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“How Do I Know I Have What It Takes?”

Just as in sports, the formula for making a natural talent a true strength is training and practice


I’m currently working as a salesperson. This is my first job; I’ve been told many times over the years that I’d be good at sales, and it seemed like the best way to support my family without any formal training. It’s been about six months, and honestly, it’s not going that well. I’m starting to question all the predictions I heard as a kid about my sales talent. Is there a way to know if I have what it takes to succeed in this industry?

—Not Yet Sold on Sales


IF everyone says something, it must be true, right? Until you listen to the most frequent comments I hear in my office about sales….

People have spent their lives being told or believing things like: “Oh, you’re so outgoing, you’d make a great salesperson!” “You’re too honest, you could never sell anything!” “I’m just not the aggressive type, I don’t think sales is for me,” or “I was never the kid who made lemonade stands or sold things during recess — I’m not a natural salesperson.”

If these statements were all based on fact, we’d have to conclude that a successful salesperson must be an extroverted, aggressive, dishonest, manipulative, born-to-sell kinda person. Luckily, that image is just a caricature of the stereotypical salesperson, and definitely not an accurate barometer for judging the field.

Dishonest, aggressive people might sell once, but never twice. In reality, sales is about being able to develop trusting relationships. Although it’s helpful to have inborn sales skills, and 70 percent of successful salespeople do, the other 30 percent of top salespeople rely on training as opposed to their innate natures. Both introverts and extroverts can do really well in the profession; it’s just that they’ll typically go about that in different ways.

Luckily, it sounds like you do have many useful inborn “sales” traits. The challenge is to remember that just as in sports, the formula for making a natural talent a true strength is training and practice.

A salesperson’s work is really identifying a need and offering the solution. There are just three basics needed to be able to do this well:

  • knowledge of your product
  • knowledge of your people
  • faith in the knowledge that you will succeed if you keep trying

I’m guessing you have the first two, and in this answer we can hopefully provide you with the third.

Being knowledgeable means more than being able to answer simple questions about features and functionality. A good salesperson understands that people aren’t buying products; they’re buying solutions to their problems.

They also realize that people are looking for someone they can trust. Since it’s nearly impossible to really trust a product before we own it, people look to buy from people they can trust — which lends trust to the product itself.

Take a minute to think about big purchases you’ve made in life: your house, car, mortgage, or a piece of jewelry. Like many others, you may have found that salespeople you’re most comfortable with are those who use the consultive approach — they see themselves as helpful providers of information.

We know we can turn to them for advice, and eventually, when we are ready to make a purchase, we see them as competent, trustworthy experts we can rely on.

Since people are complex, there is an endless amount of learning that can be done to hone your people skills and ability to understand what they really want and how to best provide it. Approaching sales as a student of life, people, and their needs with the patience to master the skill is key.

While people often call sales a numbers game, I’d add that it’s a quality game, too. Instead of making numerous cold calls, assuming that a random one in a 100 will buy, spend the same time really listening to ten people, and watch the numbers in your game change. Shifting from focusing just on quantity to quality, long-term relationships and investments will pay off in the long game of sales.

Keep doing that on repeat, with a product you believe in, and you’ll likely start to believe in your sales abilities again.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 965)

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