Sales Pros – Born or Made?

Kris Dunn Kris Dunn, Recruiting

I think all HR pros should recruit.  It’s part of the future DNA of the HR pro.  Talent agent, salesperson, etc., all rolled up into one.  Recruit or die.  If you don’t want to recruit on any level, you’re probably an administrator.  Why wouldn’t you want to be involved with bringing talent into the organization?

But, I digress.  Chasing openings on the sales front has made me think about the candidate flow that I have seen over the past week, and more importantly made me think of an age old question – are sales pros (good ones) born or made?

When I think sales, I immediately think of Glengarry Glen Ross – it’s just the natural thing to do.  When I think born or made, I think of Eddie Murphy in trading places.  With those images in mind, I went out to see what people were saying recently about great sales pros being born or made, and found the following nugget of wisdom from sales training guru Dave Kahle over at the Marketing Minute:

“Are successful salespeople made or born? It is the eternal question: the sales manager’s version of nature versus nurture.

Since I spend most of my time teaching salespeople how to become better at their jobs, I’m 100 percent in the “made” camp.  A good salesperson acts in the right way. His or her behavior is ultimately what determines his degree of success.

Thus, I believe that anyone can be taught the principles, processes and practices of effective sales. I like to characterize it like this: On a 1 – 10 scale, I can take 7s and make them into 10s. I can take 4s and make them into 7s. I can take 1s and make them into 4s. But I can’t take 1s and make them into 10s.

But, from one person’s perspective, here are my observations of the essential character traits of aGGGR2 successful salesperson.

1. They truly want to be successful.

2. “The ability and propensity to learn.”

3.  Successful salespeople deal successfully with adversity.

4. “the ability to focus.”

Click through to the article for more detail regarding Dave’s thoughts on the character traits.  What I got from Dave’s article is the following – he believes that Sales Pros are usually made, not born.  He feels he can coach anyone to the next level, which is really a demonstrated skill I should be looking for in our VP of sales.  That being said, he’s not going all the way – he’s looking for character traits that are actually behavioral characteristics that a candidate either has or doesn’t have.

My take – you should believe the candidate can be coached to maximize their effectiveness, but from a behavioral interviewing standpoint, you’ve got to look for anchors that have made them successful.  Are those behaviors they were born with?  Maybe not, but if they don’t have the behavioral history you’re looking for, you’re probably going to pass since you don’t feel like you have the time/ability to teach someone to focus, deal with adversity, etc.

Enough with the heavy talk.  Here’s some Trading Places to get you into the born/made thought process (warning – some race, socio-economic, etc. themes in this one.)