While generating and qualifying leads is a key part of keeping a sales engine running, understanding how to sell to these prospects effectively is just as important.
To close down more deals, sales reps need to know how to efficiently move their prospects from one stage to the next. And that’s where sales methodology comes in.
What does “sales methodology” mean?
A sales methodology is a series of steps that guide your sales reps to sell effectively to prospects in your total addressable market.
The difference between a sales methodology and a sales process comes down to their specific usage. A sales process is a series of actionable steps that sales teams follow. It could be unique to every organization.
Whereas a sales methodology is a broader set of practices that help your sales team navigate through the sales process. It keeps the team informed on what practices to follow to move from one step of the process to another.
Why should you implement a sales methodology?
As we discussed above, a sales methodology is your sales process’s guiding principle. Having a methodology helps your sales reps to identify the key activities required to move a prospect from one stage of the sales cycle to another.
Here are a few reasons:
Sales methodology will improve with sales hiring and onboarding
While the other aggressive angle is to hire individuals who have a proven track record that can bolster your sales numbers. This could go south quickly as it will only decrease your ROI and in the worst-case scenario might negatively impact your revenue.
But, if you already have a sales methodology and process incorporated in your onboarding process, it could be an extremely valuable manual for your new hires to navigate the stages within your process.
By focusing on creating focussed frameworks and high-level processes, you will be able to create a rich knowledge base and training material that truly guides your new hires and even your seasoned employees.
These methodologies and processes are a practical guide that would allow even the newest of hires to interact with your prospect in their first week. The documentation allows them to refer to the right plan to counter any objections and move the prospect along.
Secondly, it allows you to ease your team into more in-depth processes and tasks gradually as they get accustomed to your methods.
A sales methodology is A/B testing for your sales process
You must’ve heard about split or A/B testing in the world of marketing.
For example, a landing page might have two different versions of a CTA, and the team would run a test where the first 50% will see version A and the second half would see version B. The test which gets more conversion over a predetermined time period is the winner and later adopted as the live version.
Similarly, incorporating sales methods in your sales process one by one throws light into the various aspects of your sales process. It will quickly flesh out the right set of activities from the wrong one and help you optimize each stage of your process.
And, obviously, a sales methodology will make your sales team more efficient
This goes without saying. A methodology and a process together is a recipe for success.
It will allow your team to:
- Repeatedly close more deals and improve conversion rates.
- Weed out bad leads from the good ones.
- Help new hires get accustomed to your organization faster.
- Find root causes that can stall or lose you a good deal.
- And finally, help you identify the best performing sales reps in your team based on clear data.
How to create a sales methodology?
The good news here is that you don’t need to create your very own sales methodology to get started.
In fact, just like proven lead qualification frameworks, there are a bunch of proven sales methodologies that you can get started with.
But before we discuss that, there are a couple of activities you need to run:
- Define your sales process – Having a sales process is the first step to incorporating a sales methodology. At each stage of your process, there would be a key goal, identify it in terms of area and roles in these stages.
- Visualize it – Process maps are best when represented visually. So you need a proper structure. Use a flowchart platform, or even a pen and paper. Define the key activities with shapes and sizes. For example, a circle can be an activity, while a rectangle can be the outcome.
- Run it through all the stakeholders – A deal has several stakeholders and it’s not just your sales team. The other stakeholders involved are your product, marketing, customer success teams, and most importantly the prospect themselves.
We covered this in detail on how to visualize your process in terms of different stakeholders, check it out here.
- Understand Buyer Needs – One of the key stages while analyzing the process with your stakeholders is the buyer angle.
As mentioned above, the buyers’ needs have to be taken into account before diving straight into implementing your sales methods.
And here’s how you can bucket buyer needs:
- Business Needs – These can be clearly identified by using a sales intelligence platform or directly reaching out to your prospects during the discovery phase. A small questionnaire or using a sales intelligence platform can help you identify these needs.
- Financial needs – The financial aspect is quite crucial for closing a deal. If your solution or product can reduce your prospect’s business spending and improve their revenue, then you’re golden.
Even if the prospect is skeptical about the pricing, you need to convey to them that the initial investment would help them improve their ROI significantly over the long run.
- Implications – Apart from functional and financial benefits, there are a lot of potential implications that would arise if the buyer buys your product. This might be fear of the product not delivering, integration into their current stack, and others. Be sure to take this into consideration as well.
- Try different approaches – Thankfully, there are multiple methods that can be used across your sales process. Remember that different elements from different sales methods can be incorporated. Piece them together as you used to piece lego bricks together.
Now, let’s look at the 6 most common sales methodologies and which one suits your sales process best.
SPIN sales methodology
Neil Rackham introduced the SPIN method in his 1988 book, SPIN Selling. The book and method is a result of analyzing well over 35,000 sales calls to understand how high-performing sales professionals work.
In this framework, Rackham outlines a framework for developing the right questions for customer-centric selling. The method also tells reps when is the right time to ask questions.
SPIN stands for Situation, Problem questions, Implications, and Need-payoff. And they’re designed to:
- Situation – Establish the buyer’s current situation like their day-to-day activities, their roles, and responsibilities, etc.
- Problem questions – These are designed to identify problems the buyer might be facing that your product can solve.
- Implications – These are potential implications that cause the problem in the first place and also at this stage the what would be the implications of adopting your product.
- Need-payoff questions – Gets the prospect how the product is really worth going for.
