For as long as sales has been around, a fierce debate has always raged about whether selling is a science or an art…
I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.
Sales is part science and part art. Finding that intersection is really important for every salesperson. That’s the place where you’re able to follow a strong sales process, but still have enough “art” to go off script and hold the sale together.
While the nuanced art of selling is often overlooked, it’s just as important as the science behind successful sales. In this video, I’m going to show you the art of selling in 11 words. Check it out:
To master the art of selling, we must first understand our prospects. This means going into sales conversations with as much understanding as possible about our prospects—who they are, what they do, and what they care about. Then, once we’re in an active sales conversation, we must dig deeply enough to truly understand what’s going on, from their perspective.
The more your focus is on understanding your prospects, the better off you will be. The art of selling hinges upon understanding prospects rather than focusing on yourself, your company, or your services and products—which is what most salespeople do. Instead, seek to understand.
Not all prospects are the same. So much of the art of selling depends on simply personalizing the way that we sell. Today’s prospects are wary of automation and bots that make them feel like they’re being sold to at scale. The power of personalization is that it shows that you’re really focused on the individual prospect. When you personalize, your message is that you understand who they are and that you’re a real person. This alone will significantly increase the likelihood of prospects replying to an email, or being willing to hop on a call. The more you personalize your outreach, and your sales your conversations, to demonstrate that you know your prospects as individuals, the more likely you are to ultimately close sales.
It’s important to be a leader in selling situations. Unfortunately, I find that many salespeople are reactive instead. They get on a prospecting call and allow the prospect to lead the interaction. If you find yourself doing a lot of talking in your sales conversations, and answering questions that your prospect is throwing at you, then you’ve lost control of the sale. You’re not leading.
The art of selling hinges upon the salesperson’s ability to have control of the sales conversation. And the best way to do that is to follow a strong process that enables you to confidently lead the interaction. You should be the one asking the questions. You’re the one who’s leading the engagement. And you should know exactly where you’re going.
Insight is critical to the art of selling because it’s the single best way to demonstrate that we know who the prospect is. Sharing insight with the prospect shows that we know what we’re talking about, and we bring expertise to the conversation. That’s the power of insight.
If you don’t demonstrate insight, then your prospect will think, “Why should I waste my time getting on the phone with this person? They don’t even know anything that would be of use to me…” That’s why the insight is absolutely critical, particularly at the beginning of selling interactions.
Great salespeople are like great doctors or detectives: When they get in front of a prospect, their number one goal is to understand what’s going on. They’re not going in with preconceived notions about exactly what the problems are. They’re digging to find out. They’re trying to discover what’s going on to get to the core issue.
This is similar to discovering, but it deserves its own point because it’s so important to the art of selling. Digging as deep as possible into the prospect’s world is absolutely key. Most salespeople immediately go into pitch mode when they get a surface-level challenge from a prospect. But top-performing salespeople dig deeper.
If a prospect tells you a challenge, dig deeper by saying something like, “I really appreciate your saying that. Help me understand why you think that is.” Or you can simply ask, “Why do you say that? Unpack that for me.” The deeper you dig, the more likely you are to demonstrate that you know what’s going on in their world.
The vast majority of salespeople move way too fast through the selling process. Even if they’re using a systematic approach, they’re often moving too fast—like they’re checking a box for each part of the process as quickly as possible. It just happens so fast. Instead, slow down.
Moving slowly is key to the art of selling. In particular, your discovery or disqualification conversations at the beginning of the sale must slow down. If the prospect is engaged in what you’re talking about, slow it down even more to dig deeper and really understand what’s going on. That’s how you create your value. Slow down your selling situations.
Keep your prospects engaged in the conversation. Even when you’re in presentation mode, you want to keep your prospects engaged, bringing them back into the conversation all the time. Monologues have no place in sales. Never talk at the prospect for extended periods of time. And if you are in trouble, even when it’s presentation time, you still want to pull them back into the conversation with what we call feedback loops. Say something like, “Does that make sense?” or “Can you see what I’m saying there?” or “Do you see how that would work in your world?”
Great salespeople see their prospects as peers. They don’t put their prospects on a pedestal and look up to them like they’re deities. Instead, they see their prospects as peers. Not in a disrespectful way, but just simply as equals. The more you can see your prospects as peers, the more you’re going to be respected by your prospects.
Sales is about next steps. Next steps are what you need to hold every part of the sale together. Without next steps, mastering the art of selling is impossible. When you’re talking to someone on a prospecting call, the next step is a discovery call. When you’re on a discovery call and it goes well, the next step is some kind of presentation. What are the next steps? And how are you mapping them out and holding the sale together? By establishing next steps during the previous step, you’re never in follow-up mode. Never follow up with prospects. Instead, just schedule next steps throughout the process.
Hold yourself accountable to doing the activities that you need to do. Hold yourself accountable, to do the prospecting that has to be done. Hold yourself accountable to using your system. The more you hold yourself accountable, the more likely you are to become a true sales superstar. Top-performing salespeople are no-BS about their accountability. They do it, they hold themselves accountable, and they don’t give themselves excuses. Be accountable.
