The Natural Salesperson: Born Or Learned?

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You always wanted to become a salesperson? Discover what a natural salesperson is capable of and what set of skill you need to develop.

Some salespeople are just naturals, right?

Of course that’s true! Some people seem like they can sell anything to anyone. And, at the same time, the best ones make their customers like buying! And for generations we have pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that a person is either born with “it” or not. And if they weren’t lucky enough to be born with that sales “gene,” well, they would probably never excel in that world.

And that’s just the way it was.

The world needs analysts and processors and technicians and if a person isn’t a salesperson, they can still be a darn good…whatever. Right?

The problem with that logic is that we are all salespeople at different points in life. We sell ourselves to get a date or a job. We employ sales techniques (and face them) when we buy or sell a car. No one goes through life without being a salesperson!

A couple of years ago, I discovered a body of research involving customer behavior that is sometimes called neuro-marketing. It is firmly rooted in “brain” science and quite often involves the use of medical devices such as MRIs to measure brain activity in response to different buying cues. And while poring over articles and books on the subject may not sound like an exciting Saturday night to most, I was fascinated.

And it recently occurred to me that, while these studies focused almost exclusively on branding and marketing (Why did one car brand outsell another?) they also reveal some pretty amazing information about why some people are just better salespersons than others.

So, what makes a natural, a natural?

My research has uncovered three things that every natural salesperson practices, without fail. You might notice I didn’t say that these are things that natural salespeople “know.” In the conscious world, they likely don’t. But in the deep recesses of their subconscious, they know that if they do these things, people respond.

Before letting you in on these three powerful techniques, I feel as though I need to point out that one of the major findings of this discipline of neuro-marketing is that consumers act irrationally much more than we knew. Indeed, one of the leaders in the field, George Loewenstein, behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon said, “Most of the brain is dominated by automatic processes, rather than deliberate thinking. A lot of what happens in the brain is emotion, not cognitive.” Indeed, he went on to say that about 85% of the time our brain is more or less on automatic pilot.


We all know people buy from those they like and trust. The neuro-marketing research agrees. But it also reveals some of the things that natural salespeople do to gain that trust and likability. And one of the most successful techniques is creating a culture of reciprocity.

In a study cited in the fascinating book by Robert Cialdini called Influence- The Power of Persuasion, a university professor chose 100 random names from the phone book and sent them a Christmas card. Despite the fact none of these people had a clue who he was, most all of them sent him a card in return. Indeed, some of them continued to send them for years! At Cornell University, a research study was done in which subjects were paired with a researcher. Half the time the researcher offered to purchase a soda from the vending machine for the subject. Half the time, no such offer was made. At the end of their time together, the researcher asked each subject to purchase some raffle tickets. Predictably, more tickets were purchased by the ones offered a soda. Interestingly, not only did they buy more often, but they purchased about twice as many raffle tickets. Plus, they bought more even if they didn’t accept the soda offer!

Natural salespeople create a feeling of obligation through this concept of reciprocity.

Social Pressure

Everyone hates a namedropper, right? Maybe not.

It is quite rare that a consumer makes a buying decision with 100% confidence that he is doing the right thing. Sometimes the result is serious buyer’s remorse and maybe even a phone call asking to stop the transaction.

The natural salesperson knows that the way to “fill” that gap in confidence is through social pressure. Cialdini and others call this “Social Proof.”

By assuring that the customer knows that others in similar situations are acting in the same manner, the brain goes on autopilot. Relying on the judgment of those others, he or she feels much more confident in making the purchase.

Natural salespeople know how to invoke the concept of social proof.


I used to buy cars from a small used car dealership in a tiny town in Ohio. After purchasing a few cars from them, I noticed their pattern. I was always shown at least two cars. The first was shown to me on the lot. It was always one that fit my needs and, in other circumstances, I might have purchased. It was priced reasonably as well. Once I had looked around it and taken it for a test drive, I would return to the dealership and be taken inside. In a portion of the building would sit (under bright lights and with no other cars in sight) the car they really wanted me to buy. While I was driving the other car they had spent the time getting this one ready. It was slightly more expensive and had more features. My brain would immediately say, “Why would I buy that piece of crap I just drove when I could have this for a few bucks more?”

This strategy involved something else the natural salesperson uses. Some call it perceptual contrast. Others call it perceptual relativity.

This concept can actually be used in two ways. First, like the car dealer, the natural salesperson sets the standards using a product that he or she doesn’t intend to sell (the first car). This part of the transaction sort of sets the “reasonable” price to which other options will be compared. Then the better option is introduced.

Second, it is often employed to sell additional options and items. By getting a commitment for the $30,000 car, a maintenance agreement for $1,000 more doesn’t seem that bad. On the other hand, most people would balk at the $1,000 extended warranty if it had been presented independently.

The natural salesperson uses perception to control the sales presentation.

Luckily, these techniques are not exclusive to those born with the natural sales “gene.” Anyone interested in increasing their sales results can use them!



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