Don’t Fall for These Myths About Sales Talent Development

by Deb Knupp /

At GrowthPlay, we encounter many professional service providers who feel defeated by what they see as their inability to fit the traditional profile of a successful seller, the rainmaker who almost magically generates new business for the firm. But, our research on assessing sales talent development shows that there are many ways to succeed at business development. One of the most gratifying pieces of our work is helping these professionals reframe what sales is and redefine what it takes to become a successful seller.


Here are some of the most counterproductive myths about sales talent development, and the truths that debunk them, based on our research:


Myth: Rainmakers are the gold standard of sellers, and they are born, not made.


Truth: We know from the Chally Assessment, a 45-year-old talent-profiling tool that has been used on more than 750,000 people to measure skills and motivations attributed to success in high-performing organizations, that there are actually 135 competencies linked to being great at selling. GrowthPlay has identified five business-development role profiles validated specifically for professionals, like lawyers, whose jobs require them to both deliver services and to generate business. Each of these profiles provides definitive ways that professionals can boost sales talent and find success in business development beyond the rainmaker approach. And here’s the best news: more than 98 percent of professionals find that one role is a natural fit for their strengths, and many find that more than one role comes naturally to them.



Myth: All effective sellers are extroverts and are good at (and love!) networking.


Truth: There are equal numbers of introverts and extroverts who are great at selling, with or without traditional networking. A seller might fit the Account Manager role, whose strength is building trust and loyalty with existing clients. Or the Educator, whose strength is in using insight and wisdom to help clients and prospects imagine what’s possible. Or the Inventor, whose strength is anticipating change and helping buyers respond to it. There are many paths to making meaningful connections with clients that lead to sales.


Myth: Generating new business requires a large network and significant schmoozing time outside work.


Truth: It’s true that sellers who spend time in the evenings courting prospects they find through a well-developed network will probably succeed at making sales. But casting a wide net is not the only proven approach. Our research has shown that sellers who focus on developing fewer, higher-quality contacts and engaging in targeted activities can produce the same business development results. You can be your authentic self and succeed at sales.


To learn more about how to build your professional network, read our blog “Your professional network: How lawyers can target new business


Myth: Earning new work from an existing client is less valuable than originating new client business.


Truth: Not only is growing business with an existing client a meaningful path to revenue generation, it’s also crucial for the firm’s long-term sustainability and growth. Happy clients are a professional’s most powerful tool in protecting and enhancing a good reputation in the marketplace. Some sellers focus primarily on generating new leads; others work to expand the scope of work with the clients they already have. Both approaches are necessary and valuable.


GrowthPlay’s research has proven what we’ve always known to be true in our work with service providers: You don’t have to become someone you’re not in order to succeed at building your business. Understanding the many paths to effective selling will enable you to play to your strengths and secure more lucrative and meaningful work.