My work in sales – from selling to managing to training to consulting to writing – revolves around the idea that developing an effective sales process is a good way to improve results and efficiency.

As such, I get into a lot of sales conversation with a lot of people about the sales process.

Some embrace the idea of a process orientation quickly and eagerly.

Some not so much.

Of those who initially resist the idea of considering a personalized sales process, many seem to do because they believe that each sale is unique, like a unique piece of art work. As such, they can’t imagine talking about sales and selling in a generalized way, as each specific transaction must be embraced individually.

Now of course each sale does have elements that are unique, such as:

  • The specific people involved
  • The specific companies involved
  • The specific requirements of a situation
  • The specific monetary position of the buyer
  • The specific amount of competition the seller faces in a particular situation
  • Etc.

But that these elements are unique does not mean that there are not other elements that are consistent from sale to sale, such as the need for the salesperson to:

  • Engage in a dialogue with the prospect (often called Prospecting)
  • Confirm that the buyer is both able to and likely to buy before spending too much time on the project (often called Qualifying)
  • Understand the prospects need and situation before suggesting a solution (often called Needs Analysis)
  • Etc.

So how can we effectively approach sales given that some parts of each transaction are completely unique and other parts are – at least at a high level – consistent from deal-to-deal?

I posted a video slide show on YouTube recently about puzzles to answer this question (click this link to see it if you like, it is about 6 minutes).

In this video, I used the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle and a Rubik’s cube to make the point.

A jigsaw puzzle is unique because the picture is unique, but most people have some kind of a method for approaching the puzzle, like making the frame first, grouping pieces by color, working on small sections based on the graphics, etc.

A Rubik’s cube is unique because each time you try to solve it the specific pattern that you start from is different, yet the world record for solving it is under 6 seconds. While I have no idea how to solve a Rubik’s cube, to know that it can be solved in 6 seconds implies – at least to me – that there is a method.

Using a method allows us to solve complex and unique problems more effectively, in spite of the unique nature of each specific problem.

This principle applies to sales as well, and a well developed sales process is the bridge between the gap.

When we develop a personalized sales process that applies to all of our sales, and adapt it to meet the specific needs of each sale, then we approach the unique puzzle that is each specific transaction with a methodology that helps make solving each one faster, easier, and more consistent.

  • New salespeople desperately need this kind of structure to help them know how to move through each sale and how to absorb the things they learn into some kind of a cohesive framework of understanding around this complex concept called selling.
  • Experienced salespeople who have developed intuitive skills can benefit from the discipline of consistent execution, rather than “winging it” as so many do. Many have good success with the random, on-the-fly approach due to their talent and experience, but most improve dramatically when they channel these skills and abilities into a more focused effort.
  • If you are managing a sales organization, and all of your salespeople are following a pattern at the macro, framework level, then managing each individual and each team is more systematized and standardized.

Conversations about these ideas often turn into debates about sales as art versus science, which is rather ironic.

Those who understand the scientific method realize that it is basically a structure for testing consistently, not a rigid approach to problem solving. A huge amount of creativity is required for scientific discovery, it just happens more effectively when it is done systematically, and when success happens, it is easier to replicate by other scientists following the same steps.

Art on the the hand, can be very systematic. Painters will follow a similar process on each paining to prepare the canvas and the space, will draw a “study” before paining on the canvas to understand the spacial relationships of the things they want to paint in two dimensional space, etc. Similarly, musicians and dancers and writers often follow routines and patterns to help them best express their creativity.

Arguing about art versus science, or unique versus standard does not reflect reality or lead to productive results. Rather, embrace the fact that being effective means understanding your process AND executing with skill and creativity within that process.

This approach will help you solve the puzzle of sales much more effectively than ignoring the art or the science. Instead, embrace the truth – both are important – and the puzzle becomes much easier to solve.



Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!