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