on an intelligent conversation. When in sales, being a skilled conversationalist is a paramount skill. The customer needs to feel like you’re a friend recommending a worthy product or service, not someone they don’t know desperately trying to sell them something. The way to achieve this is meaningful, well-navigated conversation.
If any skill comes to a salesperson innately, it is the gift of gab. But training and molding that skill are worthy efforts that can yield fruitful results in any industry.
Other valuable skills in the sales professional tool belt include modeling of experiences (the ability to see and create patterns), political acumen (the understanding of decision-makers’ motivations and mindsets), and greed (the drive to succeed and close sales).
Remember, too, that there are sales tools that can shoulder some of the burden — you don’t have to rely on skill alone.
Being Good at Sales Is a Choice
Sales coach and thought leader Jill Konrath believes that being good at sales is a choice.
What good is it being born with natural charm and persuasiveness if you’re not choosing to use these qualities to your advantage? Of course, you can be naturally predisposed to succeeding as a salesperson, but if you don’t take the time and effort to develop your innate strengths, then they won’t do you any good.
For example, just because a child is naturally better than their peers at soccer doesn’t mean they will automatically become a professional soccer player; to achieve that goal, they’ll need to commit to rigorous training and practice for many years.
To succeed in sales, you must commit to sales. This is easiest when you are selling a worthy product or service that you believe in and are part of a team you can trust. Standardizing your sales process is a great way for a sales team to put natural-born salespeople and learners on the same page.
Sales as an occupation has much to offer (bonuses, progressive work environment), but it can be too intense for some. The best combination for a successful salesperson is someone who has innate, natural abilities who is willing to learn and develop their talent as well as being excited and committed about the field in which they work.
Adopt the Tools to Learn Sales Skills
Do you believe you’re a natural-born salesperson? Are you working on developing the appropriate skills?
Sales can be a lucrative and dynamic environment for the right personality or for someone who’s willing to learn. Anyone can learn to be persuasive with a little work and the right advice. The delicate task of finding what your customer needs and wants can be helped along with tried and true communication tactics.