Over the years I have been party to many discussions about whether Sales is a Science or an Art… and the jury is still out.
We have all been sold to in either in retail or a business capacity, and some sales processes we may have enjoyed more than others. Maybe this constitute Art?
If Sales is a Science – does that mean we can take anyone, put them into a proven sales process and reap the rewards?
To date the consensus seems to drift around the following premise.
Any repetitive process will start to rely on science to a greater degree. Put simply, once a process has been defined the next challenge is to make it better, shorter, more effective… to improve the process by systematically altering the variables until the process is optimised and the process yields enhanced performance against the control process.
However, Art is inherent in the execution. The difficulty being that it is much less quantifiable on the basis that we are working with human behaviour, and the variables involved in having two parties interacting.
But the starting point is always the process. Agree the science of the process and then add the art, or the creativity to that process.
You may want to think of the Strategy as the Science and the Skills as the Art.
The good news is that both Art and Science in Sales can be taught. The process driven sales person can be coached in how to be creative in their use of questions, presentations, closing, negotiations, just as a creative person can be coached to follow a set process using KPI’s, ratios and conversions.
Recent research from Ryalls and Davies published in the HBR suggests that the Art is in the sales person being able to recognise what part they need to play in each sales interaction.
They classified the following ‘types’, suggesting that productive sales people could recognise what role they needed to play in any situation regardless of what their natural state is. The classifications were: Expert, Closer, Consultant, Story Teller, Focuser, Narrator, Aggressor, Socialiser.
Any organisation with a performing sales team will most likely be seeking improvements via the ‘Art’ type of skills.
Under performing sales teams tend to be those that lack a strong ‘Science’ base for their sales process.
Both are easily changed via effective intervention, however it is crucial to know whether it is the Science or the Art element that is to be addressed as the interventions are entirely different.
Carol Griffiths 0779 002 1885