• Curt Mercadante

Sales is a skill, not a talent

Last night, I watched a fascinating interview conducted by Lex Fridman with Dan Gable, the legendary Olympic wrestling champion and perhaps the best wrestling coach in world history (coaching for my University of Iowa Hawkeyes).

Gable is a two-time NCAA Division I national champion, a world gold medalist, an Olympic gold medalist, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As he told Fridman, he wasn't he fastest or the strongest kid growing up, but he had toughness.

The thing that allowed him to take it to the next-world-class-level following college, however, wasn't talent. It was learning the science of and building the skill of wrestling.

There are plenty of talented and tough wrestlers who never reached the level of Gable or his Hawkeye wrestling squads. Teaching his wrestlers the skills is what made his Hawkeye wrestling teams so successful.

But this is true in all sports, even the 100 meter dash, which some thing is about pure quickness and speed. Not so. In races where hundredths-of-a-second determine first-through-fifth place, skills make the difference. Skillful use of the starting blocks, technique, and form -- are all learned.

Now let's apply this to sales.

First, a quick anecdote.

I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to plumbing, but my pipes are leaking. Declaring that I have a talent for this kind of thing, I get to work on the pipes. After a few minutes, it's apparent that, while perhaps I think I have talent, I certainly don't have skill -- and the leak turns into a flooded kitchen.

At that point, should I declare that the "pipes don't work"...or should I admit that someone with plumbing skills could fix the problem?

An exaggerated story, you say?

Well, spend a few days on LinkedIn and it's apparent that:

  • There are plenty of people who think they are "talented" at sales, who are turning people off with their lack of skill.

  • There are plenty of people who have been turned off by non-skilled cold-callers who now think "the phone doesn't work."

  • There are plenty of people who have received such pitchy, spammy, egregiously bad messages on LinkedIn that they think "LinkedIn messages don't work."

And, by the way, examples like the above contribute to the growing sense by people that "sales" is a bad word.

Recently, I saw a coach make an entire standalone video declaring proudly that he's not in "sales."

Like Gable and his Hawkeye wrestling teams, talent can lure you on to the mat; but skill makes you a winner.

Sales isn't bad; but unskilled "sellers" certainly aren't good.

And in the case of the phone, LinkedIn Messenger, and other tools...the medium is NOT the message.

The message is the message.

And an unskilled messenger does not mean the medium doesn't work.

If spending time investing in skills and study of the sport is good enough for the greatest wrestler of all time, it's good enough for you...

That is, if you actually want to grow revenue for your business.

As we used to back in the day, "It's the skillz that pay the billz."


By the way, check out Lex's awesome interview with Gable here:

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