Are Great Salespeople Born or Made? Do You Have to be a Shark to be Good at Selling?

Are Great Salespeople Born or Made?  Do You Have to Be a Shark to Be Good at Selling?

“I want to be great at my business but I hate selling. I’m just not a sales kind of guy. That whole ‘be a shark, go for the jugular’  idea makes me nauseated!  I shouldn’t have to do that to make my business successful! In fact, if that’s the only way to make my business work, I may have to let it go! Why does this have to be so hard?” David ended on a plaintive note.

He was looking at me as though he expected a fight. Maybe because he knew I’d sold big-ticket software and consulting for a couple of decades. 

Imagine his surprise when I said, “you’re right, you don’t have to be a shark to make your business successful or to be a great salesperson. You will find it easier to grow your business if you are capable at sales skills, but that’s nothing like seeing yourself as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, ripping the throats from your prospects to get the order.”

Are Great Salespeople Born or Made?  Do You Have to Be a Shark to Be Good at Selling??

“David, do you believe great salespeople are born or made?”

“I think they’re mostly born that way, but Wanda said you could teach me to sell.”

“David, where does the idea come from that you need to be a shark, or any kind of killer predator to be great salesperson?”

“Everybody knows that. It’s just a fact of life.”

“Well, if that’s what you want to be, I’m sorry. You’re in the wrong place, and I’m the wrong coach/consultant for you.”


“I won’t teach you to be a shark. You don’t have enough zeros in your bank account. I don’t believe you can have a sustainable, successful business that way.”

Great Salespeople are Made, Not Born

Less than five to ten percent of successful salespeople (or business owners who sell to sustain and grow their business) were born with the particular combination of skill and personality to make them the tops in their field. The rest of us study and work at it, learning new skills over a lifetime.

In my experience, selling is a skill that can be learned. At its best, it is a rock-solid process that eliminates the tire-kickers and helps the prospect understand why you are worth even more than you’re asking. A solid sales process ends up feeling natural and comfortable to you and your prospect. It demonstrates respect and value for both you and the prospect. Foremost, a strong sales process lets you earn a good living doing what you do best.

You Don’t Have to Go for the Jugular!

In my view (and over 16 years of experience working with professionals bears this out) great salespeople are made – far more often than they are born. Great salespeople are not killers of any flavor or stripe, bringing down customers like lions bring down a zebra in the veldt. 

Great salespeople listen to their clients. They are empathetic and respectful. They don’t push. They don’t lie, trick or cheat. Their questions help the client surface a problem that needs to be solved. If they can’t solve the problem, great salespeople says so.

The very best salespeople ask questions to demonstrate to their prospects how serious the problem is, and why it’s worth investing to solve it – sooner than later. Great salespeople have learned to have a mutually respectful conversation from a place of comfort, confidence and control.

How many other skill sets have you learned over your career?  You can learn selling, too. I’m sure of it.

Take Action – Make This Your Own

Take a moment to look back over your career:

  1. Make a list of the major skills you’ve added (especially the ones that looked daunting at first).
  2. Compare these to your view of learning to sell.  Does it look harder or easier than others you’ve added over time?
  3. Feeling like learning is still at the impossible end of the spectrum? Contact me.

You can also check out these related posts:

Are Great Salespeople Born or Made? What If You’re an Introvert?
Are Great Salespeople Born or Made? But I’m Not a Charmer…
Are You Being Too Nice? How’s That Working for Your Business?

Share a comment: what makes the idea of selling to support your business seem so daunting?

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