Tuesday 15 May 2018

Are Top Salespersons Born or Trained?

Every once in a while, this nature versus nurture question will pop up.

Most of the time, the heated discussions often are merely "talk male-chicken" in nature, with no consequences to your daily lives.

You know what? 

I was asked this question in a job interview when I was 25.

Its for a recruiter position at a global insurance giant.

What's a recruiter? 

Its to recruit, train, and coach insurance snake-oils to sell for the agency. Its a shepherd position. Wink.

Sitting across the desk is the interviewer. Young man in his late 20s.He is the typical Teochew "pui nei nei" (chubby), fair and educated looking type.  

Behind him sits a "chow ah beng" (face you like to punch) looking man in his 40s. Dark like 非洲华侨 (African). Oily face full of craters like the moon. Very rude. The whole time reading his notes. Ignored me. I am guessing he is the boss of the agency.

The "pui nei nei" interviewer asks, "Are salesmen born or trained?"

"They are born," I replied with a straight face.

The "chow ah beng" boss finally stops his reading, looks up at me. I've got his attention.

The interviewer turned back to his boss with an expectant look that tells me I must be the only one who gave them a different answer. Great! Half the battle won...

"Why? And what's the point of us recruiting you then?" The interviewer continued.

"An unpolished diamond looks exactly like an unpolished glass bead.

Training is the act of polishing the stones. 

A polished glass bead will outshine an unpolished diamond.

But no matter how much I polish any glass beads, they will never outsparkle a polished diamond!"


Do you think I got the job?


  1. I think you will go to second round???


    Smooth, same ideas but you brought across smooth... Oily oily...

    I am thinking, its both. A talent person will outrun any person with training.

    Yours... boleh...

    I snake-oil my pupils...

    When I need them to keep quiet and I made them stand... I say its a practice of calming...

    Calming down so that you can feel it... The silence... The peace....

    Its just to keep you quiet without pissing you off so that you can sit down and listen lor... LOL

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      I got the job offer there and then!

      I knew I've impressed the pants off them, but to get an offer immediately was a bit sudden even for me!?


      Lucky I started work at 16 so I am no "bei kambing". At 25, I've already got 7 years of experience under my belt.

      I asked some Trust but Verify questions, and we agreed to come back another day for "coffee" as I wanted to "interview" the recruiter who is leaving.

      If the job was so great, why is he leaving!?


  2. Can introvert train to be top salesman ? No.

    Can someone who hate customers do sales? No

    1. CW,

      Words are powderful, isn't it?

      If you phrase it as, "Can introverts be trained to do sales?"

      My answer would be a resounding, "Yes!"

      However, I have to disagree on your 2nd question.

      I think we have encountered "salespersons" who not only hated their jobs, but don't like people in general!

      Sometimes business owners no choice.

      That idiot salesperson is the nephew from "her" side of the family...

      Or you pay so miserly low the only people willing to do that sales job are those who otherwise can't be hired elsewhere...

      Sometimes the "salesperson" is the owner himself! And he's the type the shouts at and insults his customers:

      "Can't wait; don't buy!"

      "Chilli more; veggi a bit more? Oii! Can you pay a bit more also? You think your $3 very big!?"


  3. Hi Jared,

    I think it's both of course. Talent and passion have to come together for someone to be at the very top. But you definitely got the job. What recruiters are looking for is not standard TYS answers but how you can explain a difficult concept.

    I got a similar question before: Can beauty and brains come together? In short, my answer is of course, because I have seen dumb and ugly people so on the opposite spectrum, there would be beautiful and intelligent ones. Hahaha!

    1. Jes,

      "Both of course" is the sort of answer we guys would answer if you asked us whether to save wife or mom?

      But in our hearts, we knew who we would save first ;)

      I'm quite surprised and impressed with my off the cuff answer too! Sparks of brilliance shined on me that day ;)

      Normally, I would offer the standard "bullshit" answer that of course top salespersons were trained...

      But when I saw that "chow ah beng" boss, I instinctively knew he is street smart; not paper educated kind.

      So I let loose what I honestly thought!

      My bet paid off!

