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Sales, Art, Science, Craft?

by David Brock on December 28th, 2017

The article I wrote, Moving From Selling As An Art To Selling As A Science, has stirred up a lot of reaction in the various venues in which it’s appeared.

There have been various comments, mostly supportive.  Many suggest, I think correctly, that sales is a blend of art and science.  Robert Racine added the great insight that professional selling is a blend of art, craft, and science.

However, there continues to be a lot of flawed reasoning in these discussions.  (Mostly outside the direct comments to the referenced post.)

Many argue the science side, but are focused on the “mechanization of sales.”  These people tend to focus on the efficiency of the sales process and work efforts of sales people.  The customer is secondary in their approach, their focus is how we move the customer through the process to maximize the efficiency of our sales people.

Their arguments focus on lessons learned from science and manufacturing, yet those arguments show great ignorance of science and manufacturing practice, which is deeply people focused. (See my eBook on applying the Toyota Production System to Selling).

There are those that have focused on selling as an art.  These tend to be driven by people averse to structure, process, disciplined execution.  They tend to focus on the nimbleness, adaptability, creativity, individuality, and relationships.  They tend to be very metric averse.

Yet these people demonstrate their ignorance of the outstanding practice of art and creativity.  Study any great artist (music, art, dance, drama, writing, etc.) and you see tremendous structure, discipline, process, focus in their creative process.  We see their 10,000 hours of disciplined practice, we see them setting goals and measuring themselves.

The attributes many of those describing selling as an art, aren’t, in fact, the practices of great artists.

As I look at the expert practice of science, art, craft, I’m more struck by their similarities.  All are disciplined, focused, process oriented.  All are obsessive in their learning and relentless in their execution.  All are curious, seeking new challenges, driven to create, and committed to growing.  All set goals, measuring themselves against the attainment of those goals.  All tend to be more collaborative than practiced in isolation.  All tend to be driven by basic principles and values.  All tend to have some foundation in humanity and people to people interactions.

The selling as an art or science discussion is really a distraction.  Let’s focus on the expert practice of selling, leveraging the same commitment to discipline, structure, process, practice, accountability that we see in great artists and scientists.  Let’s focus on the obsessive drive to learn and apply that learning in relentless execution.  While the focus of what artist, scientists, sales people may be different, the expert practice is actually very similar.


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