Is Selling an Art or Science?


I have been asking sales leaders the age-old question: Is selling an art or a science? A decade ago, most managers would’ve answered that it was an art. Today, leaders will admit that selling is more science than art. That doesn’t mean that selling is 100% science, but I think that managers recognize that selling and the skill of influencing an individual to buy something has a set of behaviors that can be understood and practiced. It also means that the behaviors can be learned and taught. The bottom-line is that it is widely understood that there is more structure to what makes a good sales call than luck and a talkative salesperson.

At a recent conference, training firm Miller Heiman Group, discussed how the science of selling is accelerating. According to the group, there are several ways that selling will be different in the future:

First, firms are in the process of developing a “sales Fitbit bracelet” that will be able to track a salesperson’s activity in real time. This software will allow sales management to analyze every sales activity that the salesperson performs. Sales calls will be recorded so that managers can not only assess how a sales presentation went but enable them to make instantaneous corrections. This could have monumental consequences.

Second, the marriage of sales and marketing is a given because future sales professionals will need personalized marketing content for each prospect. Only a joint effort between marketing and sales can provide that level of data. The days of separate marketing and sales silos are over. Simply put, generic mass-produced marketing content won’t work in this new world of origination. The future salesperson will access personalized information to determine exactly what it is needed to close the prospect.

Third, new sales talent will be required. While the people skills and drive behaviors intrinsic for sales will still be necessary, Miller Heiman predicts that the sales person will also be more like an engineer. Miller Heiman thinks that future sales professionals will not just be communication experts but also experts at using sales technology. If Miller Heiman is right, this will dramatically change many parts of the hiring process for mortgage companies who overvalue experience versus selling skills in origination.

Likewise, sales training and coaching will become more important as selling becomes increasingly complex.  The buying process is very different today with a more knowledgeable customer who has higher expectations of what they want from the salesperson and their company. To meet higher customer expectations, companies will need to invest in frequent training and coaching so that their sales team can deliver an exceptional customer experience.

According to Miller Heiman, training efforts must be viewed as on par with technology investments. Rarely is that the case at mortgage companies now. Coaching and training are often seen as an activity that experienced originators don’t need.  That will change. Miller Heiman supports this premise by their research on 300 firms across many industries. They found that firms with a formal, structured sales enablement focus with accountability standards outperformed their peers by 13%. Once again, it is clear that a more demanding buying process requires companies to hire sales professionals with the right talent and then provide the latest training and coaching techniques to improve their skills. In many ways, the writing is on the wall: Selling is more science than art.