February 03, 2009

Deadly Myths – Natural Born Sales People

The most dangerous myth in all of sales is that sales people are born not made.  It impacts negatively on so many aspects of selling – from how sales people are recruited and sales teams managed.

You have often heard it said of a good sales person 'he, or she is a natural born sales person', or that 'he / she could sell sand to the Arabs, or ice to the Eskimos.'

Why are those myths a problem?  Well, because they reinforce the stereotype of the archetypical salesperson, that is the smooth talker, who with his/her words alone, can persuade the customer to sign on the dotted line.  But this stereotype that is the very anthesis of modern sales and an anathema to every professional sales person.

Yes, some people do possess inherent characteristics that can give them a natural advantage in selling (e.g. good communication, or relationship skills), however the behaviors associated with these advantages can also be learned (e.g. listening skills, etc.).

Personality-related variables will be important as long as there are people involved in buying, but there is too much focus on the sales person and not on the process.  Sales is a profession, not a birth right.  It is open to all who are prepared to develop and apply the skills, techniques, processes, structures, etc. of success.

Buyers want to talk to experts, not to sales people.  The different is knowledge, credibility and trust.   Lots of talk and oodles of confidence are not necessarily traits buyers admire.  The fast talker, who often has little substance, will lose out to the expert almost every time.  Shiny suits, mobile phones and slick power point presentations don't impress much either.

Different types of salespeople are required for different situations.  The trend towards executive to executive selling recognizes the fact that who better to sell to an engineer than another engineer, or to an accountant, than another accountant (or accounting technician).  

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