Sales People : Born or Made?

I’ ll answer that shortly.

In the last 20 years, our firm has interviewed and tracked the success, or lack of success, of thousands of sales people in numerous industries. Let me share some findings.

Good sales people, the kind that consistently perform above average come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. Do not get caught up in the 6’4’,wavy haired, baritone voiced blued eyed stereotype!  Most of the really good career sales people tend to be more the quiet types than the loquacious types when not working.

Don’t look only for images of yourself – there are other successful archetypes! Employ them !

Do not equate “great interview” with great job performance. The former is not a good predictor of the later.

Do look for consistent and proven performance.  If they are good, there should be a track record of increasing sales volume, gross margin, expanding client portfolio, etc.  Make them show you their achievements. The best indicator of future performance is usually past performance.

Born or made? , most Sales Managers I know tell me that  great sales people are born, well, here is what my 20 plus years of tracking sales people has taught me: I don’t care if they are born or made !, when they come to me I want to see these traits:

  • Drive
  • Persistence
  • Focus
  • Enough ego strength to overcome objection (do not confuse strong ego with big ego)
  • Good communication skills
  • Understand human nature (Social Intelligence)
  • Persuasion skills
  • Hard worker
  • High energy level
  • Good attitude
  • Likeable
  • Open to re-educating
  • not too self-conscious

My personal  acid test : A nearly infallible indicator of a driven person is revealed in these 2 questions:

1) I like to ask candidates what the last book they read to help their career?  Then query them on the book – What attracted you to that book? What was it about? What did you learn?  What others?

2) Magazines, periodicals, audio programs, self-education that candidate subscribes to at his or her own expense?

It is hard to truly be dedicated to greatness and you do not bother to read about your career and study from the masters.

All High Achievers work on developing themselves !

During casual conversation  I probe for drive and energy level. I often ask candidates about their hobbies and avocations. If they are a driven person  this is often revealed in how aggressively they pursue their avocation.  If I were queried about an avocation I might discuss mountain climbing – a long time passion of mine. I would discuss summiting the Matterhorn in Switzerland, Mt. Blanc in France, solo climbing Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in mid winter at 20 below zero. Traveling to West Virginia to train with rock climbers, to the Adirondacks to train in ice and Colorado for altitude training.  I have numerous books, training videos that helped me become a better climber.  My approach to my vocation mirrors  approach to my avocation.

One person I was interviewing told me  about his hobbies : gardening. I do not know much about gardening but I asked him to tell me about it. Tell me what your yard looks like?  How did you learn so much about gardening? He reads, studies, belongs to a garden club, attends seminars.  His career is as successful as his garden. It is his nature to work hard, better himself, re-educate himself.

Don-JasenskyDonald Jasensky is founder and CEO of Automotive Personnel, LLC.;