“Although you can teach a turkey to climb a tree, it’s much easier to hire a squirrel”
Can you make a great salesperson of anyone, or are they simply born with innate selling ability?
Should you hire for sales potential or proven results?
Well, for sales leaders - this is truly the million-dollar-question.
Influential sales strategy professor Steve Martin comments: “Based upon my research, experience, and observations, I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. In addition, for every 100 people who enter sales without natural sales traits, 40 percent will fail or quit, 40 percent will perform at near average, and only 20 percent will be above average”.
Most of the research around sales professionals seems to suggest that indeed, the most successful salespeople do possess some innate traits that lend themselves to sales success. Steve has also written about those traits for HBR here, but they represent most of the ones you can probably already guess: curiosity, ambition, modesty, social skills amongst a few others.
Whilst this may seem obvious, this way of thinking flies in the face of the “hard work and grit will turn anyone into a sales superstar” attitude that many sales leaders posses today.
When thinking about your next sales recruit, keep in mind that for the most part: salespeople are born, not made. Ok, perhaps that line is too hyperbolic, but inate traits to seem to play a massive part in sales success.
If the candidate is lacking in the basic fundamental sales traits, the research says you’re going to have a hard time turning them into a sales superstar.