Industry Updates

Salespeople Are Born Not Made

31 May 2011

For years the myth has been perpetuated that salespeople are made not born.  If this were true, the millions of rand spent on sales training every year, would yield a bountiful crop of talented salespeople.  However this is simply not happening and many companies, notably in I.T., are desperately seeking the "rainmakers" who can close the multi-million rand deals.  Top-notch salespeople are in desperately short supply.

The truth is that positions such as an entrepreneur, software designer, artist, and salesperson are based on innate talents, not training or education.  This probably explains why so many organisations have dysfunctional sales teams, because they select salespeople for their technical knowledge and not for their ability to sell.  A recent advertisement for a "senior business development manager" (read salesperson) for a specialist logistics and supply chain company required that candidates have an advanced degree in these disciplines.  The chances of finding someone with these qualifications (probably a technical animal) and an innate ability to sell are quite slender.

The truth is that it is much easier to teach a talented salesperson the technical skills he or she needs, than it is to teach a technical person to sell.  At best, sales training will improve an individual's performance by 20%. If he is 20% competent to start with, you will get to 24%!  A gifted salesperson will start at 80% and a 20% improvement will take him to 96% - a far better proposition.

This also explains why sales stars are often poor managers and why many good managers who have been in sales were not necessarily great salespeople.  Hence the truism "promote your best salesperson and three bad things happen:  you gain a mediocre (at best) manager, you lose a great salesperson, and nobody is happy."

If you would like additional insights into unearthing sales talent, contact Peter Gilbert at