Use SPIN selling only if:
Your goal is to foster the trust of your prospects and customers
SPIN’s emphasis is clear: Building meaningful relationships with your prospects and indicating that you truly care about solving their problems. It allows your sales reps the time and opportunity to know the prospects and understand their needs.
Efficient usage of SPIN selling propagates the message that you’re there to help your leads — regardless of whether they’ll convert.
Challenger sales methodology
The Challenger sales methodology is based on a 2011 book by the same name written by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon. The book uses an approach that aims to teach the prospect, tailor the sales process according to their needs and take control of the conversation.
It basically outlines sales reps into 5 different sales personas:
- Relationship builder – As the name suggests, the sales reps value relation-building over other methods.
- The Lone Wolf – These are people who follow their instincts and yet deliver results. These reps might be instrumental in creating chaos in your team.
- The Problem Solver – Values in-depth detail to find solutions to the client’s queries and business challenges. Their mode of conversion is by helping the prospect find all the solutions beforehand.
- The Hard Worker – Doesn’t give up easily as the name suggests. These reps are self-motivated and driven.
- The Challenger – Has their own outlook, challenges their prospect’s views, and uses a strong knowledge of their industry to turn the table.
According to the book, challengers are the sales reps of the future. By adopting the challenger method, the authors argue that even a decent salesperson can go on to become a high-performance salesperson.
Use the Challenger sales method only if: Your product is complex
If you are selling a product that has multiple functions embedded in it and requires different individuals to fully utilize its true potential, Challenger might be the right method for you.
Your reps will be able to assess the concerns of the prospect and provide them with the necessary course of action.
This method will help your prospect understand the potential of your product, the capabilities, and in-and-out.
SNAP sales methodology
SNAP was created by Jill Konrath in 2012. SNAP selling recognizes that buyers have their own lives and often don’t have much time on their hands to do numerous meetings, read multiple emails, and get on calls to sign up for a new product.
In other words, it’s a method created for small businesses which generally have a relatively low cost of entry and decision-making happens in a few days rather than months.
SNAP stands for:
- Simple – How simple is the solution? How simple are the proposal, implementation part, and adoption?
- Be iNvaluable – Is the benefit of your product can solve your prospect’s problem from the get-go?
- Always Align – Do my answers as a sales rep align with the prospect’s queries, questions, and concerns?
- Raise Priorities – Is this solution a priority, or can it be delayed?
As you can see SNAP selling breaks down a sales process into its core components. SNAP disregards relation-building and obligatory messaging (fluff) to solve a lead’s problem as quickly as possible.
Use SNAP selling only if: Your ticket size is small
This sales method is highly-efficient for products with small ticket sizes. The method is meant for products that can be utilized from the second you sign up and deliver quick results.
Brands like Canva, Slack are platforms that fall into this category, as their per-user pricing is extremely low and they have simple use-cases.
It essentially enables reps to move past the first few steps of the buyer’s journey directly to quoting and dealmaking.
Sandler sales methodology
The Sandler sales method relies on a set of rules that dictate how the seller and customer should be invested in the outcome of sales. It treats both as equals in the sales process.
Ideally, the customer views the seller as an advisor rather than a salesperson.
One of the cornerstones of this method is using common objections to guide the customers to their own conclusion and solutions.
This method seems counterintuitive but unearths more hidden objections from the ones at the start. If the rep discovers that these objections can’t be addressed to the client’s concerns, they let the customers walk away.
Use Sandler selling only if: Your deals have a long lifecycle and you’re okay with walking away from poor-fit customers
Sandler works great for products that are bound by yearly or longer contracts. These customers should be bad-leads, ie, ones who buy the product but never get around to using it properly resulting in a churn at the end of their cycle.
By using Sandler’s sales method, you’ll be able to accrue all the objections before you qualify your leads and therefore avoid bad customers.
This is especially true because a long-term commitment would only be an issue for both sides.
Conceptual sales methodology
Also known as the Miller Heiman sales methodology, this method urges salespeople to understand that buyers buy products because of the solution you present them.
The reps have to focus on uncovering the prospect’s concept of their product to understand the decision-making process.
Miller and Heiman encourage reps to ask questions with five categories:
- Confirmation – Questions that reaffirm whatever information they have before the discovery phase
- New information – Understand a prospect’s concept and desires from your product
- Attitude – Identify the prospect and their connection to the problem
- Commitment – Understand how invested are your prospects in finding a solution
- Basic issues – Understand any pertinent issue or problem that can stall or stop the sale
Use Conceptual selling only if: You’re selling complex products that require many people to sign off
Conceptual selling’s key strength is in identifying the decision-makers and their key issues.
The Miller Heiman sales method enables reps to harness sign-off on a broader level as it mandates that the sales rep proactively question the prospects about the decision-makers and get them involved in the sales process.
It’s time to mix and match!
Did you nod along various sales methodology mentioned above! If you did, you’re not alone. In a lot of cases, the right sales process includes a mixed bag of different tactics taken from different methodologies.
Remember the best sales methodology is the one that works for your team and your customers. Therefore mixing them together or even using one of them alone might be key. Here are the things to consider before parting:
- Keep tracking the new methodologies and techniques you will be incorporating into your sales process. Verify each new methodology with data and results.
- Keep an eye on various sales activities such as changes in deal velocity, improvement or decrease in deals won, the ratio of deals won to deals lost, and more.
Look for methodologies that provide your prospective customers with value that’s actually solving their problems. And you’ll soon start reaping the benefits.