So there you have it. Now you know the art of selling in 11 words. Which of these insights into the art of selling did you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comment section to get involved in the conversation.
More Tips on How to Master the Art of Selling…
Did you ever read How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins? It was written, now, nearly 40 years ago.
Since then, the art of selling anything has changed dramatically. In fact, most of what you would have learned in Tom Hopkins’ book is barely even relevant today.
Still, at the time, it was a groundbreaking book. It was incredibly well-received, selling millions upon millions of copies.
The challenge is that most salespeople are still using a lot of those same outdated techniques that were relevant 40 years ago. These techniques simply won’t cut it if you want to learn how to master the art of selling today.
Now, I’m sharing my updated approach to the art of selling in today’s marketplace.
In 1980, Tom Hopkins wrote about what worked back then for how to sell anything in his book How to Master the Art of Selling.
But today, right here in this video and article, I’m going to show you how to transform your sales process so you can sell anything in the modern world.
The Art of Selling Video Summary:
Why The Art of Selling Has Been Totally Transformed
Back in the early 80s, there was no Internet. There were no cell phones. Heck, there weren’t even any flat-screen TVs.
It was a very, very different world.
It’s no wonder that, since then, the art of selling has been totally transformed by some of the greatest advances in technology in human history.
Your prospects today behave in dramatically different ways than they would have back in the 80s. They have access to tons of information, instantaneously. They can seek out different options with the push of a button.
And they are definitely no longer interested in being pitched or persuaded.
Why, then, do so many salespeople still follow the same tired rules espoused back in 1980, when it comes to mastering the art of selling?
The answer is simple: People fear change, and they stick to what’s familiar.
The vast majority of sales gurus teach the same old-school selling techniques based in sales ideology from 40+ years ago. As a result, the vast majority of salespeople learn these outdated techniques—and put them to use every day.
This is deadly for sales.
It’s time to stop the cycle and seek out a new answer to how to master the art of selling. And that’s exactly why I’ve created this new, updated approach to How to Master the Art of Selling Anything.
If you’re ready to give your selling approach a major modern update, then keep reading.
12. Stop trying to sell anything.
This first step to the art of selling in today’s world might be the most counter-intuitive—but it’s also the most important.
When it comes to how to master the art of selling today, the romantic idea that great salespeople can literally sell anything to anyone is ludicrous.
Simply put, top-performing salespeople are smart about what they sell and who they sell it to. They don’t just pick up a spoon and try to sell it to a guy with a drawer full of spoons.
If you’re a great salesperson, the first thing you want to do is make sure that what you’re selling is, in fact, both desirable to your ideal clients and truly needed by them.
You also need to make sure that your ideal clients have money that they can invest in your solution.
Before we go any further, think about this right now: Are you selling something that’s both desirable and necessary for your ideal clients? And are those clients willing and able to invest in your solution—or will they be giving you objections over budget?
If not, it’s time to switch gears—or switch organizations—to make sure that what you’re selling fits that criteria. Again, it’s critical that what you’re selling is both desirable and necessary. And, what’s more, you need clients with enough budget and motivation to buy what you’re selling. Without these key requirements met, even the best salesperson will struggle with how to master the art of selling.
For the rest of this article on how to master the art of selling, we’re going to assume that that’s the case. Now, I’m going to walk you through a framework to ensure that you can sell your offering to that ideal client.
13. Focus on challenges.
The next key to the art of selling like a sales superstar is to focus on your prospects’ challenges.
This might sound simple, but it’s amazing how many salespeople neglect to dig deep to discover what really makes their prospects tick.
To be fair, for decades we were taught by gurus like Tom Hopkins that our prospects should have interest. Instead of focusing on their challenges, we were told to focus on their interest in what we were selling.
This is simply an old-school way of looking at sales.
Focusing on interest is actually focusing on your offering, not on the prospect. Right?
What’s far more critical is to understand the challenges that your prospects are facing within the domain of what your offerings can actually solve.
Mastering the art of selling begins by gearing your interactions toward gaining a deeper understanding of what your prospects’ most critical challenges are, from their perspective.
You can start that conversation by suggesting a couple of common challenges that you’re seeing in the marketplace right now. For example, at my own agency, I might say: “I see a lot of people in your industry who are struggling with getting a high ROI on their lead generation efforts, and who are having trouble getting their salespeople to prospect effectively and efficiently. Do those issues ring true to you?”
This approach is key if you want to learn how to master the art of selling. Make a list of common challenges and important issues that face your ideal clients, so you are prepared to talk about them with prospects in any given situation.
This is going to show that you have industry expertise. You’ll also begin to earn your prospects’ trust and engage them in a conversation around their challenges.
14. Understand the upside.
Just understanding what’s holding prospects back is great, but you also need to understand the value of solving their challenges.
This is called the upside.
If you don’t understand the upside of solving your prospects’ pain, then your prospects won’t see the value in what you’re selling. Period.
To avoid this common mistake in the art of selling, try asking a question like, “If you were able to solve the challenges that we’ve discussed, what would that mean in increased revenue or profit to your organization?”
Be sure to have your prospects do the math themselves, not you.
