Bill Rice from Better Closer has a post that the David Allen Company has republished. I agree with much of what Bill writes about using the GTD methodology, which can be summarized as collect, process, organize, review, do. But I take issue with one idea in his post that can be illustrated using two quotes from the post itself. First, there is this (emphasis mine):
Sales as an art form is the lead myth and barrier to consistent sales performance. Sales is a process that is performed. Granted some better than other[s]. Just like an Olympic athlete–the technique is consistent, some just get better at it. Unfortunately, for our sales organizations somewhere along the way we got the impression that there were a variety of better ways to swim the 100M freestyle. Rubbish!
Being successful in sales is increasingly more complex and increasingly more demanding than ever. There are many myths and barriers to consistent sales performance, but I don’t believe I’d put the false dichotomy of Art vs. Science as the lead myth (I’d probably start my list f myths with the idea that one can succeed without cold calling). The distinction here worth noting is that success at the individual sales person level is as much art as it is science, and success for the sales organization is as much science as it is art. This quote makes the point perfectly:
I like to look for what I call–”slowing and heaping” in my reports.
What processes seem to be happening slower or less frequently than expected? Try something new to speed them up.
Where are leads piling up? Try something to process them out of the log jam.
If sales process alone was enough, there would be no need for “try something new.” If what you were doing always worked, why would you try something new? If the sales process is consistent and reliable in producing results, why would any part of that process happen slower or less frequently? Better still, why would so many sales pipelines consist of so many stalled prospects?
The “try something new” idea, is a call for the creative skills of the individual salesperson. The “something” that the individual salesperson does to advance the sale may not be something that you would want to add to the sales process even if you could; it may not be useful in other cases. Finding what works and obtaining a commitment to move the sale forward when it goes off the sales process flowchart is an art. Every sales manager has seen it first hand and can recount the stories.
With that said, the premise of Bill’s article is still correct when applied to the organization overall (and I think he is really directing his post more at lead management and activity than at sales more generally). No sales manager needs 30 artists with their own individual preferences on lead management, CRM, or their general sales process. However, that same sales manager must operate with the understanding that sales is an open system and that there is an art to identifying what action will advance the sale.
(Gerhard asked the same question regrading art and science last week. Check out his post and watch the wonderful Mad Men clip.)