Editor’s note: Deb Loving, vice president of marketing at Smart Online, Inc., will moderate “The Art of Selling” panel discussion at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s Engage program about sales and marketing on Thursday.We regularly refer to selling as an art, and art and talent do play major roles in sales success. However, there must be some science applied for maximum selling success.

The Engage: Sales and Marketing “Art of Selling” panelists are drawing from in-depth, long-term and diverse experience in talking about three key topics regarding successful sales techniques:

  • Potential pitfalls of the “build it and they will come” positioning

  • Sales process development

  • Closing
  • Too often entrepreneurs and early-stage company executives believe that they have built or created something that will sell itself. A 22-year sales executive, who most recently served as senior vice president for QRS, a $145 million publicly held software company, calls this issue “our baby can’t be ugly.” The core discussion on this issue is that entrepreneurial and early-stage management executives need to work closely with their sales executives to make sure products/services fit market needs. You can build it, but they will not come unless you have built something that responds to a significant market need.

    The hard-core science of selling is referred to as the sales process. According to Lon Lohmiller, a seasoned (17 years) sales vice president of sales at Rand Worldwide, developing the sales pipeline and putting a turnkey process in place to transform prospects into paying customers is the key to ultimate sales success. Lon’s discussion will provide insight into the rather elaborate sales process, including use of key metrics, so entrepreneurs and early-stage management executives get a basic understanding of the various process components and a better handle on how well their sales process is working before it’s too late to revamp.

    Finally, the most important issue: closing. There are many experienced sales executives taking positions at early-stage companies that can not close a sale effectively. A sales person or executive that doesn’t get the close can sink the ship faster than any other hire. Closing is the most important factor in the sales process. While closing can be taken straight from “Sales for Dummies”, it is too often a big surprise in early-stage companies that sales are not closing.

    Tom Furr, vice president of sales at Smart Online, will talk about the techniques used to close a sale. Tom founded and sold his own company several years ago and will bring that additional entrepreneurial experience to bear in addressing with the closing issue.

    The Art of Selling panel experts will end with colorful hit-and-miss stories to share wisdom gained from missteps or management issues they learned the hard way. These stories are intended to help attendees avoid the same mistakes and to help attendees understand that sales is more of a science than an art … requiring intelligence, analysis, diligence, hard work, creativity and some art for ultimate success.

    The Engage event is June 24 from 4:30 to 8 PM at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. For registration information, visit: www.cednc.org/engage