The Science—and Art—of Selling

There’s an art to sales, but you can’t get to that point if you don’t have the discipline to back it up.

February 20, 2014

Because of his love and respect for the game of football, NFL Coach Bill Walsh celebrated the science and the art of a well-executed play — whether or not the play was successful. To him, success happened when his people did what they were trained to do with precision. On the other hand, a play that resulted in the desired result — but was executed sloppily — earned his reproach. A world-class coach like Bill Walsh reveres disciplined football.

From where I stand, being a good sales professional is harder than being a laborer, a craftsman, or even an artist. As a broker, do your people know that you respect what they do? Do you come across to your sales professionals as someone who truly understands that?

Whether you’re an agent or a broker, you’ll be most effective when you sincerely revere and respect sales. That’s why I use the term “sales professional.”

I recently got some feedback from a salesperson who thought I was asking him to be robotic by using sales scripts. But when I asked him if he could use more consistency in his sales presentation and income, he agreed that it would be nice to remove a lot of fear and insecurity from his career. Perfecting the science helps eliminate variables, which increases confidence.

Just like the best singers, dancers, and actors, top sales professionals employ a combination of art and science. Think about Elton John or Lady Gaga, who practice until each song and motion becomes instinct. It’s the science that happens behind the scenes to make sure that each performance is consistently phenomenal. But they don’t seem robotic; they bring an enthusiasm and passion to the stage to go along with each memorized word and well-rehearsed dance move. You can’t even get to the art if you don’t have the science and discipline to back it up.

Amateur sales pros practice until they can get the science right some of the time, but true professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. Learning a sample sales script (science) and then creating one with a personal spin (art) makes for consistent excellence.

Sales pros, classroom learning doesn’t fully equip you, so you have to incorporate experiential learning (practicing your personalized script with customers). After getting out of the classroom and practicing in the real world, come back and reflect on what worked and didn’t work.

Elton John has done it enough times to know that he can get on stage and deliver at the same level he did the last time. By perfecting the science and the art, you can do the same.

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer, management coach, member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group, and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. Learn more at