Tim Huffaker 2017Several years ago I was talking to my good friend Bill, who was an emergency room physician.  

The discussion was centered on whether the practice of medicine was a science or an art. Bill explained that in the world of medicine, there were many treatments and procedures that were pure science.  In other words, they had total knowledge and understanding as to the workings and results of a particular medical procedure. He continued saying there were nearly as many medical treatments, which were used regularly to treat or cure a patient, that were without a clear knowledge as to why they worked.  He indicated in those instances he would consider medicine an “art”. He summarized by saying the practice of medicine was both a science and an art based on the level of understanding of the science behind the procedure.

In many ways, selling is both a science and an art.  As salespeople deal with their prospects and customers, they regularly apply principles in which they understand exactly why they will achieve a particular result.  There are other skills, however, which will achieve a certain result with some prospects but not with others and we don’t really know why. There is definitely an “art” to selling.  Salespeople who are top performers have discovered this, and practice the art of their trade. The key is to apply those principles and skills consistently, whether they are based on the sure knowledge of principles, or the proven application of skills.  Salespeople need to be scholars of their trade and know what to do in every situation to achieve the desired result. Effective selling begins with understanding and concludes with appropriate application.

Years ago, when I was working in the steel industry, I heard stories of rolling mill operators who carried a “little black book” in their hip pocket which gave specific details as to the rolling of specific shapes of steel through the rolling mill.  That seemed strange to me at first. I thought all they needed to do was set the controls on the mill and they would get the desired result when the steel passed through the mill. Not so. Indeed, there was a science to rolling steel, but it was also an art and the secret to the art was contained in the little black book.  The knowledge contained in that book was so valuable that the widow of the rolling mill superintendent could sell the book at her husband’s passing for a large sum of money. A lifetime of knowledge and skills were recorded in that black book enabling the bearer to achieve results that others were unable to duplicate.

Every salesperson should have their own “little black book”, whether it is written on paper or on the pages of their mind, recording the principles and skills required to achieve certain results.  Don’t wing it. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Don’t just do something hoping it will work. Learn the science of selling and then apply to that knowledge, the skills you have acquired which will achieve the desired results.  Just as the world of medicine embraces both science and art to cure the sick, or the steel mill operator who fine tunes the shaping of steel through the knowledge found in his little black book, successful salespeople apply all the principles and skills of selling to become the best in their field.  It is through the consistent application of both science and art that you will become the very best.