Is sales an art or a science? This question has been asked a lot. And the usual answer is the non-committal, but wrong answer: "It's both." In reality, sales is at its core a science often so skillfully disguised as an art that the customers and, many salespeople, have no idea science is involved.
Does it really matter? Absolutely!
By science, I mean applying systematic processes to persuade people to buy a product. Sometimes the processes are so habitual that we forget how much science is involved. Deciding where to focus effort, selecting the best prospects, observing the prospect carefully to know when to ask for the order, doing everything in the right order to make a sales transaction occur and make sure the buyer returns, are all systematic, even scientific processes.
A sales transaction is always complex process. But from the simple act of purchasing a candy bar in a supermarket checkout line to a purchasing manager buying industrial equipment, the basic process is the same. The first step is to gain awareness, then build interest and create a desire for your product.
The "art" often appears to come at the next, critical step – creating trust – converting a prospect’s interest in your offering into a belief that they can trust you and trust what you say about the product. Persuading buyers with clarity and passion in the hands of a master may look like art, but the most powerful persuasion techniques are carefully designed and managed. A sales pro will make sure that his client never feels like a target and gives the illusion that the sales presentation is as unique as the buyer this he is.
Over the years, research has uncovered persuasion techniques that are most effective, most often. These techniques combined are often labeled "the art of the sale" but they are really carefully calculated b2b sales strategies.
People want to buy from an expert
A prospective buyer starts to identify an expert based upon appearance. Does the salesperson look like they know a lot about the product? Once a salesperson has passed this initial visual screening, they need to demonstrate they really have product knowledge.
Parrots make poor salespeople
People prefer to buy from salespeople who do not need to memorize information. Practicing your sales pitch so that you will appear fluent when talking about the product is essential to maximizing success. A professional, more informal presentation almost always beats out a canned pitch delivered by a salesperson who seems like they just memorized the presentation.
Buyers prefer to buy from confident, relaxed and friendly salespeople
Studies have consistently found that prospects are hesitant to buy from salespeople who appear nervous or insecure. It is all about attitude – be confident and smile. No matter what happens, even if things go awry, stay cool, calm and collected when making presentations, answering questions or demonstrating to your potential customers. Some salespeople have built their careers by responding calmly and humorously to mistakes – they use these occasions as opportunities to build a relationship with the prospect.
It is much easier to convince a person about something that you believe is true than it is to convince them about something that you do not believe.
Buyers can usually recognize overselling
Overstating the benefits of your product will either fail in the initial sales presentation or fail when your products cannot live up to the promises you made. In controlled studies, buyers were surprisingly reliable at identifying overselling even when they had no expertise or experience with the product category.
Trying to close the sale prematurely almost always fails
Watch for signs your prospect is ready to buy. Sometimes a buyer will give you direct information that the time is right. They will ask about pricing and payment plans, delivery schedules, warrantees or other questions that indicate that they have move to the next step in the buying process. And usually these verbal signals will be accompanies by more subtle, non-verbal cues: open body language, direct eye contact, nodding, agreeing, enthusiastic responses, making calculations, or, the obvious one, reaching for a pen or wallet.
A direct close is usually most effective
Once you detect the right moment, a direct question like, "Which one would you like?" is usually more effective than an indirect close.
What do you think? Is sales an art or a science?