three-peapodsThe answer, of course, is both.

Over the past couple years, I’ve found that the single-best indicator of a sales rep’s likelihood of success with a new company is the results from their personality and attribute tests. Past experience isn’t always relevant. Hitting your number in a different industry (or a sales era where the rules and tools were different) doesn’t necessarily predict future success. Similarly, fitting in with one company’s culture doesn’t mean they’ll be a fit in yours.

That said, certain sales attributes tend to work across genres and cultures, regardless of past sales experience. Tenacity, rational optimism, discipline, collaboration tendencies -- these skills can be trained, but some salespeople are just born with it. And on the other hand, some potential sales reps don’t have it, and it’s against their DNA to develop it.

Sales skills can be trained. Sales process, tool usage, how to listen for buying signals -- these skills can all be developed. And this very clearly isn’t a pitch to devalue the importance of sales training in growing the skill set and success rate of your entire sales force.

But certain skills that form the foundation of success for great salespeople are more inherent to their personalities, something they are going to bring to the table and your sales floor no matter how you train them.

Great salespeople can be made, but I think the consistently successful reps were born with the attributes that help make them great.

If your hiring process doesn’t yet account for this, you have some work to do.

What's your take on the subject? Are great salespeople born, made, or a little bit of both?

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Originally published Jul 21, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales Coaching