Let’s get this out of the way first: sales is a unique combination of both art and science.
Yet, the paradigm of sales has shifted in recent years. Once, sales was considered an art form, a delicate dance of psychology and intuition. Great salespeople were born, not made. A sales artiste could step into any selling situation and, using his or her innate abilities, close any deal. Sales management subscribed to this sort of thinking.
The technological advancements of the past 10 years have flipped that thinking firmly on its head. With the array of tools available to sales reps today – including Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software like Salesforce and social media networks – sales has taken on a new look, one that emphasizes data and the scientific method. This scientific approach – where data and analysis is used to test various hypotheses to find the most effective and efficient option – puts systems into the art of selling, removing much of the intuition and gut-feel relied on in the sales of yesteryear. While the art of closing the deal is still an integral skill, it is clear that science and data and analysis is taking on a larger role at all aspects of sales management.
Here are three sterling benefits of scientific sales management over art-based sales management.
More efficient lead management
While sales as an art form still exists very much in the actual sales conversations that go on, the legwork and behind-the-scenes preparation has adopted a largely scientific bent. None of this is more apparent than in analyzing lead sources and overall lead management. Without data analysis, lead source management basically boils down to a gut feeling of figuring out which lead sources have proven to be particularly effective. While making a guess could prove to be right in the end, it is hardly the most accurate of lead management methods.
With science, the specific return on investment (ROI) of each lead source can be comprehensively determined. Looking at a lead waterfall report, such as the one above, sales managers can identify the number of leads that come from each source. Beyond that, sales managers can even find the lead source that produces the best lead-to-opportunity and opportunity-to-deal conversion ratios. These particular lead sources carry a higher ROI, suggesting that sales managers should focus more of their efforts in producing opportunities from these specific sources. With that scientific approach, sales managers no longer have to waste precious time and resources on lead sources that aren’t as efficacious as they might seem.
More effective sales coaching
Whether you find your sales management techniques firmly in the art or science camp, you should know who your underperforming reps are and when they’re struggling. You can then work on shoring up areas of weakness among these sales reps…but what exactly are the areas of weakness? If, as a sales manager, you can’t discern where specifically reps need help, you’ll likely end up holding extra training sessions to shore up basic foundational skills for the team across the board. If this isn’t the type of coaching help your reps need, the whole process will end up being an inefficient use of time and resources.
On the other hand, sales metrics-based coaching focuses on targeted areas of weakness, allowing sales managers to zero in on only the areas of the selling cycle that their reps struggle with. Best-practice processes can be identified and distilled across the entire sales force, with certain benchmarks or standards for how to handle various areas of the selling process.
For example, looking at the sales funnel by historical stage conversion rates tells the sales manager at which stage their sales reps are struggling the most. If reps are converting a great percentage of opportunities from the first stage to the second, but faltering between the second and third stages, that middle-of-the-funnel stage might be where sales managers should be spending their coaching calories. This type of insight can only be derived through a scientific approach to sales management.
More In-Depth Discovery Research
The best intuitive sales reps are proud of the fact that they can step into any selling situation and immediately read the temperature of the room and their prospective customer. Conversation flows naturally and the prospective customer feels as if he has known the sales rep for years. That type of human connection is ultimately what the artistic side of sales and sales management is all about, with its advocates stressing that those skills can’t be thought or derived through scientific research.
But why take the chance? There are going to be situations where even the best natural-born sales reps struggle to establish this connection. With the proliferation of social media networks and the advancement of social selling, sales reps have no excuse not to be as prepared as possible before speaking with a prospective customer. They can pick up on subtle traits and subconscious cries for help through viewing a LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed. This in-depth information can then be naturally integrated into the sales call and put to good use.
Our stance on scientific sales management is not intended to take anything away from the artistic side of sales. Far from it, in fact – the psychology of dealing with humans and strangers is still very much prevalent, especially in closing a sale. Yet, science has presented far more powerful capabilities in terms of behind-the-scenes management, analysis for diagnosis and A/B testing of various sales hypotheses. Don’t entirely let go of your art-based sales side, but make sure that there is a healthy sprinkling of the scientific method and an analytical approach to your sales management.