Are Sales Stars Made or Born?

Last Updated Dec 11, 2007 9:34 AM EST

Last week I was chatting with John Asher of Asher Training. He has data, based upon personality and character testing, proving that about 50 percent of success in sales is directly related to natural talent. He maintains that natural talent is sometimes squandered through a lack of training in skills and product knowledge. But he's just as convinced that some people simply don't have the innate talent to be successful in sales -- and that no amount of sales training is going to make all that much difference.

Asher, by rolling up the data from three different scientific studies of sales, has concluded that 4 percent of the country's sales pros are responsible for selling 94 percent of the goods and services. That's a very scary statistic, because it implies that the other 96 percent of sales "pros" are only sharing 6 percent of the sales. And that means there are an incredible number of highly unsuccessful sales reps wandering around out there. Asher believes that this lack of talent is directly responsible for the high turnover rate inside most sales organizations. (I would have bet that the main reason is bad management and lousy marketing, but what do I know?)

While I think Asher's about as smart a guy as they come, I can't resist putting his data to a highly unscientific test.

Does your experience square with Asher's statistics? Do 4 percent of the sales reps at your firm (and the other firms where you've worked) generate 94 percent of the revenue?
Help me out with this, because I'm really curious whether your real world experience is the same as Asher's numbers.