If there’s one thing that all sales leaders can agree on, it’s that the industry has changed.
Long gone are the days where buyers are beholden to salespeople for information. They do their own research and expect salespeople to help them learn.
To keep up with changing buyer perceptions and trends, the modern sales leader dissects every part of the sales process. There are a lot of data, technology and new concepts involved, which begs the question: Is sales becoming more science and less art?
We asked a few experts. Here’s what they said:
How Sales Performance Is Becoming A Science
Sales Forecasting & Analytics
“Analytics is the most effective factor in modern day sales,” she said.
Gordon explained that SalesChoice utilizes big data and machine learning to empower sales teams with predictive analytics (like predicting the likelihood of closing an opportunity) and prescriptive analytics (knowing that a 5 percent increase in discount will improve your chances of closing a deal by 25 percent).
In the past, salespeople have had the tendency to rely largely on instinct, Gordon said, which isn’t the best approach. But with modern tools and technology, sales leaders can use data to observe and change their behavior, if needed.
“Today, we have an incredible ability to get insights from data – insights that no human could hope to come up with,” Gordon said. “It might mean getting a personality profile of a decision-maker based on the online presence, mining online databases to figure out what topics are trending at a given company, or using predictive and prescriptive analytics to know which opportunities in your pipeline you’re going to win.”
Sales Metrics & KPIs
Science in sales isn’t only found in advanced computing or new technology. Tracking metrics and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) is also scientific.
Remember that science, itself, is merely knowledge about or study of the world based on facts you learn through observation and experiments. So not only is tracking metrics to learn more about your sales operation scientific, but defining and measuring KPIs quite literally takes you through a scientific process.
With KPIs, you make hypotheses (how many deals can we close this month?), record data (how many deals did we actually close?) and analyze results (why did we or didn’t we close that many deals?).
Boyer Management Group Founder Hank Boyer explained that assessing where you are, figuring out where you need to be, and looking at the gap is all a scientific process.
“It’s measurable, it’s observable, and you can take a specific action plan, implement it and measure whether or not you have progress against the action plan,” he said.
The Psychology of Sales
Yes, there is definitely science in the psychology of sales. A scientific approach to understand human behavior is always helpful, according to Leanne Hoagland-Smith, a sales professional with more than 18 years in coaching, training and development.
“Understanding the emotions of the sales prospects, the emotions of the salesperson and then being able to manage both is an excellent skill set,” she said.
Psychology also plays a role even before the interaction between buyer and seller. Boyer said that behavioral profiles or assessments – such as DiSC or Myers-Briggs – can help the sales leaders manage their teams more effectively.
“Behavioral tendencies is an important factor in assessing whether or not a particular person is well-suited for sales, and whether their best role is in hunting (new business development) or farming (account penetration and expansion),” Boyer added.
Art or Science?
Back to the original question: Does all of this mean sales performance has become more science and less art?
Depends on who you ask, but the general consensus is that sales still includes elements of each. There is science in sales when it comes to analytics, measurements and behaviors. But things like conversations, relationship-building and problem-solving are all parts of the art of sales.
For sales leaders who want to be more scientific, Boyer recommends they start by understanding the fact that sales has changed dramatically, and future success depends on adopting a scientific approach.
Want to get more advice from experts like this? Check out our upcoming webinar on how to build a high performance sales team: