An interesting question was posed recently by a member of one of my LinkedIn groups: Which is more important, sales skill or sales will?
The responses were split. In one case, the respondent noted that sales will is more important because while sales may be a discipline that anyone can learn, selling is not for everyone. “Desire and motivation are key,” he said. “I have seen more success [from] motivated people that are not as skillful [than from] skillful but unmotivated sales people.”
Another respondent said that, 80% of the time, skill was more important. He likened it to chess and baseball, saying that skill will defeat will almost every time. In other words, if two salespeople’s skills are equal, the one with the greater willpower will most likely win.
“If the environment negates the skills of the salespeople, willpower will likely make a difference. But if the sales people are competing straight up, I’ll bet on the more skilled sales person,” he said. “Will I win every time? No. But I’ll win 80% of the time. Many people will remember the 20% that were exceptions and make a myth about them; great stories that result in poor bets.”
I personally believe that you have to have both to be effective in sales. But if I were forced to choose between skill and will, I’d have to say it depends upon what you’re selling.
Will alone isn’t enough to close strategic, solution-oriented, multi-phase deals, such as selling complex intangibles or professional services. Success in these instances requires more skill, planning, analytical ability and persuasion than will.
However, someone who is extremely solution-oriented and methodical won’t be able to pound the pavement and produce results for low cost/high-volume selling such as widgets or advertising. While skill is necessary, it also takes sheer willpower to succeed in this type of selling environment.
What are your thoughts: Is skill more or less important than will?