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Today I was at a sales meeting and I listened to a number of people discuss sales approaches and the mechanics of a sale. As I listened, I thought back to my former life and tried to decide was I working in a field that was an art or a science?
Are sales an artistic or scientific profession? About 15 years ago I took a sabbatical from sales and became the chef/owner of a restaurant, and in so doing, I learned that cooking was an art, while baking was a science. In cooking you can change the ratios of any item, you can replace one item with another, and you can change the cooking time or method, and you still come out with an edible product. Sometimes better than planned, other times, not so good. Baking is all about chemical reactions and ratios ; change a ratio or change an ingredient, and you wind up with an inedible mess.
People stood in front of our group and discussed their approach to sales, and it comes down to discussing physics, action and reaction, when you do this, it will cause the customer to react in this way. A number of teachers have distilled the interactions of customers and sales people down to a decision tree, you remember those, if this then that, or this? It is inevitable, no question and no doubt. Just follow the yellow brick road to Oz.
I really believe that it is much more of an art form, yes, all of the science can help you to get through a sales process, but to be truly successful, you have to go well beyond the science. If our customers had read all of the materials and knew the rules as to how they should react, then we would be successful every time, but regrettably the process doesn't always flow. There are way too many variables in the process for it to follow a scientific formula. As salespeople we need to have a sales plan, but we need to be able to read when the wheels start to come off, and we need to dip in to our tool box and pull out another tool.
I cruise the message boards of a number of sales sites and salespeople are always looking for absolute answers, cold call or not, dress for success, or not etc. again I feel that there are way too many variables to be able to make those kind of pronouncements. I really believe that our experience in the field every day builds a file of action and reaction events that we can fall back on, and that will allow us to be successful. I used to say that things I did were done by the use of common sense, one of my people told me it was only common sense because I had done it and realized what worked. I guess that's correct. Read those boards and see how many different and unique points of view that are put forward when a simple question is asked. Scientific theory doesn’t allow for multiple choice answers. I realized that in College, and that is why I changed from Engineering to Business Administration. In the Business courses, a reasoned argument could make anything seem correct.
I guess my point is that while study and scientific reasoning have a place in sales, don't let science become your God, keep your instincts and a sense of humor, you'll be happier and more successful.
Labels: David Colomb