Sales is a Science, not an Art

Today’s great VC post comes from our partner Seth Levine–  “Sales is a Science, not an Art.”  I agree with Seth’s take on sales.  The most successful sales organizations are metric driven folks who really have control over all the “levers” that can be pushed and pulled to affect change. 

Given the distributed nature of the sales workforce, it’s really important to have a definitive process to avoid wasting a lot of time and having high turnover.   

  • Dave

    Metrics do not make science. Theory makes science. Metrics validate or falsify theory. When theory hits an obsticle, business people avoid the obsticle. Scientists dive right in and focus on it, so it is characterized, which means changing the metrics, which in turn leads to a theorist creating and selling the new theory.
    There has been no new theory in sales, or business in forever, so what is it that makes these things science? No, not metrics.
    If there were real paradigmatic shifts, then sure, but if one group follows one theory and another does something else, you are not seeing a theory-driven practice, or science. There are many theories. They overlap, so there is no science.
    The shift to ABC cost accounting is probably the closest thing I’ve seen to a new theory. That and the Theory of Constraints. What are the theory shifts in sales?
    Thinking metrics makes science is just an excuse for abuse. Metrics are experiments. But, they are not designed to provide experimental data that is used to actually drive anything but the confirmation of theory, and that is not the job. Extending theory is the job of the experimenter who is reporting their metrics as findings.
    Business might be science at the McKinsey level, but elsewhere it is just muddling through, and metrics are just a tool of art. The ordinary business person does not report their metrics to journals. Hence, not science.

  • Thanks for the link to this. This is a really interesting post by Seth and I think he makes some great points, namely that while there is some level of subjectiveness to sales, it still needs to be constantly measured, analyzed, and driven as a process in the organization.

  • One of the interesting things I’ve learned in helping entrepreneurial startups is that the founders usually have the highest sales close rate — even if they don’t have sales experience.
    Their knowledge of the prospects’ need and how their product meets that need gives them the authenticity required to make those early sales.
    The next challenge is to convert what the founder does into a repeatable selling process — with all the metrics and pipeline reviews — that salespeople can use to grow revenue.