All you need to know about sales methodologies (part one)

Posted on: July 7, 2020

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Category: B2B sales

All you need to know about sales methodologies (part one)

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The activity (or department) that leads to the selling of goods or services

The body of practices, procedures and rules used

Q: What is a sales methodology?

The easiest way to define a sales methodology is to contrast it with a sales process.

A sales process offers a map to guide salespeople through a sale. It blocks out expected steps from engagement to signing upon the dotted line and usually incorporates useful collateral that can be deployed at every stage in the journey.

A sales methodology, however, would be the beliefs and assumptions that inform creating this journey rather than another.

Sales methodologies are the ‘decorum’ manual of sales: the guiding principles for how to act within and between the sales stages.

Method is more important than strength.
By dropping golden beads near a snake, a crow managed to encourage a passer-by to kill the snake for the beads.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Q: So, a sales methodology is something I should copy?

That’s up to you, but there is a strong historic link between sales methodology and copying.

In the 1970s Xerox developed what is widely regarded as the first systematic sales methodology.

Its ‘needs satisfaction’ model specifically set out to provide its salesforce with a ‘mindset’ and way of understanding the psychology of sales to help them navigate the printing and copier market.

Ironically, this ‘blueprint’ helped open up a new revenue model for Xerox as it began selling on its methodology to other companies as a ‘Professional Selling Skills’ course.

Take a method and try it.
If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another.
But by all means, try something.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Q: Why do we need sales methodologies?

Whoooaaah, easy tiger.

The jury is still out as to whether we need sales methodologies or not. Let’s not close the stable doors before we’ve even managed to get this wild horse into the barn!

Sales methodologies are used because people believe they work. This belief is based upon some degree of field testing by themselves or the experts who promote them.

Sales methodologies are designed to encourage best practice and deliver results. They empower crows to slay snakes and salespeople to perform at their best by basing their tactics on psychological and behavioural principles.

Good psychology should include all the methodological techniques,
without having loyalty to one method, one idea, or one person.
Abraham Maslow

Q: How are sales methodologies used?

Like any example of best practice, sales methodologies need to be adopted across an entire team to be effective.

This usually entails a strong focus across your organisation, regular reviews and a programme of formal or informal training.

At all times it is better to have a method.
Mark Caine

Q: Should I adopt a sales methodology?

Yes. No.
A methodology provides a guide to navigating each of the stages that punctuate a buying journey. There are as many buying journeys as there are buyers and a blanket approach may smother the flames of a potential sale.

Many organisations appreciate the structure and focus that sales methodologies provide.

  • Training and team focus

They claim that, alongside increases in deals closed and revenue generated, training and team focus are enhanced.

Sales methodologies provide a structure and framework for team activities and encourage mutual sharing of insight.

A dedication to high-level process, rather than an induction to products, offers a more productive introduction to an organisation. It empowers, rather than cowers, new hires by encouraging them to focus on your buyer personas and processes rather than your products.

Ongoing training also gains from having an overarching structure that informs it.

  • A clearer understanding of the sales process

With everyone adopting the same methodology tracking changes through the process becomes simpler to measure.

In a sense, you can view the adoption of a methodology as a way to apply an A/B test rather than trying to disentangle the effects of approaches as varied as all your team members.

If you want to accomplish something in the world, idealism is not enough
– you need to choose a method that works to achieve the goal.

Richard Stallman

Q: OK, I’m sold – as I’m sure my customers will be. How do I go about getting this baby on the road?

Glad you’re going to take a sales methodology out for a test drive, but I’ll just need to check a few things before I can release the keys.

  • The first is to take a look at your sales process. You are going to apply your methodology to the entire buyer journey. Without a clear map you are on a road to nowhere.
  • Secondly, I’d like to see some details of your buyers’ needs, motivations and triggers. With an understanding of these you’ll be running on empty.
  • Number three is a bit of a curve ball – so get ready to catch this. With your sales process charted, a sudden realisation may dawn. Some methodologies may be more suited to the early stages than the latter. This is where things get tricky: you can now select a methodology that fits each stage. (Don’t sweat – we’re about to cover all the main sales methodologies in our next post – sit tight and keep that seatbelt on.)
  • Finally, just before you head off into the sunset, can I just see your training manual to make sure everything is in order?
No method, no guru, no teacher
Van Morrison

Q: Can I look into this a little more before I sign on the dotted line (and commit to developing a training manual)?

Often the way. What seemed like a great idea suddenly appears tarnished by the mere mention of a training manual.

No problem, before you go all Van the Man on me, let’s make sure you are not about to throw a baby out with the dishwater.

Stick with me, in the next post we’ll line up our ducks and get the main sales methodologies on display for you.

And then we’ll see if you’re ready to sign on the dotted line.

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