Are great sales people born or trained?

Selling might come naturally to some people, but there’s often more than meets the eye to a truly great salesperson

Reading Time: 3 minutes

David FullerThe Gilbert family seem like they were born to sell.

Will Gilbert sold 16 cars in June while the average car salesperson in North America sold only 10 vehicles. Will never did work for me, although I did have four other Gilberts employed over the years. Each sibling broke the sales records for departments that the previous one had set!

This family has an unusual ability to build relationships, understand what customers want and to deliver the goods through their sales techniques.

The Gilberts have a gift of the gab and a natural tendency to sell. So I was surprised recently when Sarah Gilbert told me she had taken a job in customer service with a point-of-sale company, Winward Software, and after she’d been working there for a few months had turned down a job in sales.

Why would someone who seemed like a natural in sales turn down a job that I was sure she would be great at?

Having hired more than a few sales people over my 30 years in business, I’ve often wondered if great sales people were born or trained. How could I hire some families where almost every one of them could sell and others where every one of them wanted to hide in the backroom away from customers? Why was it that after a few months or years, some people would gain confidence and then be phenomenal at selling product, while others made a flash in the pan and were gone?

It turns out that to some types of people selling is more natural than to others. Great sales people tend to be task-orientated and they like people. They’re goal-driven and can be motivated to achieve those goals. Great sales managers understand how to motivate sales people for their benefit, the benefit of the company and, hopefully, the customer.

But having a natural ability to sell is different than knowing how to sell. Why is it that some people can come on board a company and start by outselling peers who were hired at the same time, and then be overtaken and left in the dust a few months later?

Most small businesses never succeed in growing a phenomenally successful sales team because they just don’t have a sales model. They don’t understand what it takes to ensure that their team has the knowledge and ability to sell to customers in a way that will fuel their business for years to come.

They hire those with natural abilities (sometimes) but don’t give them the tools and training needed to really become great. They might stand out from other sales people in the company because they know how to relate to others. But the business often loses them over time because they don’t have the proper structures to keep them motivated, rewarded and engaged.

Sarah told me why she turned down the sales job. “Dave” she said, “if I can spend the best part of a year really understanding the customers’ challenges with our product and how to solve problems by being in customer service, I will rock it in sales!”

And that’s the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson. A great salesperson knows that they need to research their products. They need to understand why customers buy. What their product or service can do or not do. How their product is different from the competitors’ products and the value they can communicate to the prospective customer.  They need to be able to overcome objections and have a plan to meet customer’s needs.

In researching my book Profit Yourself Healthy, I discussed sales with Dennis Bonagura. Dennis grew two companies from six figures to eight figures by getting a clear understanding of what he was selling. Before he would go out and try to sell, he would spend months researching and learning about the products he was going to sell and the customers he would be selling it to.  He would learn why and how they were using the products. Dennis knew where to find his prospects and had a system for selling that got results.

Selling might come naturally to people like the Gilberts. But there’s often more than meets the eye when you come up against a truly great salesperson.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email

© Troy Media

what makes a great salesperson

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.