I see salespeople all the time who tell the prospect what the increase in revenue will be. You don’t want to give them the number.
Your prospects should be able to do that math themselves.
This way, they have ownership of the number, and they’ll feel more confident and comfortable with the value placed on the solution you offer. The whole point is to give the prospect a sense of agency.
Every salesperson who has learned how to master the art of selling will tell you how critical it is to strategically guide prospects to see the value you bring, from their own perspective—instead of beating them over the head with all your fancy features and benefits. Understanding the upside is key to this.
15. Make it personal.
“What’s in it for them?”
You should be able to answer this critical question about all of your prospects when it comes to the art of selling your offering. In fact, I’d venture to say that if you can’t make it personal for each and every one of your prospects, you’ll never learn how to master the art of selling.
If you can’t understand how your offering will personally benefit your prospects, then neither will they. It’s as simple as that.
As one of my mentors used to say, “Behind every corporate objective is a personal objective.”
You must know what’s in it for your prospects to solve their challenges, otherwise you’re missing out on a key piece of information. This is critical to the art of selling in today’s world.
Just because a challenge is costing the organization money, you shouldn’t automatically assume that it’s personally important to your prospect.
Instead, you need to be fully certain that the challenge is affecting your prospects in a personal way.
Only then will your prospects truly have the motivation to make an investment in your solution, turning your prospects into customers.
16. Get a budget.
This step in the art of selling is incredibly simple: You must get money on the table before showing your solution.
Unfortunately, most salespeople are reticent to talk about money with prospects. Most of us have been taught since childhood that it’s rude to talk about money.
This is the kiss of death for sales in today’s dynamic marketplace.
You simply must talk about budget with your prospects.
In sales, if we don’t talk about money before presenting our solution, we’re doing one of two things.
We’re either ruining the sale by blowing prospects out of the water with a price that they can’t afford…OR we’re leaving significant money on the table by giving a price that’s a lot less than what the prospect was actually willing to invest.
Both of these scenarios are in no-man’s land. You definitely don’t want to be there. One of the most important keys to how to master the art of selling is to take control of the budget discussion early on, so don’t skip this step.
Be sure to talk about money before giving your killer sales presentation.
17. Determine the prospect’s authority.
The last piece of the art of selling requires that we understand the decision-making process, including who plays what role in making decisions.
Even if you’re talking to the CEO of an organization, the CEO often still needs to run the decision by subordinates, the board, or the chairman.
That’s why you never want to assume that the person we’re talking to is the exclusive decision maker for the opportunity at hand.
What’s more, you need to understand what that decision-making process is before you present your solution. Even if you learn how to master the art of selling, if you’re selling to the wrong person, none of it will matter.
A simple question like, “Linda, what’s your typical decision-making process for a project like this?” is going to give you tremendous insight into the prospect’s actual authority.
Once you understand where the prospects stands in the decision-making process, you can adopt a more effective sales approach to include others who are critical to making the decision to invest in your solution.
How to Master the Art of Selling Today: Conclusion
As we’ve learned in this article, the key to the art of selling anything has transformed dramatically since the publication of Tom Hopkins’ landmark book in 1980.
While it can be daunting to leave old habits behind, it’s absolutely essential to replace the old-school selling tactics of the 80s with the new techniques that actually work in today’s world of sales.
If you’re feeling hesitant about totally changing the way you sell, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with thousands of salespeople who initially feel the same way—but the ones who go on to be true top performers feel the fear and do it anyway.
The very first step to mastering the art of selling of anything in today’s economy is to simply stop trying to sell anything. Be smart about what you sell. Think hard about who to sell it to. Make sure you’re working for an organization that gets this principle.
Is your product or service actually desired and needed by your ideal clients? If not, it’s time to make a change—and fast.
Next, start to focus on challenges faced by your prospects. Don’t pitch your product or service. Rather, dig deep to truly understand the pain your prospects feel. That way, you can gain a deeper understanding of how to help them.
Once you know your prospects’ key challenges, dedicate yourself to understanding the upside. What is the value of solving those challenges for each of your prospects?
By understanding the upside of solving your prospects’ challenges, you greatly increase the likelihood that your prospects will understand the value of your offering.
This brings us to the next step in the art of selling: Make it personal. Be sure that you’re bringing real value to your prospects on a personal level.
Are the challenges you’re discussing affecting the prospect on a personal level? If not, then you need to change the conversation. Likewise, your offering should provide a solution that directly and personally benefits each prospect you do business with.
Although it’s uncomfortable for many salespeople, you must also get a budget at this point in the sales process. Not getting a budget is a rookie sales mistake that costs you massive sales.
Don’t shy away from talking numbers like most salespeople do. This one of the biggest mistakes I see in sales. You’ll simply never learn how to master the art of selling if you stay afraid of talking budget with prospects.
Get your prospects talking about budget early on, and you’ll avoid “think it overs” down the line.
And finally, determine the prospect’s authority in every selling situation. Never assume the person you’re talking to is the main decision maker. Often, it’s just not true.
So, there you have it. Now you know how to master the art of selling anything in today’s world. Which of these updated selling ideas did you find most useful?
Be sure to share below in the comments section to get involved in the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.