One of my favorite topics to speak and write about is the sales process (and why you need to audit it – here’s an article I wrote for Sales Hacker), and sales methodologies.
First, let’s get clear on the difference between the sales process and a sales methodology.
The sales process is the flow and steps your ideal prospect would take in a perfect world—a step-by-step articulation of how this ideal prospect becomes a customer. If you’re familiar with Six Sigma, think of it as the ‘happy path’ or fastest flow.
There are no set rules on how many steps your sales process should include. Yes, there’s the textbook 7-stage sales process, but for one of our B2B clients we mapped out a 12-step sales process, while an NYC B2B software client in New York had defined their sales process to 15 steps. The number of steps isn’t what’s important – what’s critical is the fact that you have your sales process written down and shared, and it plays well to your business, industry, and prospects. It also needs to be easy to understand, discussed, and regularly reviewed. So it is not being made up as your sales team engages with each new prospect, nor is it a mythical process that your sales team has never heard or seen.
Note: We always talk about the ‘ideal’ client, as the further you get from ideal, the further you move away from your ideal sales process to a painful and convoluted process where you drag them in. Remember the sales adage [If you have to drag them in, you’re going to have to drag them around]. But helping your sales team to identify and qualify the ideal client is a whole other topic.
Your sales methodology is a framework as to how your team executes this sales process. It guides behaviors, values, conversation styles, and topics, determines which sales tools and resources are needed, how and when questions are used, and recommends how each point of the sales process is approached and executed. The consistency of a well-adopted sales methodology reflects well on your team, your brand, and your results.
In simplest terms, I like to think of the sales process as the ‘what’ and the sales methodology as the ‘how.’
There are a zillion articles on the best sales methodology, but in reality there is no one-fits-all: we have clients who adore Challenger, clients who swear by Solution Selling, and a household-name B2B client uses the MEDDIC checklist methodology. Meanwhile, more than one client uses the more seller-orientated BANT (created by IBM in the 1950s) for their sales qualification, with some customer-focused processes and goals added on top, to stretch it to a sales methodology.
While there’s no right or wrong, a sales methodology does need to reflect the product, service, or skills you offer; and match the type of industries, geographies you sell into, and resonate with your ideal prospect. But the most frequent point of failure we see is when vendors choose a methodology but fail to provide tools, resources, time, and training to ensure your team applies that methodology. Want to hear how we help solve this problem? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our US office on 617 409 0975 (we’re fans of the phone).
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