When I tell people that I’m in the sales training business, more often than not they say, “Oh, you’re a motivational speaker.” I try not to roll my eyes when I hear that.

I think it’s fair to say that most people (including some salespeople) think of a “born salesperson” as fun, flamboyant, and fast-talking, always wanting to occupy center stage. The Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory would place these stereotypical salespeople in the ENTJ (“extrovert”) category. Their “sales skills” mostly boil down to a natural gift of gab; they can talk endlessly to anyone about any topic. So if you want to “train” them, all you need is to pump them full of hot air from a motivational speaker.

Yes, of course there are some ENTJ types in sales. But most people in sales roles don’t fit that mold and never have. What’s more, the extroverts are not necessarily the most effective or successful at selling.  The stereotype doesn’t hold water. The reality is that great salespeople can fit into any Myers-Briggs type.

That has always been true. But while the “born salesperson” stereotype used to be merely irrelevant, now it has become a serious obstacle to providing effective sales training courses and sales coaching programs. In the selling world of today, it is critical to stop thinking of sales success in terms of personality traits.

Sales training is not about personality traits

Why? Because companies are becoming increasingly aware that everyone who interacts with a customer needs to be effective at sales, regardless of their personality types. This is due to growing recognition that:

  • Anytime anyone from your company has contact with customers, they have the opportunity to either sell or un-sell the customer.  There is no neutral when it comes to interacting with customers; the needle moves in one direction or the other with every customer contact. Therefore, whenever we have any kind of customer interaction, we are in a sales role.
  • Because of that realization, sales training programs and sales coaching are being delivered to a whole host of nontraditional sales groups—accountants, nurses, engineers, and many others—sometimes with dramatic success. Everybody needs sales skills.
  • The business world is seeing a major expansion of groups involved in inside sales and a corresponding reduction in traditional “outside” sales positions.  Most sales executives believe that these work groups have dramatically different skill sets. But we are learning that this isn’t necessarily the case.
  • The sales relationship used to be viewed as short-term, an arena where “closers” ruled. Today selling is more likely to be seen as a never-ending process.  The “love ‘em and leave ‘em” approach has been replaced with relationship building. Relationship building relies on skills that everyone can learn, regardless of personality types. 

Never in history has it been more important to challenge the prevailing idea of what constitutes quality in a salesperson and how sales training ought to operate.

Here is my definition of selling: The use of one person’s communication skills to gain a commitment from another person.

That means a great salesperson is one who succeeds, consistently, at gaining commitments from other people. That is what the Action Selling system teaches. Since selling is a communications process, not a natural “gift,” it can be learned by anyone, not just those with a particular personality style.

That is very good news, given the fact that less of the selling burden is being carried by traditional, fulltime, outside salespeople. (I will explain and document this trend in upcoming blogs.) If, as I maintain, selling is not a mysterious act but a straightforward, repeatable communication process, then everyone in a company can learn to sell. What’s more, with the right sales training courses and sales coaching programs, everyone in the company can learn to communicate clearly with one another about selling.

The future belongs to companies that master those forms of communication.

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).