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Sales Skills vs. Sales DNA: Here Is What to Focus onA few years ago, I had an interview with the vice-presidents of a large company in order to get my first position as a salesperson. It was an intimidating experience since I had never worked in sales before and the questions they asked were very technical. Fortunately, I had prepared myself properly.

Nevertheless, when one of them asked me if I had any experience in the sales industry, I knew very well that the time I spent preparing for the interview wasn’t going to help me answer that question.

Instinctively, I replied that yes, I had experience in this field. I told them that I had to sell a compressor and that to do so, I posted an online ad on Kijiji. The result: no one ever contacted me. It made them laugh. I managed to get the job and 18 months later, I was promoted to the position of sales manager.

You may be wondering how in the world did I get the job and was able to climb the ladder so quickly despite my obvious lack of sales experience (I couldn’t even sell a compressor on Kijiji!!)? My answer for you is very simple: I continuously demonstrated, and this from the day of my interview with the company’s vice-presidents, that I have a strong sales DNA.

Why is sales experience misleading?

It is easy to believe that experience is the fundamental element when recruiting for your sales team. Although having a lot of experience in your field is far from being detrimental, in sales, it does not mean much. Did you know that most sellers who receive a “low” or “unacceptable” performance rating have many years of sales experience behind them?

Obviously, it goes without saying that having several years of experience generally allows a salesperson to develop better sales techniques. It is very possible that an experienced representative will find it easier to close, prospect or negotiate. However, in reality, this represents only a small portion of what really helps differentiate good and elite sellers.

Therefore, just because a candidate has little or no experience does not mean that he or she does not have the necessary skills to be an elite salesperson, or at least that he or she will not be able to develop them. That is why I consider that sales DNA takes precedence over sales experience and techniques.

Here are some things you can observe in a candidate or within your team to see if he or she has a strong sales DNA:

  • Commitment;
  • A desire to learn;
  • An ease to be coached;
  • A passion for what he or she does;
  • A will to succeed.

Why does sales DNA make the difference for top sellers?

The particularity of sales DNA is that it is not something that can be taught. It is not possible to convey commitment, or the will to succeed, to someone through training. It is intrinsic to each person and only our own self can have an impact on it.

The technical aspects of selling, i.e. how to prospect or close a sale, can be learned because it requires cognitive intelligence. This is why these aspects are generally documented in companies. Sales training also addresses these aspects since it is technical knowledge that is understandable to all. Generally, people are more comfortable talking about techniques than sales DNA.

Overall, what concerns sales DNA is less known and more difficult to address because the concepts are more reliant on emotional intelligence. To be able to act on this sales DNA, you already need to have a very good knowledge of your own DNA.

This is why it is more beneficial to look for representatives who have a strong sales DNA, since the rest can be taught in many ways (training, coaching, role-playing, etc.). To decrypt the candidates’ sales DNA, you will need to use a scientific tool developed specifically for this purpose.


What you need to remember is that when recruiting a representative or evaluating your sales team, look beyond sales skills. Although a salesperson may be experienced and possess good sales techniques, if those elements are not supported by strong sales DNA, it is not worth much.

Although it is much easier to focus only on the technical skills of an individual, I invite you to dig deeper and take greater interest in the individual’s sales DNA so that you can recruit and train elite salespeople.