Why Great Salespeople Are Made, Not Born


Matt Milligan
Reading Time: 4 minutes



Why Great Salespeople Are Made, Not Born

Aurelien Mottier

Co-Founder and CEO at Operatix

Matt Milligan

Co-Founder at Uhubs

Traditional sales professionals are often under the impression that you’re either naturally talented at the art of selling or you just don’t have what it takes to be successful.

Yet some of the best sales representatives are those that are nurtured and thoroughly trained, starting with just a passion to become the best they can be.

While there may be some traits and a level of confidence preferred when recruiting and mentoring sales professionals, great salespeople are made, not born.

Aurelien Mottier (Co-Founder and CEO of Operatix) sat down with Matt Milligan (Co-Founder of Uhubs) to discuss this concept.

Join the conversation as they explore how technology can help mentor people into great salespeople, soft skills that can be developed into first-class sales skills and why managers are an integral part of building a successful team or SDRs.

Are great salespeople born or made?

There is a longstanding belief that salespeople are destined for the role – they have a natural ability that simply can’t be taught. Yet time and time again, this has been proven wrong. While some people may be naturally gifted when it comes to selling, others have to work hard to develop and climb the ladder of success.

Salespeople, in general, must constantly evolve their skillset as the market changes, which Matt views as an indication that high performers aren’t just born that way. They must constantly hone their skills and improve their craft to stay at the top – to be successful, you can’t simply stay stagnant. Therefore, those without experience in the field can do so, too.

“There’s a bit of a limited belief across a lot of more traditional sales professionals that you’ve either got it or you haven’t. Yet incredible, amazing sales talent can be built, it can be made.”

Matt Milligan, Co-Founder of Uhubs

Sustainable improvements don’t happen overnight but come from daily 1% improvements and a deep understanding of the product you want to sell. The fundamentals of what makes a great sales representative rapidly change, yet thorough training and staying on top of these trends can result in an inexperienced salesperson becoming an expert over time.

Core competencies of great salespeople

While sales skills can be taught and nurtured, there are some core traits to look out for when recruiting a new salesperson. The right candidate needs to have the right combination of soft skills and natural characteristics to be successfully developed, given how difficult the role can be. 

Seen time and time again in high performers, both Aurelien and Matt view curiosity as an unteachable yet vital trait in their team. It fuels the desire to learn and grow, a critical part of being coachable enough to become a top performer regardless of previous experience.

“There are certain core competencies that we see in high performers. Curiosity comes out really strongly, and the highest performing sellers have a really strong aptitude towards a growth mindset.”

Matt Milligan, Co-Founder of Uhubs

Undoubtedly, passion and having a growth mindset are both core values to look out for during the recruitment process. Sales involves rejection, successes, difficult moments and joy. You must take the good with the bad, and those that don’t have a passion for the job will struggle to stay motivated. A growth mindset will ensure your recruit is keen to better themselves and sees every failure as an opportunity to learn, ensuring they don’t fall at the first, second or tenth hurdle.

Time management is another important skill to have, although this can be developed if worked upon. Sales professionals wear many different hats and have a number of different responsibilities. Without effective time management skills, key parts of the role may end up being neglected – leads may not be properly qualified, meetings missed and follow-ups are forgotten about.

But, how do you go about uncovering these traits? After all, you can’t simply ask if they are curious or passionate, as they’re bound to say yes if they see that’s what you’re looking for. Instead, Matt recommends a more tactical approach during the interview process, such as psychometric testing, assessing how many questions the candidate asks and basing questions on the competencies you seek for the position. 

Best practices for creating great salespeople

Ongoing coaching is an essential part of creating a great sales team, and something that must be a focus for every staff member regardless of previous experience.

Here are some best practices for creating a great salesperson:

  • Define a baseline of key characteristics you want to see from the candidate during the interview process and understand how you can test them upon it. While training can help them hone their craft, they need to have the core competencies your business values to succeed in the environment.
  • A great tech stack is essential in ensuring a sales team can do their job effectively and efficiently as well as allowing you to shorten the ramp-up period. Tools should include a CRM system and conversational intelligence. 
  • Ensure you provide sales managers and trainers with the support they need to develop their own leadership skills. Being a first-class coach to new recruits means constantly improving your own skills, not just basing it on previous experience.
  • A strong product and industry knowledge are absolutely essential in being able to sell – without it, sales representatives will fall down at the first hurdle. Review your onboarding process to ensure this is as clear as possible, defining the solution exactly as you want it to be sold.
  • Use assessments to get an initial indication of what the salesperson’s natural strong competencies on, building upon them while improving weaknesses. Assess this on a regular basis during the first few months of training to accurately judge these improvements.

Regardless of the amount of experience a salesperson has, the desire to constantly develop and evolve their craft is vital is staying at the top of the leaderboard. Experience is not the be-end and end-all of a great salesperson; rather, it is their core competencies and coachability that trumps all.

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe to B2B Revenue Acceleration on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, our website, or anywhere you get podcasts.

About Operatix

Operatix is a Sales Acceleration company specialized in supporting B2B Software vendors to identify new revenue streams, increase qualified sales pipeline, and accelerate channel development across Europe and North America. Operatix has a wealth of experience in working with the biggest tech players worldwide as well as a multitude of emerging software vendors.

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