Primer: Sales Methodology and the Process

Primer: Sales Methodology and the Process

A sales methodology to sales operations is like an operating system e.g. Windows or Linux to a computer. It defines the language, the drivers and the how of selling to customers. The purpose of a sales methodology is to drive sales effectiveness and focus the development of sales skills. Having a universal language for sales in the organization is the first step to optimizing sales for the organization. A universal language removes any ambiguity on terminology allowing better forecasts and easier communication, when salespeople are requesting support from management. For example, when a salesperson in an organization using conceptual selling explains to management why their customers’ economic buying influencer (EBI) is not moving the deal forward because of doubts. Management would understand the importance of the EBI and how to structure a sales call to the customer. There are various sales methodologies being used to structure the sales processes in organizations today. While the selection of a sales methodology may be decided at a high level, regardless of which methodology an organization chooses to adopt, the enablement and analysis skills required of the sales operations team are equally applicable. Here is a short summary of some of the popular sales methodologies and use.

Miller Heiman Conceptual Selling

Conceptual selling was developed by Steven Heiman and Robert Miller. It focuses on the idea of selling a concept to your buyer instead of a product. The goal is to discover the concept that the customer is looking for by following the three step approach.

1.    Get information.  Gather information on the customer such as the organization's needs. It is important to understand what solution the customer is looking for and to find out the problem that they are looking to solve. This step is also important in identifying the key stakeholders, their potential role in influencing the sale and their attitude towards your organization.

2.    Gain support. After determining the level of support from the stakeholders, the salesperson needs to win the support by understanding what each stakeholder values and help them see how the concept will deliver that value. This may be done by linking the customers needs to the product your organization provides showing how your solution can help the customer achieve the concept that they have.

3.    Get commitment. Consistently move the deal forward. This can be done by getting your buyer to commit to the next step e.g. a demonstration with management a discussion on technical specifications a possible trial period a date for project implementation etc.

The Challenger Sale

The Challenger Sale is based on the book by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. This model classifies salespeople into five types. The most effective of which are the challengers. First are the relationship builders. Second are the hard workers. Three are the lone wolves. Four are the problem solvers and number five are the challengers. 

Dixon and Adamson have identified the approach that makes challengers salespeople effective. They reduce it to three points which are summarized below.

1.    Teach. By sharing knowledge on the industry and how your situation is relevant to the customer. A challenger shows value and helps the customer to understand more than how your product or solution works by changing the customer's perspective of their business. The challenger changes the customer's perspective of your organization.

2.    Tailor. Challengers often tailor their communications with customers for impact by adjusting their communications based on the customer’s value drivers and their own understanding of the customers or organization. The goal is to have better value based discussions instead of just imparting knowledge.

3.    Take control. Challengers take control of the sale by bringing new ideas to the table. The challenger pushes the customer convincing them of the urgency of the problem but in a way that is respectful and sensitive to their reactions.

Solution Selling

Solution selling teaches that salespeople should focus less on specific products and more on aligning their selling activities with how customers buy. Solution selling has evolved over the years. But it boils down to following these nine steps.

1.    Prospecting

2.    Diagnosing customer needs

3.    Crafting a potential solution

4.    Establishing value

5.    Understanding the customer's decision making

6.    Bargaining for access to decision makers

7.    Positioning proof why the total solution

8.    Negotiating a win win solution

9.    Following up to ensure customer success.

 The goal is to build a collaborative relationship with the customer. This is one where they are willing to engage in value based discussions and trust in your organization's ability to develop solutions.

Customer-centric Selling

Customer-centric selling focuses on the customer instead of the usual processes such as making presentations convincing your buyer or offering solutions. This approach believes the sale is won by having intelligent conversations with key stakeholders which help customers visualize how to use your organization's product or service. The seven tenants of customer-centric selling are.

1.    Have situational conversations

2.    Ask relevant questions instead of offering opinions

3.    Focus on the solution instead of the relationship

4.    Target the stakeholders instead of the users

5.    Relate product to usage to Customer

6.    Manage the sale

7.    Empower buyers

While the difference in sales methodology may seem slight it is their ideologies that set them apart and as a result they each approach sales from a different perspective. Some are geared towards customer acquisition others toward retention. Some are geared towards large accounts and others may be better suited to quick turnaround on sales. It is important to understand the strengths in each methodology and choose or adapt them to your organization's needs. Some organizations may mix and match elements from two or more methodologies to customize it to their organization. After all the sales methodology has been aligned to the organization's vision and sales objectives and if there is no perfect solution then it makes sense to customize one to fit the organization.

Where methodologies are the big picture sales processes give us step by step off stage of the sales cycle for each individual opportunity. They provide a clear guide on what the salesperson needs to do. At each stage what outcome to expect and what the next stage is. From prospecting to qualifying to close, by having a process it reduces the time salespeople need to think about how to execute on their sales by staying consistent. A sales process is important for gaining new customers and planning sales calls through structured engagement. The sales process should be a collection of best practices for moving the customer through each stage of the process and the desired outcome of each stage. Very often a win loss analysis of deals feeds back into the modification and evolution of an organization's sales process.

Whichever sales process your organization has adopted the goal is to have a standardized and repeatable approach to selling with language that is universally understood in the organization.

From a sales operations perspective, the sales process chosen by the organization will impact how the enablement is carried out from training, to selection of tools as well as what metrics to keep track of administration of proposals, quotations and lead generation may also feed into the process.

Primer: Sales Enablement and Training

Primer: Sales Enablement and Training

Primer: Sales Operations

Primer: Sales Operations