When I started in sales for the Business Imaging Systems division of Eastman Kodak after college, my notion of a successful sales person was someone who could talk to anyone, had a good personality and was likeable. Once I actually got into the position though, I quickly began to realize that true consultative selling is actually more about the science of selling than the art of selling.
The science of selling requires looking at the process from beginning to end, and defining what needs to happen at each step of the way to advance the process forward. Most complex sales cycles take weeks if not months to come full circle. This means that the incremental steps that advance the process need to be monitored and measured to insure forward motion is occurring.
If your organization doesn’t have a defined sales process, consider engaging a systems oriented person in your company, or form a task team to analyze your sales process. This should include an analysis of the sales cycle from beginning to end including the marketing activities that create opportunities and the success rates at each step of the sales process. This analysis could also include interviews with your salespeople and perhaps a few customers to get their perspective. The goal is to have a solid picture or framework of all of the steps that need to occur and some best practices around each of those steps. The time spent understanding the science behind your sales process will be well worth the investment as it leads to stronger sales results over time.