Great Salespeople: Born or Bred?


Share on LinkedIn

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m in the Sales Training business. So you might think my answer to the question, “Are great salespeople born that way, or can the be taught?,” is a little skewed. But, I’ll answer earnestly.

Anyone can learn to sell.

That’s because sales is a process. And people can learn processes (if they want to). It is, of course, easier for some people than others. Let me make an analogy:

Math is a process. Anyone can learn how to run a formula. It’s easier for some people than for others, but we can all — with enough effort — learn what to plug where. “Numbers-oriented” people learn quickly than others, but anyone can eventually get it.

Sales is also a process. Anyone can learn it. It’s easier for “people-oriented” to learn how to sell than it is for others.

The challenge, of course, is finding the “people-oriented” people in the first place. If you’re hiring salespeople*, you want to find the ones who either:

  1. Already understand how to sell or
  2. Will have a short learning curve.

Am I right? Can anyone learn to sell?

*As an aside, the best way to determine how much work it will take to get someone selling at their peak, consider implementing a sales assessment tool.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeb Brooks
Jeb Brooks is Executive Vice President of the The Brooks Group, one of the world's Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He is a sought-after commentator on sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. Jeb authored the second edition of the book "Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call" and writes for The Brooks Group's popular Sales Blog.


  1. No, sales people are truly made and not born that way.

    I bet you are wondering, how did he come up with that answer and why so definitive? It is easy! Was Eve born a great sales person enticing Adam to eat the forbidden fruit? Was Hitler born with the ability to persuade a whole country into genocide? When Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest mathematician of his time (“Sir Isaac Newton”, 2000), was born, did he already know how to calculate the square root of twenty-six? Before reading every book on his parent’s shelves and working his way to being one of the best telegraphers (June, 1999), was Thomas Edison a master at electricity? I hope you can see where I am going. Even more recent, was Peyton Manning, one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time (Michael, 2010), born with the ability to read defenses? What about billionaire Warren Buffet, one of the greatest investment minds in the world and who credits Ben Graham for his skills (Kennon, n.d.), was he born that way? Do I need to go any further?
    Contrary to what most people believe, especially sales people, a great sales person is made and not born that way. I can see how some people can get confused with the fact that sales people possess a unique quality of people skills and other sales specific techniques.
    Even I, a successful sales person, was previously quick to mention how I was born to sell. I fell into that trap thinking I was born into sales, even though my degree is in Electrical Engineering and I was one of the top guys in my company.
    It is now my opinion that our pride, arrogance and smooth talking are what led us sales people to believe we are a special breed. With all the trades in the world, each one requiring a specific skill set, it is the sales people who think their skill set is the unique one. Imagine a top fighter pilot, or a NASCAR race car driver, or even your local news anchor, do you really think their skills were given to them at birth?
    One author, Geoffrey James, take the question a step further. Geoffrey list two scientific reasons why sales people are made and not born (James, 2010):
    1. The study of Epigenetics that shows how genetic instructions within our body are activated and deactivated by our environment
    2. Research based upon studies of applying the behavior of exceptional people upon ordinary people shows how ordinary people, with practice and focus, can be trained to do extraordinary tasks.

    James’ two arguments are not meant as two definite reasons why sales persons are made and not born. They are intended to merely solidify and coincide with other data helping to prove my position.
    If you are every asked if sales people are born or made you now know the answer is made. Not everyone can be a great sales person. Just like not everyone can be a great scientist. It takes dedication, the right mentors and a little luck to be great. Even the best of the best sales people credit their skills to someone or something that was learned or mimicked. Work hard and focus on being a great sales person and you will.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here