Is selling today an art or a science?


It's amazing to me, in this modern world we live in today, that there is still so much confusion between marketing and selling.


One of the reasons for the confusion, I believe, is that marketing is perceived to be a lot more glamorous than selling.

This is why there are many people using all types of fancy titles to disguise the fact that they are really a salesperson. If your job is to sell someone a product or service, then you're a salesperson - not a marketing person.

A marketing consultant who worked with my company several years ago stated, "The difference between marketing and selling consumer products is that marketing is getting the right box on the shelf; selling is selling the box you have on the shelf."

Years ago the founder of Revlon, Charles Revson, said, "In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope." He didn't say we market hope; he said "we sell hope." It takes the marketing efforts to get the consumers into the store so the sales people can sell hope.

One of the Webster's Dictionary definitions of science is "Something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned, like a systematized knowledge."

In-depth research has shown that when you are attempting to sell someone a product or service, that person will make certain decisions, and those decisions will be made in a precise, psychological order. Therefore if the salesperson knows what these decisions are, then the salesperson can build his or her selling presentation to allow the buyer to logically make his or her buying decisions.

The greatest weakness of sales people throughout the world is that they are product-centered, not people-oriented, and are tragically unaware of this shortcoming. As a result, many times the salesperson inadvertently complicates the buyer's buying process by providing irrelevant information.

How many times have you heard a sales manager say, "The salesperson talked himself into - and out of - that sale half a dozen times." Why? Because the salesperson lacks a logical, systematic selling procedure.

A friend of mine works with a well-known company that was started more than 70 years ago and is a recognized and trusted brand name today. The company was founded by a gentleman who was a salesman in the manufacturing industry and who decided to form his own company.

He went on to build an outstanding, successful company that is family-owned and is a leader in its industry. After his retirement, his family, who still managed the company, requested that he put some of his philosophy into a book for future employees so he wrote an internal publication called, "Adventures of a Salesman."

Chapter 1 is "The Professional Salesman." The opening paragraph reads, "The term 'professional' is used because I have always considered selling to be just as much a profession as law and medicine."

This gentleman was born in 1907, was a seaman in the U.S. Navy, opened his first feed and grain store with his father in 1926, opened his first retail store in 1933, personally sold during the 1940s and started his company in California in 1950. I was amazed that so many of the truths he believed and followed more than 60 years ago are just as true today as they were then.

For example, he said, "Most people like to buy - very few people like to be sold," "Always think and talk in terms of customer benefits, but be truthful and logical in your presentation," "I never called on a dealer 'because I happened to be in the neighborhood,'" and "selling is a fun game when you're doing it well. It's the pits when you're not."

To this gentleman, selling was an art, as it is with most outstanding sales people. However, what most successful sales people do not realize is that their art has evolved to the point where it's consistent with the science.

My friend believes, however, that the company has strayed from the philosophy and principles of its founder and is currently experiencing a severe decline in sales as a result. As many companies are unfortunately finding out today, there's a big difference between customers buying and successfully selling.

The professional salesperson makes it easier for customers to buy by using selling expertise.

Many times experienced sales people tell us they are already doing many of the things that we talk about in our sales training. They didn't know why they were doing them; they just knew that they worked. If you've been selling five, 10, 20 years or longer, you're already doing a lot of right things or you wouldn't have survived. The reason that these right things work is because they are skills or techniques that fit with the science of selling

Today we are seeing more and more emphasis being placed on selling as a process, like a manufacturing process, an accounting process or a customer service process. So many companies are trying to invent selling processes.

One of the greatest reasons for the failure of CRM (customer relationship management) is that many of the software companies sold these programs as a sales process when, in reality, they are simply technology tools to be used within a selling process. That is why the majority of CRM software applications did not meet the needs of the customer.

As Jeff Thull, CEO and president of Prime Resource Group, recently said, "Solution-based selling just doesn't work. The solutions offered by most companies fail to deliver real value for a variety of reasons. Unless you can define, address and connect with value on your customers' terms, you lose."

When selling becomes a procedure, it ceases to be a problem. If it's not a procedure, it will always be a problem.

There is a proven, universal science of selling. The art of selling lies in doing the science.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.