predicting sales success that is advanced beyond what has been done to date. Fallacy of Experience Many sales executives feel that the type of selling in their industry (and even in their particular company) is somehow completely special and unique. This is true to an extent. There is no question that a data- processing equipment salesman needs somewhat different training and background than does an automobile salesman. Differences in requirements are obvious, and whether or not the applicant meets the special qualifications for a particular job can easily be seen in the applicant’s biography or readily measured. What is not so easily seen, however, are the basic sales dynamics we have been discussing, which permit an individual to sell successfully, almost regardless of what he is selling. To date, we have gained experience with more than 7,000 salesmen of tangibles as well as intangibles, in wholesale as well as retail selling, big- ticket and little-ticket items. And the dynamics of success remain
approximately the same in all cases. Sales ability is fundamental, more so than the product being sold. Long before he comes to know the product, mostly during his childhood and growing-up experience, the future successful salesman is developing the human qualities essential for selling. Thus, when emphasis is placed on experience, and experience counts more than such essentials as empathy and drive, what is accomplished can only be called the inbreeding of mediocrity . Long before he comes to know the product, mostly during his childhood and growing-up experience, the future successful salesman is developing the human qualities essential for selling. We have found that the experienced person who is pirated from a competitor is most often piratable simply because he is not succeeding well with that competitor. He feels that somehow he can magically do better with the new company. This is rarely true. He remains what he is, mediocre, or worse. What companies need is a greater willingness to seek individuals with basic sales potential in the general marketplace. Experience is more or less easily gained, but real sales ability is not at all so easily gained. Among butchers, coal miners, steelworkers, and even the unemployed there are many—perhaps one in ten —who, whether they themselves know it or not, possess the ability to be an A, top-producing salesman; and at least one in five would be on a B or better level for most types of selling. Many of these are potentially far better salesmen than some who have accumulated many years of experience. The case of “Big Jim,” as we shall call him, is a good example: All we knew about Jim at first was that he had walked into the showroom of one of our automobile clients in response to its ad and had taken our test. We reported that he was the only A in the group, and strongly recommended that he be hired. There was shocked silence at the other end of the telephone. We were then told that his test had been included as a joke.
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- Winter '15