EXAMinING IF SALES IS an ART OR SCIENCE
The big old debate about whether sales is an art or science has played a significant part in the way in which businesses, explore, evaluate and execute their revenue generation. For a long time, scholars, leaders and practitioners of change management have wrestled with their audiences, in search to put a halt to the question.
Are we born to sell or are we nurtured to sell? Is an extrovert more attractive in sales than an introvert, if so and why? Or is there a different personality mix for different industries, sectors because of one’s experiences?
There is no simple or straight answer, it’s complex but there are some fundamental areas that we can lean on that have demonstrated test proven results, time and time again.
Regardless of nature or nurture, human intellect with the right motion is what matters and differentiates the sellers position.
At the beginning when the evolution of businesses began through industrial revolutions, it was during this time where the majority of sales methods relied on the arts.
Often advertisers and sellers would portray a dramatic performance with the solid goal designed to move the buyer. Every conceivable question the buyer might have had, was answered and at the end of the presentation, the buyer was overwhelmed with product knowledge and a lot of information that was not important to them at all.
The big advantage to selling this way (as an art), is the salesperson knows their product inside and out in addition to being creative and persuasive. Passion, excitement and persuasion were most important as they were selling and most importantly, they connected with their buyer on an emotional level. On a side note, you could say the booming 60’s helped shape the advertising and sales generation strategies.
APPLYING THE ART OF THE SCIENCE
But in recent years selling is being thought up as a science with an exact process, organised in a logical progression with predictable results. As a science, a salesperson must study and investigate their buyer and their business to derive needs desires and fears. The most important part of the process is asking questions not just any questions but the right question that penetrates the buyer and their business.
The first step in the scientific processes of sales is discovering what questions to ask. Before you even start the journey to explore which organisations to target, you must start with understanding your key audience (the persona). In addition to this, you need to become an expert investigator to learn about your buyers. This is a relatively easy but time-consuming process, and you want to start with a thorough Internet search whilst remembering the needs, desires and fears of your buyer.
Start with learning about your buyers business from past experiences, to potential problems, learning about the company’s current processes, as well as the products and equipment they use. Taking a deep dive to look through the financial and legal information by learning the pecking order of the company or the hierarchy of the company, who are the decision-makers, key stakeholders and shareholders.
This information and more can be found in several places starting with the company’s website, check out Dun & Bradstreet, Financial Times, and read periodicals (become the subject matter expert, research the PESTLE and subscribe to content that your buyer is interested in) and finally go the extra mile, look through journals whilst doing (what should be innate) the LinkedIn targeted activities to connect with and reach out to current and past employees. It’s so important to keep an eye on the market (MarketAI) and review the company’s social media posts, researching the company inside and out.
And the decision-maker research is by far the most time-consuming part of the sales process, once you understand the company and what motivates the decision-maker you will be able to crack questions to uncover the information you need.
Asking good questions will also help build a positive relationship with the decision-maker, the one thing that scares the decision-maker the most is the idea of making a bad decision, by asking quality questions, the buyer’s anxiety somewhat is elevated because they start to feel you were concerned about their business.
Now comes the hard part once you’ve asked your questions, you must stop, be quiet and listen. You could only learn something if you listen, not only do you need to learn but you need to understand your buyers’ needs desires and futures.
GALVANISING THE PITCH!
If you don’t challenge and raise the right questions, you’ll lessen your chances to follow up questions to give you a greater understanding of the business.
Only after understanding the company and the decision-makers motivation, can you begin to build your presentation in the scientific method.
Your presentation must be focused on solutions that are important to the buyer, bringing in a lot of additional information can dilute the stuff that’s important, to the point that the buyer becomes confused and overwhelmed.
This is often called the overload, the bombardment approach, where you start talking your buyer out of the sale, by targeting precise needs.
Driving sustainable sales, start and ends with asking questions, good open-ended questions, listening and understanding their needs, listening for desires, listening for fears.
For some sales professionals targeting solutions is ambiguous and it’s hard to wrap their heads around, and an easy way to adjust the thought process from product to solution is, to begin with, the end in mind, whilst understanding your buyer. Solutions are based on what the buyer ultimately wants, only after you understand your clients’ needs desires and fears can you build a presentation that is clear concise and on target.
As a science sales require buyer research and involve a detailed thought process that is organised and logical with a predictable outcome and measurable.
In the end, selling is both an art and a science, you need the skills and talents of the art and the science of selling solutions to succeed well.