Natural salespeople do not exist

28th January 2016 |   Professor Nick Lee

Nick Lee on… The myth of natural talent

Why the superstar culture is bad for both the “stars” and the rest of the team.

One of the more pervasive ideas in the popular perception of success in almost any field is that of the “natural”. What I mean is that we humans appear to be almost hardwired to explain the abilities and successes of high performers across all kinds of different contexts by way of some almost mystical notion of “natural talent” or “gift”.

Over and over again, we hear the best and most successful of us labelled as “gifted”, or their abilities described as “talents”, from sportspeople, artists, musicians, even to engineers, scientists and managers.

Even that small minority of people at the very top of their field who are not described as “naturally talented” are often considered to have achieved despite their lack of natural talent. The sales profession is no exception. In this article I’m going to explain why the idea of natural gifts and talents is at best generally unhelpful, and at worst actively harmful. In doing so I’ll introduce some of the most interesting research in the field of psychology and performance that shows how belief in talent can hold us back from being as successful as we can be individually, and also as managers of others.

Professor of Marketing at Warwick Business School | + posts

Nick Lee is Professor of Marketing at Warwick Business School and the Honorary Chair of Marketing and Organizational Research at Aston Business School. His research interests include sales management, social psychology, research methodology, and ethics. He is Editor in Chief of the European Journal of Marketing, the Section Editor for Sales Research Methods for the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, and he serves on the review panel or editorial board of several other journals. Nick is an Honorary Fellow of the APS where he directs research activities. Contact: