Sales as ‘Art or Science’ is holding your business back.

As New Zealand business owners, we need to evolve our perception of Sales as being either an;

ArtSales produced through the creativity or imagination of a salesperson’s relationships; or a

ScienceSales produced through scalable and repeatable systems and processes.

This is because in my opinion, both of these perceptions are outdated and we are now missing out on huge growth opportunities emerging all around us.

Traditionally, sales people like me had liked to add a little mystery and grandiosity to our chosen profession by saying that Sales was an art form; that couldn’t possibly be explained to the average person; we alone were capable of building strong customer relationships and identifying market growth.

Using the right side of our brain (our creative side) to build rapport, glean information about a customer’s problem and then use our imagination to propose a solution for which we could obtain value.

There wasn’t always a predetermined methodology that was being followed or evidence to the solution offered; instead the individual was using ‘gut feelings’ and influencing skills to get an agreement with a client.

The buzz was in solving a customer’s problem using an individual’s personal sales skills.

In more recent times, especially since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, organisations have sought to gain greater control and visibility over their sales function, because they ultimately wanted more predictability and stability from their revenue streams, something reliance on individuals wasn’t providing.

Companies run by more risk adverse parties, have invested heavily in implementing more left brain analytics into the Sales cycle through adding standardised systems and processes, which has contributed to Sales being referred to as a science.

Numerous CRM and ERP tools allow companies to analyse, measure and monitor (if training has been provided) current sales pipelines to keep things moving and let management know where identified deals can be improved.

The buzz now is in improving efficiencies through data analytics.

In my experience both of these views had merit and were apt for specific times, but they are flawed in the current business landscape of 2017/18 which is crying out for innovation;

Art places over reliance on an individual’s lone ability to identify external growth for a business at a time when those skills are in rapid decline, whilst the Science focuses too heavily on the assumption that all external growth opportunities have already been put into the companies ‘sales funnel’ and ignores market changes, as well as alienating the ‘sales artist’.

Businesses that still see Sales as an art are likely not getting growth because they are looking for a sales prophet to solve all their revenue problems, ignoring the need for their whole business to be Sales focused – The ‘lone wolf’ approach.

Businesses that still see Sales as a science are likely not getting growth because they’re busy making sure their internal management KPI’s are being achieved and ignoring actual customer requirements.  Instead, expecting B2B customers to seek them out and put themselves into the company’s pipeline via a website link – ‘Build it and they will come’ approach.

This is a ‘lose-lose’ scenario, because both approaches ignore the current market requirement, which is for business owners to have their whole organisation aimed at identifying, solving and managing the future problems of B2B customers in their world.

A Company, which wishes to grow needs to be geared towards the provision of proactive solutions to previously unidentified customer problems and the ongoing smooth management of that service offer post on boarding.

In the consumer environment, this is called CX (Customer Experience) and I think the B2B Sales space needs to catch up to this B2C shift pretty quickly, if we are to add true value and growth.

That is why I believe in an alternative to Art or Science, which I call ‘Sales Engineering’.

Engineering – Sales produced through weaving integrated structures & processes which connect future market demands, innovative business solutions and ongoing success management.

This end to end, whole brain thinking approach is fundamentally aimed at shaping an entire organisation to see itself as a Sales organisation (not just the individual sales person), which still develops innovative relationships & scalable systems, but at a macro level and centred around customer needs (as opposed to solely focused on its own gain).

Each business unit’s functionality is targeted towards the market place, with the customer’s user experience being at the centre of each and every decision made within the organisation.

It is this shared ‘Platinum Weave’ connecting all functions in a business with the wider market place that makes up a successful customer experience in a B2B environment.

The Sales function is still very much tasked with identifying opportunities and seeking solutions, but is supported by other business functions that are also geared to providing the necessary tools for a complete customer journey.

Examples include:

Marketing focused on opportunity identification and bid support.

Operations focused on ensuring smooth service delivery and responsive issue resolution.

Finance focused on ease of doing business and automated systems.

All this adds up to multiple touch points across a customer’s organisation, which not only secures new business, but protects existing revenue, because each department is providing a positive experience to the customer.

It is only when a customer has had a positive journey with you in the past, will they then trust you to guide them on their future one.

I’ll finish up by adapting a quote by the famous aerospace engineer Theodore van Karman, which best summarises what I’m trying to convey;

The ‘Sales Artist’ promised that which could be.

The ‘Sales Scientist’ analysed that which already existed.

The ‘Sales Engineer’ built that which never was.

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