I field this question, in one form or other, in almost every seminar I do. Just heard it again yesterday in relationship to the competency of building relationships.  The questioner opined that building relationships was a natural talent.  You either had it or you didn’t.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is this:  On some issues, the person’s opinion says more about that person than it does the subject of his comments. I’ve found that to be true in regards to the question “Are salespeople made or born?”

Those salespeople who have learned on their own, who have never been trained in the best practices of the best salespeople, have a tendency to hold that salespeople are born. 

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After all, no one taught them. So the degree of success that they have attained must have been a result of natural talent.

On the other hand, those salespeople who were nurtured in a company that trained and developed them hold the opposite opinion.  They saw that there are best ways of doing almost every thing a salesperson does, and that most people in their training class were able to learn to do those things.  So from their perspective, salespeople are made, not born.

So where do I fit on this issue?

First, it helps if you have a basic set of personality characteristics and aptitudes to begin with.  Some people are just not suited to the job of the salesperson.  That’s why we recommend pre-hire aptitude assessments – to measure the aptitude of the individual for a sales position.  But, just become someone has the aptitude does not make him/her a good salesperson.  And it is unreasonable to think that most salespeople are going to learn the best practices on their own.  They must be educated in the best practices of the profession.

That’s where the “making” of a good salesperson comes in.  It is an unfortunate truth that the overwhelming majority of salespeople have never been educated in the best way to do their jobs. And, those companies who invest in the regular and methodical development of their sales forces generally out sell those who don’t.

The position that salespeople are “born” becomes then, for many companies and salespeople, an excuse for not investing in their development.  If salespeople are “born”, then no amount of education will change their behavior.  So, why invest in developing salespeople?  And, from the salesperson’s perspective, why invest in developing yourself?  You can’t learn anything, because, after all, you either have it or you don’t.

The concept that “salespeople are born” then becomes a rationale for abdicating responsibility.  That position absolves the company of the responsibility to invest in developing salespeople, and it absolves the individual salesperson of the responsibility to learn, grow and develop.

It helps if you have a natural talent for it, but everyone, given a basic set of aptititues and personality traits, can learn to sell. Salespeople are made and developed, not born.