Surprising Science For Fun & Profit – A Review of The Science of Selling by David Hoffeld

As an admitted fan of psychology and behavioral economics it was with great anticipation that I read through The Science of Selling by David Hoffeld and it did not disappoint.  The Science of Selling is the ultimate collection of evidence-based practices for sales ever collected in one volume.  Until now most of the studies in The Science of Selling have been scattered and tucked away in academic journals virtually inaccessible to sales leaders.  Most readers will find the material new, and I expect, quite surprising.  More importantly however, is the fact that David Hoffeld summarizes these studies making them accessible to everyone and then pulls out the salient points and makes them actionable.

The book is broken down into three parts:

  • Part 1 is about the foundations of selling with science.
  • Part 2 is a practical toolkit for salespeople, and
  • Part 3 is about merging science and selling together.

    Author David Hoffeld

    Author David Hoffeld

The Foundations of Selling With Science

The Foundations of Selling With Science consists of four parts:

Why Sales People Underperform

In this section we discover that most modern sales methods are not founded on any objective standard but rather are rooted in conjecture.  In fact, the way most salespeople are taught to sell is grounded in selling not buying.  They focus on the activities and behaviors of the salesperson rather than focusing on how customers make decisions.  The conclusion here is obvious, if the core of what is being trained is flawed then no amount of reinforcement can succeed.

The Two Methods of Sales Influence

Here we get a primer on the two different ways that the human brain perceives influence:  1. The Peripheral Route (influences outside the actual message) and 2. The Primary Route (the message itself).  Both channels are important and always used when prospective buyers are evaluating solutions.  Yet both channels have very different properties.  The Peripheral Route, for example, is much more short-lived in its effects.  Because prospective buyers always use both channels sellers must become proficient at using both in order to be successful.

How to Sell the Way People Buy

In this section we discover why the more our selling efforts are aligned with how the brain naturally formulates buying decisions the more successful we will be.  It is in this section that we get David Hoffeld’s first new contribution to the world of professional selling – The Sales Equation.  It is also in this section that we learn the “Six Why’s” that are a simple and welcome structure around how the human brain formulates buying decisions.  This important concept permeates the rest of the book.

Selling to Your Buyers’ Emotions

For decades we in sales have heard the axiom “people buy on emotion and justify with logic.”  In this chapter David reveals the actual science that proves this notion to be true.  We learn through a number of fascinating studies and experiments that the human brain uses emotions to assign value to things and mark them as good or bad.  This is how our brains distinguish between what truly matters and what is irrelevant.  Emotion is a far bigger part of the decision-making process than most sales professionals realize and David has highlighted that accurately with its prominence in his Sales Equation. The implications for sales professionals is far-reaching and David gets very practical here and offers some excellent tips and guidelines on identifying and changing a customer’s emotional state.

The Salesperson’s Toolkit

The Salesperson’s Toolkit consists of five parts:

The Science of Asking Powerful Questions

Just asking a lot of questions will not make you more successful at selling. What matters is the quality of questions you ask.  Here in contrast to the “question types” common in other sales methodologies David offers up a new and refreshing 3-level paradigm for asking questions that  leverages understanding of how buyers disclose information.

Why People Buy

Having now covered how people buy, in this section we turn our focus onto why people buy.  We discover here the importance of seeing things from the customer’s point of view and exactly what to listen for.  We learn how to discover what your customer’s primary buying motivators are and how to navigate customer problems, dominant buying motives and customer requirements.

Creating Value, Neutralizing Competitors, and Overcoming Objections

This section begins buy reminding us that value is always defined by buyers.  This is why value creation is not something you do yourself, but rather something that is done with your customer.  There are some wonderful scientific discoveries in this section including Social Exchange Theory, the power of reciprocity, using labels and inoculation theory.  As always each section ends with getting practical about each concept and how it applies to selling in the real world.  This includes excellent information on how to demonstrate value and how to address objections using a model that ties back to the “Six Why’s” introduced in Part 1.

Closing Redefined: Obtaining Strategic Commitments

David and I are in alignment on closing.  David describes it this way: The best way to lead someone into making any sort of major decision, such as a buying decision, is to first guide them in making a series of small commitments that are consistent with the larger decision.  His counsel here centers around the “Six Why’s” that every customer goes through when making buying decisions.

Five Science-Based Sales Presentation Strategies

In this section on presentations we learn the importance of presentations and how they are the primary means central route of influence is triggered (remember the two channels?).  This section covers several cognitive biases (errors in human reasoning) that can be made to improve presentations.  Cognitive biases are truly fascinating and very powerful when applied correctly.  I decree that all those within the sound of my voice are only to use these principles for noble purposes.

Merging Science & Selling

David Hoffeld wraps up by discussing the future of science and selling and how scientific discovery will continue to change our profession.  Moving forward, research that was formerly done in other areas and applied to sales will be done specifically for selling situations.  The future will find unproven methods falling by the wayside as greater awareness of scientifically proven methods permeate the ranks of professional selling.  This will be applied to all stages of selling including the hiring process itself.

Conclusion

I had very high expectations for The Science of Selling and still my expectations were exceeded.  I am a cognitive bias, behavioral economics & sales psychology geek – and I read a lot.  I did know of many of the studies in this book but only because I am a fanboy.  Despite that, I found a very large number of studies that I encountered for the very first time reading this book.  And for fanatics like me there are forty pages of glorious references for further reading.  It is easily the most documented sales book in years.  With that said, most sales professionals will find 90% of the data revealed in this book brand new, very accessible and paradigm shifting.

The Science of Selling by David Hoffeld

The Science of Selling by David Hoffeld

Not many people can understand the academic principles behind a subject and convert that into practical, actionable steps.  Yet, that is exactly what David Hoffeld does in The Science of Selling.  I found it to be an engaging journey that bridges the gap between cutting-edge science and the realities of the modern marketplace.  The richness of the content in this book is amazing.  It is worthy of multiple reads.  Indeed I have read it two times now.  David doesn’t just teach you what to do – he teaches you WHY to do it.  Understanding the “why” behind each principle makes them infinitely more practical because that deeper understanding allows you to adapt the concepts to the limitless variety of encounters within the sales world.  If you liked Influence, Made to Stick or To Sell Is Human you will enjoy this book.

The Science of Selling is going to leave a lasting mark on the sales profession.  It is a must-read for all sales leaders and professional salespeople.  This will be the book your peers will ask you if you’ve read next time you get together.  There is just no getting around it.  If you want to be current on the latest science in sales and how to apply it this is the book to get.

It’s probably because I love behavioral economics and psychology so much but this is probably my favorite title this year.  I couldn’t recommend it any higher.

The Science of Selling is available for Pre-Order on Amazon HERE.

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