Are Great Sales Pros Born That Way?

This is an age-old question, but I think it's worth debating here.

American companies spend billions of dollars each year on sales training. Almost every sales training program promises to replicate the best practices of top sales pros at top firms.

What if "best practices" is just so much hooey? What if the ability to be truly great at selling is innate? Doesn't that mean that a lot of sales training money is being flushed down the drain?

I'm curious what you guys think, so here's a poll. After you've voted, click on the link to get my opinion.

CLICK for my opinion »

Here are my thoughts on this subject.

I have two kids, ages 4 and 5. My son, who is 5, is extraordinarily empathetic and just seems to know what other people are thinking and feeling. As you might expect, he's the most popular kid in kindergarten. My daughter, who is 4, is the exact opposite. While generous and helpful, she's extremely self-focused and self-involved. She has a couple of close friends at preschool, but isn't nearly as popular as my son was.

Needless to say, I'd be happy if either of them landed a good career in sales. However, it's pretty clear to me that my son would be wildly successful in sales from the get-go. It seems to me that he's just got the emotional chops to be a great sales professional. My daughter... not so much. I think she'd struggle. And maybe more than just a bit.

Anyway, that's how it seems to me.

There's no doubt in my mind that almost anybody can become reasonably good at selling -- which means that they'll get lousy results. (See "Are You Good at Selling? Too Bad.") I'm afraid that the truly great sales people -- the 20 percent who make 80 percent of the sales -- are pretty much born with the potential to be great.

It's just like sports. Some people are born with the ability to be stars, and some people aren't. So sad, but that's the truth.