  4. Hi SMOL,

    Of course one can be trained for any occupation! You mean SkillsFuture counts for nothing?!? You terrible lah you, how can be so anti-thesis one. I don't like you oredi. :P

    Wait...you said 'top' salespersons. Ok, got adjective one. Not any kuching kurak salesperson!

    Luckily the 'pui nei nei' interviewer never ask you to verify or substantiate. If he did, what would you say huh?

    I remember my first full time sales job was also offered to me on the spot! I was there to interview for an A&P position and the sales manager saw me and asked the receptionist to sound me out if I was interested to explore the sales position. I don't recall saying anything impressive but I guess the sales manager sensed that I probably 'can make it' and took the chance on me. He offered me the job so I would skip my interview with the A&P department. Yah, like that also can. LOL!

    See, sometimes really got blind cat catch dead mice one!

    1. "You mean SkillsFuture counts for nothing?!?"

      LOL! I like Endrene's response.

      Sometimes I really wonder what's SkillsFuture for. Most of the people I met use it to "try try" stuff for fun. When the conversation turns "serious", SkillsFuture becomes something akin to a bolt-on acquisition of horizontal skills.


    2. Hi UN,

      Thanks for rubbing it in...er..I mean chiming in.

      I'm all for lifelong learning. But to take a course or two and think we can blaze a new trail? That's gonna take a whole lot of talent to kill it.

      Actually the 'try try' mentality is ok. I plan to sign up for sewing lessons with the $500 so I can make appliques and sew bags to sell next time. Contingency or side income plan can start with 'play play' stuff! LOL.

    3. Endrene,

      Guess what? Sometimes I don't stick to the "script" ;)



      I'll share in another post what happened next when I returned to have coffee ;)

    4. Unintelligent Nerd,

      SkillsFuture is "helicopter money" to the "education and training" industry ;)

      Some idiots even tried to scam big daddy with falsified claims!?

      That shows how lucrative this "small" $500 is multiplied by the population!

      Add in Singaporeans' kiasu mentality, no interest also must anyhow take up a course mah!

      If not wasted...

      Hence you get the majority take up courses for "fun".

  5. I have visited quite a number of roadshow on how to use $500. Baking or making deserts. LOL!

    1. CW,

      Not your money, you can do whatever you want!

      That's the problem (or fun) with spending other people's money...

  6. Hi SMOL,

    I bet you got the job! (Even before I read the comments here lol)

    Cos you ll need a recruiter who is really good at snake-oiling to recruit, train, and coach insurance snake-oils... isn't it? I heard that it's not easy to recruit and train insurance sales people. :P

    1. Rainbow girl,

      Recruiting and training insurance snake-oils not the hard part.

      Its like recruiting MLM downlines; just dangle carrots will do.

      The hard part is retaining the talented ones (after you have filter out those who can't make it)!

      If you are a landowner, would you want a talented shepherd to work for you instead of for your competitor? Headhunters anyone?

      And sooner or later, top shepherds will ask why shouldn't they become landowners and keep the fruits of their labour for themselves?

  7. Now, the more interesting and relevant question for this watering hole... Are top traders/investors born or trained?

    1. Macroanalyst,

      We see what we want to see ;)

      Insiders who are craftsmen, we've got our own answers.

      Outsiders who are trying to get in, they'll find out for themselves in good time.

      Meanwhile, everyone will rely on their favourite clutches - be it faith, hope, dreams, goals, or even parroting what we've "paid" others to tell us - if X can do it, so can you!

    2. Actually, I asked the question in all seriously because even though I consider myself an insider, I really do not know the answer. Or maybe I'm still not an insider...

    3. We might be able to find our answers here:

      There is a reason why those who are not there think themselves as good as (or could get as good as) the experts the moment they acquire some basic competencies.

      And 'insiders' who have mastered a considerably level of expertise don't think they are so exceptional have a different yet similar set of blinkers leading them to think they are just 'normal'. :)

      It sure takes talent to be exceptional.

      'Normal' people can only be distributed along the bell curve of mediocrity.

      And by the way, all of us are mediocre in many areas and likely we will never rise to the level of exceptionalism. Joseph Spooling on one end of the spectrum can never be Joseph Schooling on the other. Way of life and we just gotto accept it.

    4. Macroanalyst,

      Even Bill Gross has questioned himself some years back in his A Man in the Mirror article.

