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Selling: nature or nurture?

 
#1 Selling: nature or nurture?
07/09/2006 16:34

londonkiddo to deleted (#0)

Selling work drives our business. What do you believe is the key to successful (frequent/large/repeat) selling? Do you think one is a "born" salesperson or not a salesperson at all? Which aspects of great selling were you taught/learnt/born with?

Discuss...

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#2 RE: Selling: nature or nurture?
07/09/2006 17:12

Tony Restell (Top-Consultant.com) to londonkiddo (#1)

One of my favourite topics!

Before my consulting career I worked in a cold-calling sales role in the US, alongside hundreds of peers. Two interesting things came out of the experience. Firstly there is a lot that anyone can learn about being a better salesperson, that is all down to techniques, preparation, being a good listener, learning to ask for referrals, etc. I improved immeasurably as a salesperson as the months went by, picking up insights from the most successful salespeople and undergoing training in certain aspects of the sales cycle. I learnt a lot and improved a lot.

HOWEVER, it was also true that there were peers in my group that were just inherently better at this than me. There was something about them that was disarming and endearing and that simply enabled them to outperform me twofold or even threefold when placed in front of a prospect. This had nothing to do with effort - we all made the same number of sales calls and were selling similar products, with near identical sales pitches.

I was in about the 75% percentile in terms of my sales results, so not at all shabby - and selling more than twice as much as many of my peers. But the top 10% were selling way more than me and having "shadowed" these top performers I can tell you they weren't doing anything particularly different from me. They just had that certain X factor.

Bringing this back to consulting, many of you will know that we run the "Art of Selling Consulting Services" seminar each year - and we've had something like 500 consultants go through this training over the last years. The vast majority have fed back that they improved as consultancy business developers as a result of going on the training - having learnt techniques and approaches that they hadn't been using before. So techniques can be learnt by most people and will improve the results that the majority are achieving. But some in the room had way more charisma than others and were more "natural" at engaging with strangers. So I do believe it's a small minority who really can become top rainmakers in our industry, but that we all can learn things that will improve the results we achieve.

Interested to hear others' thoughts... Tony Restell

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#3 RE: Selling: nature or nurture?
07/09/2006 17:55

JJ to Tony Restell (Top-Consultant.com) (#2)

The very best are just people the client wants to spend time with. At one previous employer we were selling to junior/middle managers, mostly male and late 20s. The best sales people by far were female, blond and young. You certainly can't teach that.

That said for complex consulting sales it can be important to spot customer problems, identify solutions and be good at closing. This can can be taught.

Other times you can still reach top quartile just by putting in the calls/hours. Nothing to do with nature or nurture....just hard work.

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#4 RE: Selling: nature or nurture?
08/09/2006 09:37

londonkiddo to JJ (#3)

Interesting views, thanks for your responses. If I understand correctly, the feeling is that hard work and some technique are prerequisites, and that the differentiator beyond this may well be more intangible.

To widen the discussion, especially for those out there nearing positions where sales targets are the norm, do you feel you are receiving good guidance from seniors? Formal teaching? Coaching? Shadowing? Or is there a sense of closely-guarded, self-protecting secrecy?

I'd urge one and all to get involve in this discussion. If you're not thinking about these questions, as consultants, you should be.

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