Are Sales Winners Born Or Made?

If you ask the average person to describe salespeople, you’ll hear words like pushy, manipulative, slick, self-serving, phony, and a list of other things no mother wants her child to be. For as long as most of us can remember, the sales profession has been the butt of jokes. That’s a shame when you consider that a sales career offers high income, personal freedom, and limitless opportunities.

The reason those uncomplimentary images of salespeople persist is simple: Four out of five people currently employed in the sales profession should be doing something else because they are not hardwired for sales success. To compensate for their lack of natural talent, they try to fake it. They become the classic fast-talking salespeople, and perpetuate the image, the stereotypes, and the jokes.

Inept salespeople cause most companies to experience high turnover, complacency, mediocre production, and poor attitudes among their sales teams. These problems can all be traced back to ineffective recruiting practices and processes.

Fifty-five percent of the people now selling have neither the emotional nor the psychological talent to succeed in selling, says Herb Greenberg, CEO of Caliper and author of How To Hire Your Next Top Performer. They should leave the profession. Another 25 percent are miscast. They are selling the wrong product or service, or trying to sell a product for which they aren’t suited — selling an intangible when they would be better suited to sell a tangible product, etc.

With all that the sales profession offers, it should easy to attract, recruit, build, and maintain highly productive sales teams of the best and brightest talent.

So whom should we be recruiting? What does it take to succeed in selling?

The single biggest key to success is desire. Unless the candidate has an internal burning desire to succeed, nothing else matters. But in addition to craving success, there are five qualities that great salespeople have in common.

While these qualities can be subjectively observable by an astute student of human behavior, they are not easily quantifiable or measurable by interviewers. In order to objectively quantify and measure these characteristics, interviewers should have applicants complete a psychometric behavioral assessment prior to the interview.

Sales Managers and interviewers who follow this process will eliminate many false hires and save themselves and their company precious time and money.


According to Herb Greenberg, “Empathy is the ability to sense the reactions of other people. It is the ability to pick up the subtle clues and cues provided by others in order to accurately assess what they are thinking and feeling. Empathy does not necessarily involve agreeing with the feelings of others, but it does involve knowing what their feelings are.”

The salesperson that is able to sift through and find the true meaning of what is being communicated is able to more accurately uncover problems and present customized solutions.

Ego Drive

Don’t confuse ego drive with desire or motivation to succeed. Ego drive is an emotional need to gain self-acceptance. Persuading others to our point of view fulfills that need. Top salespeople get their “fix” or “high” when they successfully persuade a prospect. When someone buys their product or service, it becomes a validation of self.

Salespeople with high Ego Drive are motivated and driven to achieve tangible results from their sales efforts. They will work long and hard to close sales and produce positive results.

Service Need

Salespeople who rate high in service need have a psychological need to serve and please others. Because of their need to be liked they develop relationships easily and are able to create trust quickly. This need makes them a natural fit for sales positions that require them to service and maintain ongoing relationships with buyers that they sell.


This individual possesses the ability to accept rejection and failure as part of life without internalizing or without emotional damage. Someone with a low self-image is paralyzed by failure and avoids any experiences that may produce failure. Salespeople with a strong self-image, however, are emotionally resilient. Rather than being crushed by failure, they are motivated by it. They can’t wait for the next opportunity.

Sales is a profession of constant rejection. The ability to experience rejection and not internalize it and take it personally is perhaps the most critical factor in sales success. Sales people who have a low Self Image are unable to tolerate rejection and will avoid making sales calls on prospects that may reject them.

Utilitarian Attitude

A person with a high utilitarian attitude is likely to have a great need to surpass others in wealth. He or she understands that wealth brings security for the salesperson, but also for present and future family.

A salesperson with this talent has a need to obtain a significant return on their investment of time and energy. Consequently, they will very jealously guard their time and energy and they will avoid sales situations that have low payoff or marginal profit.

Sales organizations that are ready to eliminate the high turnover, mediocre selling, complacency, and bad attitudes need to move away from both the traditional approach and the warm body approach to recruitment. These efforts have produced mediocre sales teams and incompetent salespeople. They reinforce the stereotypes of badly trained, high-pressure, unprofessional, fast-talking con artists.

Instead, companies need to learn how to effectively identify, attract, recruit, and retain winners. Perhaps then, the public will stop making salespeople the butt of jokes.

Good Selling

Steve Clark
PS Want to learn how to become a Master Prospector?