‘You’re either born a salesperson or you’re not – nothing can change that.’
So goes a regular refrain that we hear at ESI all the time. Or perhaps we may be more politely asked, ‘What do you think? Are salespeople born or made?’
While we love the debate, it is probably worth noting that we have a simple answer. Well…we sort of have to, don’t we? At ESI we are, of course, convinced that people – anyone – can develop the slick, sophisticated skills that are required to become a high-performance salesperson today. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in business. So, let’s get that disclaimer out of the way to start with.
Back to the question: are salespeople born or made? Well, another answer is ‘Who cares?’
The reality is that employers find sales roles the hardest to fill. And this issue is simply down to a global shortage of sales skills and talent. End of story. Whatever your philosophical view might be is somewhat moot. For businesses large and small of all shapes and sizes and in every sector, this issue isn’t going away anytime soon. And if the view is that salespeople are only naturally born, then we simply aren’t producing enough of them.
Further, if salespeople can only be born, we have a real problem. While genetics and procreation might be one solution for the shortage of sales talent, we suspect that it is slightly tricky to manage, somewhat high risk, might take a bit too long and comes without any real guarantees of success. It certainly isn’t working today. We’re not convinced that the world’s employers will depend on that solution alone.
Which leaves us with the other option: we must ‘make’ the salespeople employers need today: both quickly and at some scale if we are to bridge this global talent gap. When we talk to our customers about the implications of and the enormous cost to their business that this shortage of sales talent causes, the institutional pain is quite visceral.
The reason for this is that the skill of selling has evolved profoundly over recent years, but traditional sales ‘training’ solutions have not kept pace with that evolution. Employers demand a complex skillset from their salespeople today because better-informed, more professional buyers have far higher expectations of their vendors. The really positive news is that employers are increasingly aware of and explicit about the sophisticated soft skills they want in their sales teams; their problem is they cannot find people who have them.
In other domains, the world seems to be able to recognise skills shortages and do something about it. Think vocational careers like healthcare, nursing, policing, and peacekeeping. Think about the profile that the worlds of coding & tech get when it comes to skills shortages. To bridge those gaps, these opportunities are presented as aspirational, highly skilled and rewarding careers that recognise the extraordinary skills required to perform those roles to a level of excellence. Why shouldn’t sales be presented in the same light? There’s no point in writing all that fabulous code if no-one is capable of selling it.
Perhaps it’s time to move on from the hackneyed natural-born-salesperson stereotype – the larger-than-life personality with limited skills but the gift of the gab. The job – not the highly-skilled career – that people did because they couldn’t do anything else.
The world has moved on. So have the world’s employers.
ESI customers have met this challenge head-on, through our virtual, self-paced sales skills development programme. It is ideal for sales teams working remotely or from a variety of locations. The programme enables individuals to get an overview of all the core skills needed to sell successfully and to deep dive into modules where their personal skills need to be upgraded. For organisations, it facilitates a standardised approach to selling that can be quickly implemented across the business. It is also highly motivational for sales professionals, improving their focus on driving their own sales performance.
ESI offers the definitive, digital solution to upskill your sales team.