Worryingly, I often hear the terms “sales process” and “sales methodology” used in what appear to me to be completely the wrong context. The confusion between these two terms, can be extremely costly and may mean you are not getting the most from your sales team.
By Dr. David Kirk, Chief Revenue Officer, CloudApps
Let me try and describe how the two should fit together. You can then decide if you have optimised the way your sales teams are currently setup or if more work is required.
Sales Process – Your map to the destination.
Think of your sales process as a map that facilitates the sales & prospect journey. It details the steps required to progress along the right path in order to reach the required destination (i.e. a closed deal). As with a map there are often multiple routes to the destination and it, for sure, isn’t ever a straight line! But broadly speaking, if the right milestones are achieved and the right stakeholders engaged, you can be confident that you will arrive at the destination.
In fact, the Harris Group define a Sales Process as:
“The measurable, consistent, and systematic series of steps that map out and track interaction with prospects from their first point of engagement through the closing of an opportunity.”
However, maps have no concept of the skills and knowledge of the person holding them. For example, is the person wearing the right walking shoes? Can they read signposts? It may sound like a daft analogy, but what we are talking about are the basic skills required to navigate the journey.
And this is where sales methodologies come in. If the ‘Sales Process’ is the map, then the ‘Sales Methodologies’ aim to equip the sales rep with the skills required to undertake the journey.
Sales Methodology – The skills required to navigate the journey.
A sales methodology sits on top of certain parts of your sales process and provides the skillset of selling. One or more sales methodologies can be deployed, allowing you to execute your sales process as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Returning to the Harris Group, they define a Sales Methodology as:
“The learned behaviours, tactics, and strategies used by a sales team to execute and fulfil the sales process in a professional and conversational manner.”
Maybe at this point it would help to give an example. Let’s pick on Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. Rackham’s methodology is a system for asking questions. In fact, it’s probably the best methodology for asking questions there is. But it isn’t a sales process. It can, however, be used within any sales process.
There are many sales methodologies available, some of the most popular include:
“SPIN” stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff. It involves asking questions to understand the buyer’s situation, issues and consequences respectively. SPIN focuses the buyer’s mind on the ‘Pay Off’ associated with solving their pain points.
This methodology breaks larger deals down into smaller components. Using a strategic plan throughout the life of the sales cycle deemphasises the politics of an account.
The Challenger Sale breaks sellers up into five buckets: Relationship Builders, Hard Workers, Lone Wolves, Reactive Problem Solvers, and Challengers. The Challengers are the most successful group, given the prevalence of large sales in enterprise environments.
Need, Economics, Access, Timeline are the pillars that make up this methodology by the Harris Consulting Group.
SNAP Selling, introduced by Jill Konrath in 2012, makes the assumption that everyone is busy and frazzled. The goal is to speed up the sales process by being Simple, Invaluable, Aligned with the needs of the customer, and a Priority. Part of the focus is about getting “in the head” of your customers.
The Sandler Selling System starts with uncovering the needs of the customer. Then the sales team customises its pitch based on these needs. It’s about having both parties (the buyer and the seller) equally invest in the sales process.
The basic concept here is that you should sell a solution rather than a product. Since being released by Mike Bosworth in 1988, Solution Selling has been a foundation for a number of other methodologies as well. It was a reaction to the trend of vendors starting to sell solutions that were much more complicated than they had ever been before.
The Value Selling Framework is a simple process to manage the conversation with prospects. The methodology develops a mutual understanding regarding how you add value to the buyer and their business. With this conversational framework, you compete on value, not price.
Conceptual Selling focuses on the buying process and managing the stakeholders involved when selling to a given organisation. Conceptual Selling is about convincing the customer to buy the concept a solution represents versus a specific product or service.
MEDDIC (which stands for Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, and Champion) enables sales teams to be effective by helping them compose a plan to close each deal.
You simply can’t have a sales methodology without a sales process. Nor is one a substitute for the other. You can enhance your sales process with one or more sales methodologies but you cannot ignore the underlying process.
Ask yourself these basic questions:
- Do you have clarity on your end-to-end sales process that guides your reps from target prospect to closure? In other words, can you document your sales map?
- Do you know what steps your top performers take on their prospect journeys? Are the steps they take aligned with your current sales process? Could you fine tune your sales process to match your top performers?
- Have you enhanced your sales process with an approach that hones any particular area of sales skills? Are the sales skills you are attempting to hone still relevant to your sales process and the way prospects buy today? (read the 7 attributes of a modern sales team for further background on the changing buyer habits)
If you are seeking guidance, my advice would be – nail your sales process first, it is your blueprint for sales success. Only at this point should you consider putting the icing on the cake and adding a sales methodology. After all, improving your sales reps questioning technique won’t make a bit of difference if they don’t understand the sales path they need to travel.
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