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Putting the ‘Science’ back into Selling
January 17, 2017

By Rani Irudaya
Director - Sales

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Is sales a science or an art?

Consider that even the great artists whose works are valued in the millions of dollar – Van Gogh, Rembrandt – died in abject penury. That should make you place your bets on science as the primary sales framework. In my view, sales is, and should be, quantified, repeatable and consistent – the very definition of science.

In a sales training conference several years ago, the trainer, a veteran of many years, asked the audience a simple question: “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” There were the typical answers – brain surgeon, fighter pilot, astronaut, nurse.

Then the wise trainer pointed out, “And yet here we are, a room full of sales people who never dreamed of being here.” That sure got many laughs, but got me thinking… What is it about sales that is so hard, yet so rewarding? Is there a method to the madness? Can we quantify it, harness the science of selling, then elevate it to an art form?

The true key to selling is perfecting a repeatable process, rather than a one-off approach, quantifying the sales process to continue leveraging sales performance in the future.

All you need to do is look around you – the exponential growth of major CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, and metric driven coaching products… they all support the premise that sales can and should be a scientific process. This can be achieved using the three M’s.


The sales training company Richardson defines sales methodology as “the system a sales organization follows to win business, the philosophy a company adopts to grow through sales.” It is a fundamental block in many world-class sales organizations. Using a standard and consistent methodology is a powerful transformation, and can take your sales universe beyond individual sales people to a company asset.

Adopting a proven methodology that fits the goal of sales and the culture of the company, and is embedded at every level of the sales process, is the key to success. Some companies have developed their own methodologies and drill their sales folks until they are speaking the same on-point messaging in their sleep!

Other growing companies adopt one of many popular sales methodologies, such as SPIN, a brainchild of Neil Rackham, based on analyzing more than 35,000 sales calls. Successful sales calls start and end with the buyer doing most of the talking, which means that the salespeople are asking questions and actively listening.

Here are questions used in the SPIN technique :

  • Situation questions aimed at understanding a prospect’s current situation
  • Problem questions get to the heart of the prospect’s issue
  • Implication questions probe the prospect to think about the consequences of not solving the problem
  • Need-payoff questions prompt the prospect to consider how the situation would change if their problem was solved


Sales is a metrics-driven contact sport… you might even say hand-to-hand combat!

Start with the end in mind as the goal, and write it down. According to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not.

So when it comes to metrics, clarity is crucial. The sales person who does not have a clear number, has little hope of attaining it. Following from metrics are the critical success factors that support the metrics, which include all the crucial activities that lead to the goals. To keep the focus razor sharp, one principle I learned in my first sales role is to spend 80 percent of your time on activities that get you the top 20 percent of results. It’s a proven 80/20 principle for successful individuals and organizations alike.


An exceptional sales message piques the interest of customers, engages customers and has long retention, whereas an average sales message does very little. Tips that work in crafting a working message:

  • Benefits (not features) rule: Veteran sales people are very cognizant that their message needs to stand out, and yet often get carried away with how something works (features) versus what it does for the customer (benefits). Benefits will always win over features, since they are the true value drivers to customers.
  • The power of three: The human brain comprehends three things at a time. Many advertising campaigns and public messaging use this simple principle. Examples include “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” the Olympic So use three points to drive the point for maximizing impact.
  • Executing on differentiators: The value-added differences that make you stand out in all the marketplace din boil down to five key elements – time, money, risk, strategic difference, and personal benefit. Defining them clearly and articulating the impact your differentiators have on the customer takes you above and beyond your peers.

In conclusion, using the rule of three, let me leave with you with the thought that sales is indeed a science when it’s metric driven, follows a clear methodology, and include a fine-tuned, pointed messaging going out to target customers.

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  1. Tony Armour says:

    You’re right Rani and I’m a big believer in a metrics driven approach as well as SPIN in customer engagement. “Art” still has a part to play as B-2-B sales in particular still happen human-2-human and effective (and enjoyable) relationships take chemistry and personality; things that are impossible to break down into a science. Great article, thank you. Tony.

  2. Navya says:

    Nice article. Thank you for sharing!

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