When people ask me “Do I need a sales methodology?” my answer is always an emphatic “Yes.”
The sales methodology is a strategic organizational decision on how you want Sales to interact with buyers and how you will move buyers from one sales stage to the next. For example, successful organizations have a methodology for how they approach prospecting, presentation, and pitch.
Many organizations hire salespeople with a "proven track record,” give them process and product training, and then leave it up to them to go figure it out. I am not downplaying talent, but I do believe that talent is more likely to succeed if there is a coordinated, repeatable, buyer-centric approach to moving buyers from one stage to the next.
Organizations that have defined and optimized their sales methodology often see the following benefits:
1) Faster Onboarding: As I mentioned before, the standard operating procedure for most companies is to hire proven sales reps and provide them with product and some sales process training. Then reps spend months (or longer) trying to “figure it out.” Instead of waiting for sales reps to figure out what works from scratch, organizations should translate proven approaches and best practices into a methodology that new sales reps can follow immediately. With a methodology in place as well as training and coaching, sales reps can “figure it out” quicker because they can leverage a plan that works.
2) Better Coaching: It’s hard to effectively coach sales reps if a foundation isn’t put in place. With a common methodology, sales leaders can effectively revisit the specific plays that successful sales reps have made in the past. And when both sides know the plays that should be run, it’s easier to communicate.
3) Process Optimization: If every salesperson is doing something completely different, it’s hard to identify what is legitimately working or not working. When everyone is running a common methodology, trends emerge.
So how should a sales leader implement a sales methodology within their organization?
1) Map the buying process.
The first step to determining anything in sales is to map the steps a buyer takes to purchase a product like yours. The map should start with the status quo and follow each step until purchase (and beyond). You should talk to buyers and salespeople to make sure you develop a deep understanding of the buying process.
For each step in the buying process you want to understand the following details:
Information and content they consume
How they communicate
What they need to get to the next step
Key questions and objections
Roadblocks that prevent them from advancing in the process
2) Align your sales process to your customer’s buying process.
Once you understand how your buyers want to buy, you can design a sales process that matches their buying process. You should detail the touchpoints where sales will engage with buyers. For each touchpoint, you want to clearly outline what the buyer is doing, how Sales should engage with the buyer, and exit criteria that determine whether a buyer has moved to the next step.
3) Develop a methodology to support each step in the sales process.
Once the sales process is defined, the methodology tells the salesperson what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and what to do next. For example, I work with many companies who (smartly) deploy a standard methodology for their initial pitch and demo. The goal of this “first call” methodology is to be able to effectively present their solution and move qualified buyers into demos. They will likely need another methodology for negotiation or prospecting. Because you have worked in detail to understand your buyer, you will have the ability to create a methodology that makes sense for your organization and more importantly, for your buyer.
4) Document, train, coach, and optimize your methodology.
Most methodologies and processes fall down because there is no reinforcement going forward. First, document the methodology in a playbook that is consumable for reps and provides tips for managers. Then train the sales team on the playbook quarterly. Sales leaders and front-line coaches need to embrace the methodology and coach their sales reps on a regular basis to master it. And finally, meet regularly to aggregate feedback and make changes. It will be easier to adjust because you have a common way to talking to the buyer.
The final thing I will say is whether you choose a third-party trainer to help build the methodology or not is up to you. The most important thing is to have a methodology. It’s that simple. Companies with a sales methodology and the infrastructure to support it are built to scale.
Originally published Mar 5, 2015 9:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017