Can Great Salespeople Be Trained?

By December 8, 2015Strategy

Great salespeople are primarily driven off two inherent qualities: empathy and the ability to overcome the customers hesitation to buy.  Plenty of companies attempt to administer different tests that claim to identify successful salespeople. These tests can identify tertiary traits, but the issue is these tests obscure, or ignore, the two vital characteristics of empathy and the drive for the close.

The two essential characteristics that every salesperson needs to have are empathy and the ability to close or perform the sale.

Empathy is described as the ability to feel. This is a vital trait needed in order to read the body and verbal language of the customers and respond to the non-articulated needs.  The need to close or perform the sale is the drive that makes him want and need to make the sale in a personal or ego way, not merely for the money to be gained. He or she needs the sale to enhance his or her ego. This is a wonderful descriptor of the inner drive that is needed to succeed as a salesperson, where there are more failures than successes. There is plenty of literature that discusses the need for balance between the two and that one trait cannot overpower the other. For example too much empathy or drive can create an imperfect salesman who leaves behind money on the table. This is an interesting paradox because employers usually choose employees that have one of the characteristics and not both. This creates an incomplete employee and a waste of money and manpower.  

Tests that companies administer to try and capture unique salespeople fail for four main reasons: (1)the tests look for interests and not ability; (2) they test for characteristics that can be faked; (3) they test for group conformity and not individual identity; and finally (3) the tests try to isolate fractional traits.  The common theme is that all of these tests fail because they do not capture the dynamic package of inner qualities that determines success in a sales career. Even when a candidate lacks the exterior qualities of a salesperson they may possess the inner qualities that can forecast success. 

Companies should focus on primarily procuring employees that possess the raw talent to be a salesperson.

Experience and other factors contribute to their success but is not the primary driver. I believe that it is up to the HR department to look for unique talent that can be modeled through training to become salesmen.  Even the best trainers fail when they are given employees who do not posses these inner characteristics.  

Applying these techniques in a sales context is vital.  It allows employers to avoid many issues and traps of hiring sales people that look good on paper, yet do not possess empathy or the inner drive for the close.  Coincidently, there is no complete test that can forecast successful salespeople. 

But successful salespeople can be ordained via training. 

If you can find employees with these two inner characteristics, it is your duty to train and mold them into proper salesmen.  Finding these people with these traits whom want to be salesmen and be part of the team will help increase profits and driven business growth and eliminate waste. 

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