I was just reading an email from a gentleman who is changing his profession and becoming a member of the sales community. He is a police officer and has just committed himself to a new career as an insurance salesperson! Wow! So, I want to offer my congratulations to him. I applaud not only his resolve in making a change but also for doing it in a demanding and tough field. Time will tell if he will be successful. I think he will be. So, to the newest member of the sales community, I offer a collective and warm welcome to our world! You have many sales professionals rooting for your success!
Now permit me to be a bit tangential in my thinking…
The above discourse has me ruminating not only about career change but changing one’s career from a non-professional salesperson (“NPSP”) to a professional one. More importantly, it has me thinking about a question I have asked many times and spoken on for years. Specifically: Can sales be taught or is it part of the DNA? I have been back and forth on this for years and have so many stories I could use to make a case for either. One that comes to mind to reinforce the former is a salesperson I knew from my days at Xerox. She was a top national salesperson, and she had been an opera singer who had trained at Juilliard! I can honestly say that it would not have been the first place I might have thought to recruit my next sales superstar! I have stories that could prove the latter as well.
Teaching someone to sell and having it be instinctual are two very different things. I don’t want to seem contrarian. I do passionately believe that “Everyone Is in Sales”. That is very different than thinking about whether professional salespeople are born or created. I have taught many classes to the NPSP on sales methodologies. I have always enjoyed seeing the light “go on” for many, and perhaps that tells us that people can be educated to be great salespeople. Or perhaps the light went on to those in my audience who have the DNA and have never brought it to the surface.
For years, I have observed people with advanced degrees, such as MBAs, doing wonderful finance or strategy work, who think they know how to sell, but they have never “picked up a bag.” Now before I get comments tinged with enmity, I am not knocking the MBA, but some real-world “knocks” are usually needed. I do think some people can be taught to sell and some can’t. You can teach skills but there has to some aptitude. I can teach you to cold call, but I can’t make you do it well if you are an introvert. I can certainly teach you the elements of a complex solution sale, but you have to “get it” and be able to see the big picture. If you are an extrovert, that does not mean you will make a great salesperson. There is a HUGE difference between actually selling and understanding the mechanics of selling.
In my own case, if I think about where my sales ability came from, or started, it is from my father. He was a wedding photographer, and I spent countless hours with him listening to him pitch his services and skills. He was a sincere man who took good care of his brides and grooms! He built good relationships, and his clients trusted him to take care of them. I think about this now as I type this, and I know that all of those hours of listening to him and watching him handle objections and ASK for the order really made an impact…. Obviously, I did not know it at the time, but now I get it. My dad was a part of the sales community long before the internet and the term came into vogue. He was not taught to sell, he just did it. It was part of how he was wired, and he was pretty good. He is gone now and I miss him, but I think that was one of many gifts he gave to me. Thanks, Dad.
Thank you, my sales community, for allowing me this moment of random musings.