The Myth of the Natural Born Sales Person …

“… he could sell ice to the Eskimos”

“… he has the gift of the gab”

“… he is so slick”

You get it….

There is and remains the myth of the natural-born sales person. In other words you either have it or you don’t.


No, I am not being contrary for the sake of it (although I have been known to enjoy a good debate) but rather challenging the assumption that somehow our lives are pre-ordained the moment we lauch ourselves from our mother’s womb.

Can you image it? The midwife or doctor cries out: “There goes another sales person; I can spot em a mile off”. Phooey.

Now don’t get me wrong – some people have latent talents or skills that are suited better to certain areas of life – we can’t all be famous footballers or be the next Heston Blumenthal (I am still practising the perfect burger – not really but I do love his book in Search of Perfection) – but I simply don’t accept that whatever criteria you adopt, subjective or objective, that from the moment of conception the mould is cast.

I spent a good part of the 1980s and early 1990s recruiting sales people for some of Britain’s top businesses and I can honestly say that each and every person was different. They didn’t walk or talk the same: some were extroverts; some introverts; some had degrees; a lot no post A-level education; some had strong regional accents; others none at all. In fact looking back it was no different in terms of the cross-section of people in any large Town or City.

That said they (nearly) all exhibited one trait: Trust. Now I know what you are thinking. A trustworthy salesperson – look at all the mis-selling scandals! It is of course a gross exaggeration but the perception is that the only thing that a salesperson is interested is closing the deal and generating commission for themself. Oh sure, I came across a few of those but they didn’t make the shortlist or, if they did, I can only remember one example where I got it wrong and the person ended up being shown the proverbial door for their complete absence of trust.

When I talk about trust I mean this in its broadest context. You know someone you have affinity for; or as Bob Burg says people buy from people who they “know, like and trust”.

Now there are of course certain people who find that after a short while in sales it is not for them (was it ever I might ask?) and say: “Selling is just not for me”. That may be correct – they have exhausted what little passion and emotional engagement they had – but in the main they have not been taught the correct way.

Taking this a bit further, I believe there is a credibility issue in the sales industry; namely the lack of any widely recognised qualification. That is not to say that some organisations and training consultancies do not do a very good job of producing first-rate (trained) sales people, but would the majority of consumers or customers know or recognise that? I very much doubt it.

Back to the Myth point. You might not be convinced by the above but one thing is for sure – salespeople in order to succeed have to be trusted and authentic and that counts for a whole lot more than how eloquent they are and being able to talk the hind legs of a donkey (or usually many, many donkeys).

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