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Working as a sales person or being a small business owner who sells to customers is an interesting life, because every day is different and the process of selling requires you to use different parts of your brain. There are different personalities that do well as sales people – some sales people are highly outgoing and people-oriented; they’re passionate about building relationships and they love to talk with people and they’re good listeners and they have big personalities and magnetic charisma. That’s one way to succeed as a sales person, but it’s not the only way; other sales people are more analytical. They’re great at observing people and understanding what makes people tick. They are process oriented and they have a more scientific, mathematical orientation toward working through the sales cycle and closing the deal.

This divide in the types of successful sales personalities can also be thought of in terms of another question about sales: is sales an “art” or a “science?” I would argue that, just as different types of personalities can be successful, it’s not an “either/or” answer. The most successful approaches to sales treat it as both: sales, at its best, is an art and a science.

The Art of Sales

There are a few elements of sales that are more like an art. Good sales people need to have creativity, initiative and drive. Just like artists need to bring something new into the world, starting from nothing, sales people have to start from zero and make things happen. Artists are fueled by passion and self-belief. In the same way, some of the best sales people have a strong spirit of passion and self-confidence – they believe in what they’re doing, and they inspire confidence in the people around them. Being in the presence of a great sales person is like being with an artist – they are charismatic people who make ripples in the universe around them.

The Science of Sales

But on the other side, there are also elements of sales that are more scientific. Sales is a process, just like the scientific method – it requires discipline and attention to detail. The best sales people aren’t only good at building relationships, they’re good at doing the methodical, detail-oriented, repetitive work of making cold calls and prospecting and doing lead nurturing over the long-term. In the sales business, as you work through your sales funnel, over time you will learn how to expect certain results a certain percentage of the time – certain conversion rates at each stage of your sales process. This is part of the scientific aspect of sales: knowing how to make your numbers, knowing how to make incremental improvements in your process, knowing how to refine your sales pitch to get better results, all with a spirit of experimentation and building upon your knowledge base.

Bringing Art and Science Together

The best sales people can be from either side of the spectrum of art vs. science – but some of the very best sales people know how to combine both attributes. No one can be great at every single element of sales success, but if you can combine both the “art” and “science” of sales in some way, you will be more successful. For example, if you already are great at the “artistic” elements of building relationships and being a charismatic force when meeting clients, try to improve your “scientific” skills in looking at your sales conversion rates and experimenting with new methods. If you are already good at the scientific aspects of methodically making cold calls and analyzing your sales process, try to improve your “artistic” performance by taking a public speaking class or reading about classic sales techniques such as delivering a better elevator pitch.

Sales is so complex and unique because it combines elements of both of the biggest fields of human endeavor – art and science. To be great at sales, you need to care about people as the emotional beings that they are, while also caring about the analytical side of measuring and evaluating human behavior and decision making. You have to care about improving your own performance in the way that you persuade and impact people, while also being interested in moving the needle on your sales results by testing new approaches and methods. Being in the sales business is a great opportunity to create and learn, every day. If you care about people and you’re interested in improving organizations and making a bigger difference in your career and in the world, sales is a great way to be a successful “artist-scientist” in your own unique way.

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