Ask any top seller who has been around for a while, and they’ll tell you that most people are not born and built for sales. It’s a tough field, and it requires a very specific set of talents.
Think of your talents as your hardwiring.
Your innate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are set at a very young age, and once they are hard-wired, your knee-jerk responses remain pretty consistent over time. If you were highly competitive as a kid, you’re probably still highly competitive.
In other words, if you couldn’t resist rising to a challenge on the playground (“I bet you can’t jump high enough to touch the top of the fence”), you are probably just as likely to do the same today (“I bet you can’t increase your new business development by 10% this year.”)
Talent isn’t everything, of course. You need both training and practice to refine your raw talent and turn it into a strength, but as undeniably important as training is to sales success, it can’t replace talent.
Many years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the importance of deliberate practice, and he maintained that with 10,000 hours of repetitive training, an individual could become world-class in any field. That created a lot of buzz until a Princeton study proved that, while practice certainly leads to improvement, that improvement is often marginal at best. It showed that in careers such as sales, the bump was only a paltry 1%.
So, can you teach natural sales ability? No.
Bottom line, if someone has the innate talent for sales, they have the potential for excellence and should invest time in training and practice to turn their talent into performance. If they’re not hardwired that way, they should avoid the frustration and wasted time that will happen as they diligently work to jam a square peg into a round hole.
Instead, they should identify their innate strengths and select a career that allows them to use their strengths every day. Matching talent to task in that way leads to extreme growth and career success!
What Talents Are Necessary For Sales Success?
When we studied the very best new business developers out there, we found six specific behaviors that the great sales hunters had in common. Every sales job is a bit different, but if you’re looking to hire a sales hunter, be on the lookout for these innate behaviors. If your candidate is hardwired with these, you know that the hours you will invest in their training will pay off!
Drive to Achieve Big
Natural greats consistently push themselves to be top performers and achieve quantifiable results, keeping scores against their own performance and always pushing for more. In the spirit of striving for more in everything they do, money can often be a powerful motivator for them. Most will express a philosophy of “go big or go home.”
In the interview: You might notice a candidate with this talent will talk a lot about their accomplishments and the recognition and rewards they have received.
On the Sales Talent Assessment: These behaviors are measured in the Achiever theme.
Motivation to Win
These sellers love to win and hate to lose! You can count on the fact that it is important to them to be the best in any situation, win every race, and close every sale. Their endless appetite for growth drives them to prospect more often and push for larger sales.
In the interview: Your candidate is likely to talk about their successes often, ask about your expectations in the job, and probe to learn more about your revenue and new business numbers as well as the billing of your top sellers.
On the Sales Talent Assessment: These behaviors are measured in the Competition theme.
Confidence in Taking the Lead
They are focused on making things happen, often taking the initiative to move things forward - and they can be very persuasive along the way. These salespeople create strong buy-in and move clients to solutions faster than most.
In the Interview: If your sales candidate has this talent, you might notice them selling themselves to you!
On the Sales Talent Assessment: These behaviors are measured in the Activator theme.
Persuasive and Convincing
These sales hunters read situations well, naturally picking up on buying signals, and they remove obstacles that get in the way, effortlessly moving the client to the close. The best of the bunch won’t sell something they don’t believe will work, though. The great ones have high standards and focus on creating a win-win situation that allows them to win the sale while the client gets big results.
In the interview: If your candidate has a great deal of talent in this area, they will move you forward, asking who the final decision-makers will be and your timeline. Don’t be surprised if they close you and ask for the job.
On the Sales Talent Assessment: These behaviors are measured in the Accelerator theme.
Upbeat and full of energy, these sellers easily get their prospects and clients excited about their ideas and give them confidence in the solutions they offer. They are also optimistic, understanding that even after a tough day of hunting filled with rejection, tomorrow will be a better day.
In the Interview: These are typically the candidates we fall in love with. They have passion and enthusiasm, often lighting up the room during the interview.
On the Sales Talent Assessment: These behaviors are measured in the Positivity theme.
Great sales hunters enjoy doing some detective work, uncovering the client’s most valuable business needs, and matching those needs with a strong solution they know will work. They are good at solving problems and don’t give up when the going gets tough.
In the Interview: Your sales candidate, strong in this area, will ask you smart, pointed questions about the job, the company, and your process in filling the position. They will also demonstrate how their talents, skills, and experience will match nicely with what you need.
On the Sales Talent Assessment: These behaviors are measured in the Problem Solver theme.
The Thing to Remember
While training and practice are important for sales success, innate talent is key in determining an individual’s potential for excellence in the field. The best salespeople are born and built differently than the rest of us, wired with talent that cannot be taught, but can be refined through training and practice.
Start by hiring those with the innate talent you need so your investment in their development will pay off in huge returns!
*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2016 and has since been updated.