Cause or Effect and the Making of a Good Sales Person

February 22, 2012 by  Filed under: Sales 

I am currently writing this on the train home to Kent after just spending a day with a corporate client discussing the benefits of having not only an internal recruitment manager but also an internal retention manager.

I am slightly jaded.

Therefore it may not have been the best time for me to read an article on whether sales people are born or made by a lecturer at a prestigious US business school.

As much as I love going to the states (Vegas is one of my favourite cities) I do feel that it has a lot to answer for in terms of its impact on British selling traditions.

So, all these factors combined, this was probably a bad state to be in to read this article.

The article stated that in the author’s experience and ‘research’ he had discovered that 70% of sales people had 4 traits or belief systems that were considered ‘born with’ and that these people were the most successful.

Honestly, at the start I was sceptical…and then I realised that he was right.

But not in the way that he thought.

So, what were the 4 traits?

1. Language – apparently the 70% were better able to use language to ask the right questions etc

2. Draw upon experiences (learn) – apparently the 70% were able to effectively draw upon what they and others had done that was successful historically and use it and were able to reject what had not worked.

3. Political acumen – this was the one I really liked. For years I had thought of the most effective way of describing ‘clients self interest’ and political acumen sums it up brilliantly. This basically means that the decision maker does not exist in a textbook or a bubble and as such there is the ‘human factor’ to consider.

4. Greed – as in apparently these 70% of people wanted to get paid fairly for their time.

As I said I went into reading this article not in the best state. I thought here comes another cliché ridden waste of White space that will twaddle on about benefits and tenacity without adding anything new to the mix.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I disagree with the process of what he says but not the content. His content is actually very good. Numbers 1,2 and 4 are pretty standard but number 3 was a very intelligent observation that far too few sales trainers and sales books mention.

So, if I like it so much, what do I disagree with the author about?


My beliefs, experiences and training within the therapeutic and psychological fields state that these 4 are effects and not causes. His logic is that these 4 factors determine success. I would propose that these 4 are effects that can be changed, managed and controlled and will therefore impact the subsequent sales success. I see it as a 3 part chain, he sees it as 2.

Let us look at each of these factors in more detail now that I have made my stance clear,

1. Language usage and the ability to use the appropriate language to advance the sale.

Science shows that all healthy human beings are born with a language centre in the brain. This allows us to learn language to communicate with our primary carers and others around us. This has evolved over millions of years and is evolutionarily key to our survival. This language centre does not differ between people in the sense that some are born with a module that is more appropriate to sales. From an evolution and biology perspective, this is nonsense.

But this is a good thing. This means that all people can, in theory, be trained in their language use. Now, not everybody has the ability or the discipline to learn the language skills that allow for a more effective sales person. Just as some people are brighter than others or stronger than others; some people can learn the nuances of language better than others. But as there is no such thing as a sales language module, then it means the number of people who have the potential to learn sales language is greater.

2. Learning and drawing from experiences.

This to my experience is a matter of training and profiling. The right profiling tools can show if candidate has the ability to learn and draw upon mistakes. Ironically, this is similar to humility…a trait that many poor sales people think is a weakness. Humility means admitting your mistakes but having the confidence to learn from them and try again. The right profiling tool can show people who have this balance.

Additionally, this can be solved by therapeutic coaching. For instance, someone who refuses to learn from past experiences can sometimes be the type of person who refuses to admit they are wrong. In therapeutic terms this is part of what we call ‘self’ focused as opposed to ‘other’ focused. In short, they are their own barometer for right and wrong and where they get their guidance wrong. This can work successfully in many areas, however, if in sales this is causing them a problem, we can realign them to be more in the middle of the scale. This is one way in which we could increase their ability to learn.

3. Political acumen.

This is something that can be aided primarily by training. In particular by teaching your sales person a selling technique that does not read like a textbook and as such allows them to look at the person as an individual. In my experience, a high percentage of bad managers insist on scripting their sales guys too far and as such this leaves them no room to think about anything beyond the particular call they are on. By training them to be fluidic, to discover the information required and to have a basic understanding of how people work, can allow them to reach beyond the limitation of text-book thinking and to see the potential client as an individual. If the sales person struggles with the idea of this, it may be because they look the confidence to be so upfront with a prospect. If this is the case, therapeutic techniques such as a positive performance chain or a meta mirror could allow them to overcome this.

4. Greed.

According to the article the highly successful people wished to receive a fair wage for their time. Now, I would say this comes down to 2 things. Firstly, assessment tools can show which people have a natural tendency towards valuing themselves highly. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, lack of perceived self value is often a confidence issue. Once again this can be easily solved using therapeutic techniques. Often, confidence issues are a lingering hangover from childhood where usually a significant emotional event has happened that has continued to impact the person through adult life. Such an event does not have to be dramatic, merely occur in such a way that the child’s brain perceives it in a negative and the result is lack of confidence. More people than you imagine suffer from lack of confidence in one form or another. This can be harmful to a sales career but such an issue can be easily solved in particular using regression techniques utilising reconsolidation theory.

As I stated above, I pretty much agree with what the author says. However, where I disagree, is with the idea that these are absolutes. I.e. that you must have these innately to be successful.

As I have demonstrated above, these can be learned and taught using modern psychological and therapeutic techniques.

And isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Your talent pool just got much bigger and maybe those in your teams who aren’t doing so well just found the answer?

As humans we are blessed with a remarkable ability to change above and beyond any other species on the planet.

Isn’t it time you used it?

Jamie Panter is one of the Founding Partners of City Therapy Partners. He has a Degree in Psychology and is a qualified therapist. Jamie has 10 years Sales and Client Management experience in Recruitment, Financial Services and Media. In that time he has run, developed and trained Sales and Client Management Teams. As a qualified Therapist and the first Sales Performance Therapist in the UK, Jamie can utilise the latest therapeutic techniques and Performance Psychology studies to help his private and corporate clients overcome boundaries and progress both professionally and personally. Jamie is also the on-site Performance Therapist for Rethink Retreats and a regular contributor to industry publications.

City Therapy Partners assists Sales Teams in businesses from start-ups to multi-nationals as well as assisting private clients in performance work.

Jamie Panter Founding Partner City Therapy Partners 0845 519 6836 07876 752699

Jamie Panter
Founding Partner
City Therapy Partners
0845 519 6836
07876 752699

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