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Can Anybody Sell?
Blog / For Sales Pros / Oct 9, 2017 / Posted by Robert Jolles / 6558

Can Anybody Sell?


Thirty years of being a sales trainer and conducting seminars have brought me to the point at which I can answer the most frequently asked question about sales: “Can anybody sell?”

You could rephrase this question anyway you’d like. Alternate versions might include, “Is a good salesperson born with that ability?” or “Is selling a natural skill?” The questions still remains the same, however: “Can anybody sell?” If I had a nickel for every time that question was put to me, well, let’s just say I’d have an enormous quantity of nickels!

I’m not certain I had the answer to that question myself until I had the incredible fortune of meeting the greatest salesman who ever lived. No, it wasn’t any of the big shot speakers and authors, a fraternity to which I myself belong. No–it was a fellow named Ben Feldman.

Although you probably haven’t heard of him, you should have. Back in 1979, when I was with the New York Life Insurance Company, it was Ben who led the industry in sales. That was not just for my company, but all insurance companies. It’s even a little unfair to say Ben led the industry, for the truth is he dominated it. While the top 9 agents were all fairly close together, Ben Feldman tripled his next closest competitor.

While I had never seen a picture of Ben, I imagined his appearance: tall, outgoing, aggressive, with a big booming voice. Actually I think he was, in my imagination, a combination of every stereotypical quality I had been convinced was necessary for an effective salesperson. Then one day I had the rare pleasure of meeting him, and in a way my life was changed forever. Ben Feldman was about 5’ 3”, was somewhat overweight, had hair that resembled that of Larry from the Three Stooges, and spoke with a definite lisp. But it was only within seconds that I was drawn to his unique style. While he had none of the more conventional strengths that are normally associated with his level of success, he remained totally true to his style and took the qualities he did have and made them his strengths. And, as I said, he dominated his field.

It was then and there I learned the most valuable lesson I would ever receive in my life regarding our own personal style: I could not be Ben Feldman; I could, however, focus on his technique or process and continue to ask myself, “How can I do that so it sounds like Rob Jolles?” What is my personal style? Rob’s strengths aren’t Ben’s strengths, but then again, Ben’s aren’t Rob’s either.

Go for a golf lesson and you’ll understand what I mean, because you will see two different kinds of teachers. One will show you the way he or she hits it, put a bucket of balls in front of you, and work to get you to hit it the same way. The other will put a bucket of balls in front of you, ask you to hit for a while, and then step in to help. In case you want to know, that second teacher is studying your natural style.

Some golfers have longer arms, so are more flexible, and some have stronger left arms. I want the lesson from the second teacher, because what he’s doing is trying to blend his sound concept of technique, into my natural style.

Sadly, often sales managers, and mentors who are meaning to help, preach more of their style then their technique. This is because many are what we call “unconscious competents” and truly cannot separate one from the other. They frequently try to coach by saying things like, “This is not a complicated business, just work hard and good things will happen.” That bit of help would be the equivalent of a golf teacher saying, “Grip it and rip it!” This leaves many mistakenly trying to emulate the wrong things, be someone they are not, and leaving the field of selling disillusioned and discouraged.

“Can anybody sell?” Absolutely! The key is, to separate style from technique because each of us possesses our own style. For this lesson, and so many others, Ben Feldman should be an inspiration to us all. He possessed no obvious style attributes we associate with classic salespeople, yet he sold 1.6 billion dollars of insurance in his lifetime! The key to being a good salesperson is not only learning what your natural style is, but also committing to it and utilizing it as effectively as possible.

In the summer of 1994 Ben Feldman passed away but not without leaving us a few final gifts. He left many process behaviors that are repeatable and effective when working with clients. However, in my mind, his greatest gift may have been one he never articulated. He taught us all that if you commit to your own personal style you can become as great as you want to be.

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About Author

A sought-after speaker and best-selling author, Rob Jolles teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. Rob draws on more than thirty years of experience and his keynotes and workshops are in global demand, including companies in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Far East.

Author's Publications on Amazon

Persuade, Don't Push! Surely you know plenty of people who need to make a change, but despite your most well-intentioned efforts, they resist because people fundamentally fear change. As a salesman, father, friend, and consultant, Rob Jolles knows this scenario all too well. Drawing on…
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How to Run Seminars and Workshops is the classic guide for trainers and presenters in any industry. Packed with clear advice and real-world practicality, this book covers all aspects including planning, setup, delivery, coaching, and more—including valuable guidance on selling your services. This new Fourth…
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The Way of the Road Warrior offers weary business travelers inspiration, advice, and practical skills for conquering the competition while conducting business on the road. This business traveler handbook is written by Robert L. Jolles salesman, consultant, professional speaker, and veteran Road Warrior who has…
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Whether you are presenting a product, giving a press conference, interviewing for a job, addressing an audience - you are selling. Selling is about persuading, and you have to think fast on your feet to be adept at it. As one of the most popular…
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This revised edition of Robert Jolles's classic book on sales technique features brands new material throughout, including illustrations, teaching aids, coaching techniques, and true implementation strategies! When you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you are doing. When you can measure…
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For some, projecting confidence and credibility is second nature. For others, it seems like a foreign language they'll never learn – until now. Rob Jolles delivers down-to-earth solutions for anyone looking to enhance the most basic need of all; to be believed. He leverages his…
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