I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day and started a conversation with a young woman there who’s mother later joined her. When the mother arrived she joined in on the conversation and started asking me questions about myself including what I do for a living (I’m guessing she wanted to make sure I should be allowed to continue my flirtatious efforts with her daughter). When I told her what I do she asked me if I’d be willing to give a lecture to a group of young entrepreneurs about the psychology of sales. I gladly agreed, not because the pay was good (it was lower than my regular fees) but because I actually enjoy helping entrepreneurs understand how to better sell their ideas, services and products. It turns out that she was was the manager of a government subsidized program that helps entrepreneurs get their business off the ground by educating them on all aspects of starting and running a business via lectures, courses and one on one consultations. I asked if she had no one so far who was giving the group consultations and lectures on sales since it seemed to be something fairly basic for a program such as the one she was in charge of. She explained to me that she did have a very good sales person who had been giving the program participants some advice on sales but that for some reason it wasn’t helping as much as she would like it to. To make sure that her disappointment wasn’t due to unrealistic expectations, I told her I’d look into it and let her know what I thought about what she currently had before I committed to giving lectures. I took a few days to dig around and speak to the various people involved and here’s what I learned. The woman who had been giving the sales advice was a very good sales person, there was no doubt about that. She also had the ability to see what other people were doing wrong in their sales efforts and what they could do to improve. If so, what was the problem? My next step in this little adventure was to speak with some of the program participants she had advised. And this is what I learned. As anyone who has heard me speak on the subject knows, sales is a science and an art. If you know only one aspect of it, you will do ok but you won’t be great. To be outstanding in sales and influence you need to master both aspects of it – the art and the science. The teacher they currently had knew both sides of it, this I knew from my meeting with her, but she was only able to teach the science of influence. She lacked the ability to teach them the artistic aspect of influence. So the entrepreneurs she met with did improve their sales abilities but not as much as they could because they weren’t able to learn from her both aspects.
So what is the science of influence and what is the art of influence? If I compare it to playing music, the science is the ability to play all of the notes correctly and the art is the ability to flow from one note to the other and add the right feeling behind it. I am sure most people are able to understand that. Another way to explain it is by giving the example of being at sea. If anyone reading this sails, then you know that there are different things that show you where you are and what you should be doing. As I learned when I first started sailing, not all guiding signs align perfectly and if you look only at one at the detriment of the others, you will capsize (that was an unforgettable lesson). The art of sailing is knowing how to put all of the guiding signs together even when they are not aligned and at times even conflicting.
So why is this important in sales and influence? How does the science and the art individually affect our influence efforts? To put it simply, the science of influence is the tactics we use to make sure we don’t get a no. The art of influence is how we put it all together and execute it to help us get a yes. This is the reason I say that influence is an art and a science. You can’t be truly outstanding with knowledge and even mastery of one aspect of it only. Influence is a dual mastery. The job of a sales manager and a sales trainer is noticing the person’s natural inclination, are they naturally better at the science or at the art, and help them add the lacking side to their toolbox. This is how you help someone become a master of influence.
What do you think your natural inclination is? Are you better at the science or at the art of influence? Let me know in the comments.