The Art and Science of Sales
Sales is a very misunderstood skill. It seems basic to many people in that its concepts are nested comfortably in our common sense. To others it seems daunting, annoying and a necessary evil at best. So much has been written on the topic of sales that you would think that we all have it figured out by now. However, it appears that those of us in sales continue to make the same mistakes over and over again refusing to learn this (not so) new information that is constantly being published. What is it that blocks us from growing as a department? How do we continue in the loops and cycles of sales that drive us crazy? Why are we so misunderstood and why are we still confused about our own trade? Most of these answers can be found in whether you view sales as an art or a science… or both.
What is Sales Science?
Science is the belief in explainable and repeatable patterns that produce predictable results so that we better understand how the world around us is ordered. That’s not out of the dictionary, but I am guessing that I am not too far off. Sales craves science. A predictable outcome of success based on methods that work for everyone. And the science is out there for sure. Everyone has some form of sales systems and if you don’t, there are plenty for you to choose from. Naturally, a lack of a system is still a system unto itself. Everyone in sales has their own science, and most especially philosophy, about sales in general. Systems and science are a good thing. We want to be able to measure and predict our success, although many of us do very little of that for fear of revealing the need to change. Can science be bad sometimes? Yes.
There are large groups of people in sales that love checking off boxes. They live by their to-do lists, pride themselves in staying busy and are prepared to defend their lack of success by blaming the sanctioned system that they follow. “I made my 50 phone calls today. It’s not my fault that no one was buying. I did what you asked me to do”. Unfortunately, science lends itself to preplanned excuses in sales because it takes more than science. Most people in sales fall into the scientist category. They live by their systems, CRMs, task boxes. They are very organized and dependable in the company, but they have a hard time opening deals and closing doors. Why? Because it takes more than science to get the job done.
What About Sales Artists?
On the other side we have sales artists. They are like any other person immersed in the arts be it writing, acting, music or painting. They march to their own beat. They tend to be aloof. They don’t follow orders and yet somehow, they can get the job done better than anyone else. They have a natural charisma that draws people to them, and they navigate prospects with ease right into closing a deal. But never expect them to show up to a meeting on time, right? So, this must be the ideal salesperson, right? Probably not. These sales artists on unpredictable and their system cannot be replicated making any shared knowledge next to impossible. Sales reports are never accurate or completed on time. Prospects fall through the cracks. When sales go off course, it is very difficult for them to get back on track. Not to mention the inability to remain focused. How can sales managers herd such cats when they won’t abide by the system? Frustrating for sure.
Which is Better in Sales – Art or Science?
The answer is always somewhere in the middle. The best salespeople are neither exclusively scientists nor artists, but a fantastic blend of both. Understanding the rhythm of the sale and being organized enough to capture every opportunity is a beautiful thing. These people know, understand and execute their mission without getting bogged down in every little detail of the process. They understand the difference between productive and busy. They use results to justify their tasks instead of their tasks to justify their results. They understand the status of their pipeline and what it will take to create conversions. These types of salespeople are rare and highly sought after. But why do they occur so infrequently, where can I find them, or better yet, how do I train my own? There are a few options for this.
Sales training is largely science based. This means that sales, as a whole (and like always) has created its own problem. Sales training believes that art is difficult or next to impossible to train. So, the concept is mostly ignored and abandoned. If other arts such as writing, singing or sculpting can be taught, why can’t the same happen in sales? The fact is that it can if we just put down the CRMs and sales reports for a while and get back to basic sales coaching. Sales coaching within sales organizations is dying a slow death. It’s each man for himself in sales. Fake it until you make it. Sales coaching sounds like too simple of an answer. Is that all it really takes? Well, yes.
How Do I Merge Art & Science in My Salespeople?
Good sales coaching involves an experienced salesperson who understands how processes work and how people think. Like any other kind of coach, they challenge to ascend beyond what you believe you current capabilities to be and reach new heights. They use role playing in sales. They go out on sales calls and view salespeople in action to give them honest feedback. They share relatable stories. They merge the concepts of science that you have learned and over-learned, insert the artists perspective into and have you rehearse it until it becomes a part of who you are. It is no different than practicing your scales when learning any musical instrument. Whether you are a scientist looking to becoming a better artist, or if you are an artist who needs to get a system that fits you best, seek out a sales coach who best understands your needs. A good sales coach will meet you right where you are and help you to become the best blend of a scientist/ artist that you can be.