      By asking the question, Bill Gross already had his answer ;)

      I'll never disrespect the role Lady Luck played in my life.

      There's a reason why our 5,000 years of Chinese wisdom acknowledge - 天实地利人和 ;)

    5. temperament,

      A better question to ask those who just like to "read only", "Did anyone put one single idea into PRACTICE?"


      Hence 百无一用是书生!

      Anyone and everyone can talk; not everyone can get things done :(

    6. Endrene,

      Its so hilarious (if not sad) to watch American Idols contestants that were so bad, yet were cursing at the judges for buzzing them out...

      I guess not everyone has self awareness or knowledge about themselves :(

      And that includes me.

      I still think I'm not uncle; and I'm handsome!

      Why is everyone puking?

  8. Oh, there is a pertinent question we have forgotten to ask.

    How can we slicing the 'top'?

    Top 1%? Top 5%? Top 50%?

    To snake-oil 'Everyone is a talent' kind of rhetoric, then let's just say we all belong to the Top 99%! Perfect pitch! :D

    1. Endrence,

      Because of the 80/20 percent rule, I guess "Top 20%" is the "limit" we can stretch?

      Anything beyond just get ridiculous and patronisng - just like giving a contestant a medal/prize just for showing up!?

      There's another trick I often use in my "cheerleading" spin:

      If can't be the best globally, be the best regionally as in best in Asia!

      Still cannot never mind. Can be the best in South East Asia ;)

      Then there's best in Singapore, JB, and Bataam!

      We can play this game all the way down to being the best in Queenstown :)

  9. Thanks Endrence and Jared for sharing those links. I find them very useful. That's why I visit this watering hole from time to time :)

    1. Macroanalyst,

      You're welcomed :)

      Others blog to give; I blog to receive.

      The commenters here are so entertaining and interesting!

      Thanks for adding to the diversity here ;)

      Now we have a professional money manager in the house!

  10. temperament,

    You are definitely not "greedy". Judging by what you've shared ;)

    Well, you didn't go all in during 2009, did you?

    10% vested in the markets is not the sames as 50%.

    And 50% is not the sames as 100% vested!

    Yes, epoch.

    Peter Lynch started around one of the worst bear markets during the early 70s.

    Bill Gross rode on the 30 year plus bull market in bonds.

    If we started our investment journeys during the low points during 1997, 2003, and 2009, we would have thought we were "geniuses" too!

    That's until we got punched by our first -50% bear market in the face.

    Now that's crash got sound!


  11. Hi SMOL,

    My take is that salesperson are born and not trained.

    It's all in the gene.


  12. Hi SMOL,

    Depends on what you sell. If u sell drugs, no need to be born salesperson.


    Or if you sell fried kway teow, u need to be a born good cook and able to tahan the heat.

    1. Rolf,


      Sell drugs got 2 kinds:

      1) Those that sell for "others"; get caught kenna death penalty.

      2) Then there are those who "sell", but got brains to organise, recruit, and "motivate" others to do the work and carry to "black wok" when things go bad ;)

      Leverage on Other People's Troubles!?

      I would think the former were "trained", while the latter ones are born ;)

    2. Kekeke ... I'm suddenly reminded of trained people who sell drugs at 20X to 100X markup. But are looked up as top in society. Those who markup only 20X are often praised by people as having a heart for the low income.

      Talking about GPs and specialists LOL!

      Leveraging on other people's troubles -- reminds me of some of my former foreign colleagues who used part of their salaries here to bankroll loanshark operations back home ... 60% annual interest payable monthly. They used it to fund their rental & living expenses here, while freeing up most of their salary to buy properties back home. Immoral, amoral, enterprising, & hungry to leap ahead.

      Spur 😃

    3. hahahaha... Then no. 2 is not bornt salesman but bornt businessman or management becos they focus on organize, recruit and motivate others...

      Now topic become drugs. LOL.

    4. Spur,

      Lawyers and doctors, they are the few professions where if they want, can do the "Robin Hood" thing - charge higher prices to rich clients to subsidise those times they lower or offer their services "for free" to those in dire need ;)

      I remember a time during primary school when I knew of a neighbour and HDB provision shop who accept illegal 4Ds and chap-ji-kee.

