A Great Salesperson Can Sell Anything! Really??

By Bernie O’Donnell

Despite the likelihood that salespeople are the most studied species among mankind, we continue to hire, incent and coach them based upon an erroneous set of beliefs. The result is missed opportunities, low margins, missed quotas, unacceptable service and — the mortal sin — lost customers.

There is absolutely no basis for the adage that “great salespeople can sell anything.” Nor is there a basis for the unqualified premise that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.” It all depends on the degree to which your environment mirrors that in which the salesperson has been most successful.

As with any job, the personal drivers of sales success are found within expertise, traits and character – the Competency Trio™. In most jobs, Expertise (skills, knowledge and experience) is the easiest to assess, but not so in sales. Personality, which is formed from elements of traits and character, gets much attention as sales managers seek that non-existent magic salesperson that can “sell anything to anyone.”

Unfortunately, this focus on personality and attitude is often at the expense of two factors that are at least as predictive of future success.

The first is mental acuity. How much business do you think gets left on the table because the salesperson doesn’t think as fast as the buyer or decision maker? The second critical consideration is how well your environment maps to the experience of the sales rep.

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