By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
In my mind sales is a combination of science and art. An issue for me since starting to promote sales process in 1993 has been the perceived mix of art and science. In writing this article I’ve come to realize that the
requirement for new sellers to be “artists” varies greatly from company to company. If you give “paint by numbers” sellers blank canvases it’s unrealistic to expect good outcomes.
Most people feel sales is much more art than science. Someone is born with the “gift of gab” that is a requirement to excel in selling. I disagree. In my career many high-performing sellers weren’t outgoing personalities capable of schmoozing with anyone.
Organizations that don’t create a granular approach to selling give sellers a great deal of “latitude.” The problem is that only A Players (about 10% of sellers) are up to the task of taking on this responsibility. After being trained in products/offerings, new hires are assigned quotas and territories. They are expected to make their numbers. It’s largely left up to sellers to determine the titles they want to target and the way they’ll position offerings. You can see the likelihood that B and C Players face long ramp up times to competence and will struggle to make their numbers.
Vendors can change the mix of art and science for sellers if they take some logical steps. To start, they can define the titles that sellers must call on if they are going to sell, fund and implement a given offering. If appropriate they can do this for vertical market segments. Once defining the titles they could develop menus of relevant outcomes (business goals) each is responsible for that can be achieved through the usage of the offering in question. By taking this small step the company has pointed sellers in the right direction as to who to call on and what issues to use to try to gain mindshare. By doing so, they can also define a touchstone between sales and marketing in that a lead can now be defined as a specific title interested in achieving a goal from the menu of goals created for them.
Within CCS® we show a way to get more granular by creating Sales Ready Messaging® to guide sellers in having conversations (for each title/goal) by mapping the most relevant parts of offerings to better define the questions sellers should be asking buyers. This is a major step toward allowing B and C Players to perform at high levels.
Average sellers need help in knowing who to call on and how to position offerings. The strategy of hiring A Players is difficult to execute. There aren’t that many of them and they are looking for opportunities with early stage companies that offer equity to those that can perform. Even is successful early on, at some point it will be necessary to codify best selling practices to successfully onboard B and C Players.
There will always be a component of art in selling. Increasing the percentage of science can give companies a higher probability of succeeding.