      I thought those times were over until I found that there's a promoter who accepts illegal 4D and Toto at my weekend gig!?

      I guess when the money is good, there will be people who will step up despite the risks...

    5. Rolf,

      A businessman who can't sell won't go far...

      Elon Musk is one great snake-oil!

      I'm so impressed ;)

  13. Hi SMOL,

    Don't quit blogging k? You long time no blog liao

    1. He's doing the art of baiting and seduction. Thats part of salesmanship.

      Episode 2 might be coming soon.stay tune.

    2. Unintelligent Nerd,

      I'm back!

      No worries. I just found myself happily being distracted ;)

    3. Small Time Investor,

      Part 2 is indeed coming. Akan datang!

      Bait and seduction?

      You should see the me before NS...

      Porcelain white skin, 27 inch waist, and face like toad.


  14. Hi SMOL,

    Just checking up on you..haven't seen you post for a while, so have to see if you're still around haha

    1. LP,

      Two other beautiful people SMS me to checkup on me too!

      I didn't realise 2 weeks have passed!?

      I've been pleasantly distracted by some other interests and lost track of time ;)

      Fun and games had to end some day. It did.

      Now I must slowly ease back to my old routine...

  15. Hi smol

    I suddenly recall that i long time no see post from u liao. Just drop in to check, seems like u really never post new story after 15may.
    Hope u are doing well & doing ok :)
    Take care :)


    1. sy sy,

      Including you and LP, 2 girls and 2 guys - I'm balanced!

      Wait, this sounds like some facial cleansing wash...

      I'm good. Feeling very relaxed and refreshed ;)

      Need to slowly get back to my old routine.

    2. Haha, we have kampung spirit mah, if anyone missing a few days, we ought to check it out :)

      Glad you're fine :)

    3. LP,

      You people are the best!

      I am so blessed :)


    4. Hi smol

      As long as u are good, just relax & chill... when u feel want to tell story then come back, is good to take some time off to have a rest :)


  16. temperament,

    Ha ha!

    I guess the clown in our community is back!

    There goes the neighbourhood...

  17. temperament,

    You sweet talker you!

    Coffee on me!

    The invitation is still open whenever you feel like meeting up ;)

    I better ask CW along if we meet up.

    Wait you got "ang gong" all over your body. Anything wrong, I can outrun CW!

    What are friends for?


  18. Welcome back SMOL!

    Glad to know you are alright!

  19. I’ve been thinking why you actually disappeared for some time silently and wanted to check about you.. But after looking through the comments.. I realize something else.. hmmm..

    Similarly, I’m pretty distracted recently too. So I actually understand how it felt like. Haha.

    1. Is SMOL taking sabbatical leave from blogging?

    2. CW,

      I guess I did!

      Unplanned, unscripted.

      Totally based on hungry eat; thirsty drink ;)

      Who knew I can have a "vacation" while in Singapore!?


    3. sleepydevil,


      Oh! Its not a girl, but equally fun!

  20. SMOL,

    It's great to take a break from blog whenever you want to and feel like doing so. Your almost "month" absence goes to show how important you are in the blogging hemisphere. The most important aspect is that you blog if you feel like doing and on your terms.


    1. Ben,


      Its really been a month now!?

      Time sure flies when we are having fun!

      I guess its time for me to get back down to Earth ;)


  21. Not commenting doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to your new post hor.

    Don't wanna look too desperate mah :P

  22. Kevin and CW,

    I know! Where did the time go when I'm having fun!

    Well, I guess June vacation is over :(

    I'm back!

  23. Top salesmen are born. Good salesmen can be trained. That goes the same for any profession, any craft. To be the best, a person needs to be born for it. To be merely good, an average person just needs to work hard at it.

    We can read all we want about Warren Buffett but there is only one Warren Buffett. He is born to be the best. He is good at his craft, passionate and obsessed with his craft. Unbeatable.


    The tortoise can only beat a lazy hare. Tortoise can never beat a hard-working hare.

    1. hyom hyom,

      That's why I only want to be the better Jared Seah that I can be. At my own pace.

      In school no choice. Had to "fly" even though I'm a penguin...

      Work had to job hop multiple times until I found an environment where I am allowed and encouraged to be myself - "fly" under water ;)



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