Are Top Salespeople Born or Made?

Steve W. Martin, in his Harvard Business Review blog, wrote about his research into the key factors of successful salespeople. Because, in one way or another, we all need to sell better (e.g. sell our ideas, sell our own brand etc.) I thought his findings, based on personality tests administered to 1,000 top business-to-business salespeople, was interesting.

According to his research

the test results indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling styles, and, in turn, their success. However, the study also raises the perennial question, “Are top salespeople born or made?” In other words, must top salespeople be born with the prerequisite sales instincts, or can someone learn to become successful in sales without them?

Based upon my research, experience, and observations, I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. Conversely, less than 30 percent of top salespeople are self-made — meaning, they have had to learn how to become top salespeople without the benefit of these natural abilities. In addition, for every 100 people who enter sales without natural sales traits, 40 percent will fail or quit, 40 percent will perform at near average, and only 20 percent will be above average (These figures vary by industry and the complexity of products sold).

To see his full blog, please follow this link:

Are Top Salespeople Born or Made? – Steve W. Martin – Harvard Business Review.