Birth of a Salesman

For my entire professional life I’ve been in sales of some sort. I’m fascinated by the whole interaction between buyers and sellers. Not just the negotiation (which is the low-hanging fruit in this case) but the whole process. I plan to spend a few posts at least in the near future talking about some of my observations about sales, salespeople, buyers, and the whole deal. Today though I’m going to talk about the Salesman.

Salesmen (or women, but I’m too lazy to do this each time) range in talent in a way that probably pretty closely fits a standard bell curve, and I’ve worked with people at every point on that curve. Managers and other people who are interested in getting more out of their salesmen often want to know how to make their salesmen better. What I’m about to say is probably not groundbreaking, but it is in my experience 100% truth.

At a certain skill level on the bell curve, you can’t move forward on the curve – regardless of training.

That’s not to say you can’t get more results by working more hours or talking to more people, but you won’t up your close ratios.

Why? Sales is a talent that you’re either born with or not. People that knew me as early as middle school knew I had it. Steve Jobs has it, Billy Mays has it. Gary Vaynerchuk has it.  Locally Joshua Strebel has it.  Perhaps you’ve heard of PT Barnum – this was probably his idea first.  Average salesperson at the middle of the bell curve will never close at the same rate as a great salesperson. There are just certain innate gifts that salespeople have or don’t have.

But what about effort? Certainly no matter how talented the salesman, if he’s lazy he won’t produce. But he doesn’t have to work as hard necessarily to produce the same totals. The trick is getting the gifted salesperson to work as hard as the average guy who is outproducing him with 2x the effort.

This probably applies to many other things as well, but I’m a Salesman.