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The Renaissance of Sales

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 2/27/17 11:27 AM

What will it take to create respect for the sales profession?

The state of sales today reminds me of what the state of the medical profession from the 16-18th centuries was. Sales, like medicine, has been evident since the beginning of recorded history in one form or another. Like salespeople today, being a medical professional (doctor, surgeon, apothecary) then did not grant the same level of respect that modern medical professionals take for granted today.

Prior to the 16th century, medicine was more mystical and based on the observations of a few. In fact, if you wanted to study medicine prior to the 16th century, it would include both physical and spiritual therapy from herbs and suitable diet as well as Mass, prayers, relics of saints, and music.

It really wasn’t until Andreas Vesalius started to bring science into the medical profession during the Renaissance that it really started to change. His work dissecting, mapping, and sharing how human anatomy worked went against centuries of traditional thought, but his claim that if no one believed him, they could do their own anatomy and come to the same conclusions eventually turned the tide.

This is probably why I have been so enthralled with David Hoffeld’s book “The Science of Selling” and had an exchange with him about it. When he shared with me that his “hope is that it helps us as a profession to start a conversation on how we can apply this science to selling... leveraging the science that reveals the factors that impact how we make purchasing decisions is a key part of moving our profession forward and better serving buyers.” I absolutely agreed.

I see the application of the science of sales as a way to demystify it and raise the sales profession to the same level of respect as a doctor today- just as Vesalius did for the medical profession. And if we can base our understanding of buyers in science we can also understand how best to develop salespeople.

The Role of Technology in the Renaissance of Sales

Scientists like Vesalius would not have been able to do their research and share it if it were not for new technologies like moving type (books) and new inventions such as the microscope in 1590. And like the medical renaissance, we are in a time where we are able to scan and map how the brain works, processes information, and makes decisions. Not to mention the ability to track and analyze nearly every interaction between a buyer and a salesperson. The technology isn't the problem, nor is it the solution by itself.

The Role of Training and Coaching in the Renaissance of Sales

There has also been the ongoing conversations happening around teaching sales in school. I’m all for it, with a few things to keep in mind for it to work. The first of which is rigorous and proven scientific research and standards to teach by. Pre-Renaissance medical education typically learned towards one theory over another, from the teachings of Hippocrates to Galen. 

Vesalius taught using dissection as his primary teaching tool. He did the actual work and encouraged his students to do the same. His hands on direct observation approach was a break from the traditional text book only work. 

Perhaps the sales profession should re-examine the way they are teaching and coaching salespeople to align with a more scientific and hands on approach? 

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In the best interest of the buyer

Can science make sales less dynamic? Can it be relied on to predict sales 100% of the time?  Ask any modern doctor today, they will tell you that medicine is not an exact science, but every advance made saves lives with more accuracy.

The interaction and conversation that happens between a buyer and a salesperson has to be a real human connection. The science can tell us how and even why something happens, but it can’t replace the interaction that happens in real life. A does not always equal B when you are dealing with the human body. Whether one patient lives and another doesn’t can not be predicted with 100% accuracy. And so it is with sales.

But does that mean we should ignore science altogether and try to treat cancer with spirits and humours? Isn't the best medicine both holistic and scientific?

Perhaps we need an oath for sales to do no harm? Solve problems for buyers rather than manipulate them? Be the connection between a problem and the right solution?

How are you applying proven science to your sales results? Check out the recordings of the Live Sales Labs to learn more about applying science to your sales conversations.

Watch recaps from the #LiveSalesLab

Topics: sales coaching, sales training, sales conversations, sales science