Selling – Art, Science, or Just a Knack?

Good salespeople aren’t born – they are made…That’s true! It is not some special birthright. Although a dose of natural charisma certainly goes a long way, there is no escaping the fact that people become good salespeople, some become even better salespeople, and a few become truly high-performance salespeople through learning, practice, and plenty of dedication. Sure, selling is a lot of fun, it generally pays well, and there is no doubt that top salespeople are often the envy of others, but there’s no free lunch involved – it does involve some serious effort!Still, not everyone is convinced of this. While many of us who are close to the selling profession maintain that the true ‘science of selling’ involves a production-like process that can be systematically taught, there are just as many others in the wider community who are adamant that there is no such formula. They believe that selling is the domain of the chosen few, those who were born with some sort of mystical genetic gift – the ‘art of selling’.It seems that this ‘art or science’ question has been bandied around forever, so it comes as no surprise to find that, in my training sessions, the attendees are keen to tackle it as well – perhaps to satisfy themselves if they are wasting their time or not. So we usually start out with a vigorous discussion about it. Invariably both sides of the story get to hit the table, and we wind up conceding that it’s really a bit of both – the science is surely the method, the steps in the sale; the art must be the magic, the subtlety of how we go about it.While agreeing that the ‘magic’ may well take a little longer to master than the ‘method’, we always wind up accepting that both are perfectly trainable… we just have to develop the KNACK:Knowledge of peopleNegotiating techniquesAttitudeCommunication skillsKnowledge of productThis simple acronym really does define the essential portfolio of skills we need to attain, maintain, and sustain if we are to enjoy a long and successful career in selling. It gives us that combination of ‘magic’ and ‘method’, and is certainly worth remembering:Knowledge of People – creating empathy by understanding the elements of emotional intelligence, particularly the characteristics of behavioural style. This needs to extend to the psychology of buying and selling, and cannot ignore the subtleties of age and gender.Negotiating Skills – consistently practicing the essential selling and negotiating dialogue skills, from initial meeting and greeting, to closing the deal. Sometimes over-shadowed by our hunger for improved product knowledge, dialogue skill is the one ingredient that must not be overlooked – the ‘how’ part of the ‘know-how’.Attitude – maintaining the appropriate temperament and personal standards, and having the wherewithal to manage not only our mood of the moment, but our ongoing attitude towards our customers and their needs.Communication Skills – keeping on top of the basics by maintaining our vital conversational skills toolkit covering questioning techniques, convincing presentation, body language, and the most important of all, listening disciplines.Knowledge of Product/Market/Industry – staying in touch with the full range of market information through product and market trends, competition, social and economic trends, technology, right down to internal sales operations – the all-important storeroom of knowledge that gives top salespeople their aura of confidence.Once we feel proficient and comfortable with this knack of selling formula, we really do get to understand the very direct association between interpersonal selling skills and general life skills, to appreciate that the very fabric of our existence is dependent on how well we relate to each other in every aspect of our lives. Any attempt, conscious or otherwise, to influence the opinion or decision of a fellow human being really involves some selling. So developing the knack of selling brings us closer to many facets of those wider relationships, making the assumption that, while not all of us are actually employed in the business of selling, we are all, in a sense, ‘salespeople’.It just so happens that those of us who sell for a living are lucky enough to enjoy a kind of utopia, a place where lifestyle and livelihood can become one – where pleasant, meaningful interaction with our fellow human beings is the common denominator. This knack of selling is certainly a knack worth having!

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