Selling Skills: Inherent or Acquired?

We’ve all heard the terms “born salesman” or “born seller,” both insinuating that a person can be somehow blessed with a gift for gab or a knack for persuasion, but really, how accurate are those assumptions? Are these skills that a person is actually born with or are they learned behaviors? The question then becomes: Are selling skills inherent or acquired?

Let’s start by examining how the art of sales has evolved.

In the not-so-distant past, inherent qualities used to move, and keep, someone at the top of the sales totem pole. These qualities included:

  • assertive
  • persuasive
  • aggressive
  • persistent
  • sly
  • smooth talking

If these qualities read like a list of “typical” sales characteristics, it’s because they are – at least, they used to be. The old sales mentality was centered around the big push, and the idea that no should never be taken for an answer. It wasn’t so much a question of whether or not a product fit a prospective customer, but rather, how do we make it fit?

And, perhaps rightfully so, the resulting assumption was that it took a special kind of person to exude this type of consistent, unrelenting confidence while also dealing with a great deal of rejection. Thus, this person was considered a born seller.

Things have changed a bit.

The mentality behind the sales process has shifted largely to a more Need-Based or consultative approach – an approach that demands elements of strategy and preparedness, which, previously, hadn’t been considered important. Because of this shift, the skills required to be successful have also shifted.

Today’s top salespeople must be equipped with the right learned skills, including:

  • a complete understanding of products and services
  • the ability to listen, and craft intelligent questions
  • the ability to problem solve in real time
  • knowledge for when to gain customer commitment
  • the ability to use empathy correctly
  • the ability to appropriately and positively handle objections

These skills are very specific and it’s extremely rare for a person to instinctively exhibit them. But the good news is: these skills can certainly be taught.

If a salesperson (or an aspiring salesperson) is open to instruction and has the desire to learn, with the right sales training, ongoing coaching and reinforcement, they can achieve mastery of modern sales skills. We have no doubt about this.

Suffice to say, success today in the world of sales is less about personality and more about the necessary skillset. Now, that’s not to say that certain personality traits won’t aid a salesperson in achieving success. Inherent qualities like being a good listener and possessing genuine curiosity are helpful, but again, these things can be taught, fostered and mastered.

If you’ve ever found yourself asking if you or any of your team members are really “cut out” for sales, try repositioning the question:

Have I exposed my sales team to the proper sales training to equip them with the modern sales skills required to be successful?


Being a top-performing sales professional is not simply reserved for those gifted with natural skills and abilities, nor is it an easy designation to earn. At Janek, we believe that succeeding in sales requires understanding and performing core strategies and tactics – and adhering to a proven methodology that focuses on solving customers’ problems and understanding where they are in the buying process.