The Art and Science of Selling

We all know that “Natural Born” salesperson – you know, the guy who can sell hair care products to a bald man or the gal who can sell water to a whale.


What is it about that person that makes you believe that they were born that way?  Is there a stereotype when it comes to sales? Sure, there is, TV shows, books, and movies all portray the fast-talking, “slick” guy as the used car salesman or the snake oil salesman in western films.  But are they really born that way?  When you see an Olympic athlete push their body to extremes, do you say “They were born that way”?  I bet not, you probably see hours, weeks, months, and even years of training to make it look so easy. The truth is that those athletes were born with certain traits, skills and talents then trained and honed those skills to levels that ordinary people couldn’t, leading them to be Olympians.


So what is a natural-born salesperson? Someone who, as my grandfather said “has the gift of gab”? Someone comfortable in their own skin that is at ease in almost any business or social situation? Social settings invigorate them, and they are able to speak to complete strangers and not feel nervousness or anxious? These tend to be traits that we think of when asked to describe a natural salesperson. However, sales is so much more than a set of skills or traits or even a person with the “Gift of Gab”.


Sales is the combination of art and science. It helps to be comfortable in your own skin, to be able to navigate social encounters effortlessly, manage relationships, and talk to complete strangers as if they were old friends. There’s also an art to selling, the close, for instance, taking a piece of paper and sliding it across the desk in front of the client, handing them a pen and saying “all I need is your signature here and a check and we can get started today” and then being completely quiet, listening and waiting, without flinching! I think you would agree, that is a hard skill to teach. But it takes the combination of art and science that sets salespeople apart from the others. 


The science of selling is very simple. How many emails do you have to send? How many phone calls do you have to make? How many times do you have to speak to a client? How many meetings do you have to have? How many other people influence the sale?  This is the science side of selling – tracking the data, keeping notes, managing the process, and nurturing the relationship. 


There are many types of sales: transactional, consultative, technical, collaborative, just to name a few.  Each has a different sales cycle, different sciences behind them, and each requires a different skill set.  That is why the term “natural born salesperson” is a misnomer.  You can be born with a set of skills that give you an inherent advantage; however, we then must use science and training to enhance those talents to excel in our field.


Whether your sale is transactional with a ten-minute sales cycle or relational with a two-year sales cycle, the art and the science is the same at the core. 


The simple transactional sale of walking up to a street vendor is not as complicated or complex – it could be just as simple as am I hungry?  Do I have six dollars?  Yes I do, do I want mustard and sauerkraut? That is a pretty simple transaction – the marketing was really simple, the vendor had the cart in a strategic location and the aroma of the hotdog wafting around the corner did the selling, and maybe a big colorful umbrella with a sign.


What if you are selling a Boeing airplane to United Airlines for $260 million and the lead time is nine years?  It becomes a bit more complicated and complex. Even though the process is longer the small steps inside the process are still art + science.


Most people, in our noble profession, have chosen sales because of the lifestyle the profession affords them or maybe somewhere in their youth or past they discovered that they had a bit of raw talent and they started to hone that talent. When they experienced that first taste of success – you know when you feel that rush from your first closed sale – and that’s all it took to set their feet on the path of a professional salesperson.


In some cases, that first adrenaline rush is the hook that makes that particular person become a professional salesperson. They have discovered why they were put on this earth, to help others make great buying decisions!

The next time you see someone who makes it look easy, there may be some underlying talent (the art) but the training (the science) amplified that talent and prepared them for the Olympics. People buy from those they Know, Like and Trust, and that is where sales meets art and science to lead you to success.


Scott Sullivan


Scott Sullivan, a life-long entrepreneur and professional salesman, brings his 30+ years of sales and marketing experience to Inspired News Radio. Hailing from the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, Scott shares his insightful knowledge with a touch of Southern charm.

The founder of Scott Sullivan & Associates, Scott has an infectious energy and enthusiasm paired with his expert networking skills that drive his passion for coaching and mentoring the next generation of sales professionals and entrepreneurs.

Scott’s two podcast radio shows, “Sales with Sully” (for sales professionals) and “Mind Your Own Business” (conversations with influential entrepreneurs) can be found at  Follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter @SaleswithSully and on LinkedIn and his website: