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The following was published recently in the Inc. magazine online newsletter. The information on the author, who quoted me, is at the end.

Some people are born with a knack for selling, but the rest of us can learn it

John Martinka, co-founder and vice president of “Partner” On Call Network, a Kirkland, Washington-based consulting group, says he is the perfect example of the “yes” answer to this question. He spent the early part of his career on the buying side of the sales equation but needed to learn sales to pursue a consulting career. Being a consultant, he says, “means nothing happens until I make a sale.” He did it through training, coaching, and studying, and says three things make all the difference.

1. The most important thing salespeople need to learn is to listen more than they talk. “You don’t need to tell everyone everything about your product or service,” he says.
2. The more activity salespeople have, the more sales they will make. Instead of waiting for their phones to ring, they have to make other people’s phones ring.
3. You can teach any smart person—and some not-so-smart people—to ask questions. Asking questions, Martinka insists, is the key to making good salespeople, but only if they also learn to listen to answers and offer valid solutions.

Matthew Modleski, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who flew as a member of the Thunderbird Team, teaches sales and leadership skills to giant companies like Johnson & Johnson but says the principles are the same for any size enterprise. It boils down to the level of commitment on the part of the student, what sales approach will be used, and how it will be adapted to the individual’s talents. Now a principal with the consulting firm of Stovall Grainger & Modleski in Centreville, Virginia, he offers more advice and articles on the firm’s website at Another good source for information on critical selling skills is “The 5 Critical Selling Skills”.

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