Sales process: Is it an art or a science?

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What drives competitive advantage in your sales process? Are you, or should you, be more focused on the art or science of sales?

The answer to this question has always been, and probably will always be, both.

Even 30 years ago when my dad was selling, sales was both art and science. My dad didn’t have Salesforce.com, didn’t have personas defined for his decision makers, and didn’t even have a documented sales process he was expected to follow. And even though his pipeline wasn’t “in the cloud”, he knew which prospects were expected to close and he knew where he stood against his quota throughout the quarter.

As long as you can’t script a sales call (and I doubt that will ever change) a portion of sales success will come from the art. That doesn’t mean you can’t guide the art, share and leverage best practices to make it work. But science is about repeating the same thing, exactly, over and over again. There’s much to be said positively about a scalable, repeatable sales process. It’s key to predictable growth.

But between the lines of that sales process is still the art. How you take those consultative questions and apply them to a real-time conversation with decision makers is art. How you manage the personal and professional factors that affect every deal is art.

If it was pure science, then by definition the human element wouldn’t matter. And although more of the sales process happens online, and more of the buying process happens before a salesperson is engaged, complex deals still don’t happen without people getting involved – managing the relationships, navigating the buyer’s ecosystem, and successfully merging decision makers objectives with desired outcomes (not to mention individual agendas, personalities, egos and so forth).

Focus too much on the art and you can’t scale, nor sustain predictable results. Focus entirely on the science and you’ll end up losing deals to those who prioritize relationships and personalities as a fundamental truth about selling.

Sales may be both art and science, but I could make the case that the biggest difference between selling now and selling 30 years ago is that today, it starts with the science.

We can create a sales process today based on proven, predictable buyer behaviors and patterns. We can optimize our sales process based on steps and stages we know decision makers expect to walk through. We can give our sales reps a blueprint of how to manage their day and how to both manage & organize their deals to maximize conversion.

These and other science-driven best practices will help give you a competitive advantage in the market. But if you don’t teach your sales reps to work the art between the stages, that competitive advantage may be lost.

Paint by numbers sales rarely works. Show me a “coin-operated” sales team (I actually heard a VP of Sales use this term at a conference last week), and I’ll show you a company that may close the short-term sale but loses the loyalty and lifetime value that will drive growth and profitability long-term.

Today’s decision makers are at the same time predictable and irrational. They are results-driven yet emotional.

If you think about how you run your business, or your department, or your day – it’s a mix of art and science. It would be foolish to think that our sales strategy can’t and shouldn’t also include both to be successful.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.

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