March 10, 2022 An Introduction to Sales Methodologies Written by Karli Stone A scalable, measurable, and repeatable selling process is every sales leader’s dream. Because knowing what works and why is the key to increasing productivity, unlocking untapped growth, and boosting revenue. But, if each individual sales rep is free-styling their sales communications and following their own sales methods, how will you ever be able to make data-driven decisions? You won’t. That’s why you need a sales methodology. Sales methodologies are all about standardization. They help sales reps get from point A to point B while staying in line with organizational best-practices and utilizing well-researched methods. This blog will teach you everything you need to know about sales methodologies and how you can employ them to gather data-driven insights, build better customer relationships, and boost conversions. [lwptoc] What is a sales methodology? A sales methodology is a framework, philosophy, or general tactic that guides how a salesperson approaches each step within the sales process. The difference between a sales methodology and a sales process is important… While a sales process is a series of actionable steps, a sales methodology uses principles and best practices to guide seller action within those steps. In short: sales methodologies are the how. They bridge the gap between what needs to be done and how to do it. Why do you need a sales methodology? To explain the importance of a sales methodology, the Art & Science of Complex Sales uses this expression: Process – Methodology = Inferior results Methodology – Process = Inconsistent results Process + Methodology = Success In order to find sales success, your sales process needs to go hand-in-hand with sales methodology. Think of it in the context of building a house. “Process” is like the stages and steps a general contractor takes to get from the blueprints to the completed building. “Methodology” is the skills and capabilities of the individuals who get the work done (such as subcontractors, tradespeople, laborers, etc). If the general contractor has a process but the workers don’t have good skills, the building will be built poorly. If the workers have good construction skills, but the contractor doesn’t have the stages and steps in the right order, the building may not get completed or it may take much, much longer to construct than necessary. But when methodology is aligned with process, you get a well-constructed house. Or, in this case, killer sales numbers, Based on a CSO Insights report, organizations with established and mature sales methodology have higher success rates of quota fulfillment. Sales methodologies provide sales teams with: A clear path for sellers to followFaster go-to-market processes and accelerated onboardingBetter customer relationships and improved customer retentionAn arsenal of best practices that are based on success ratesA common language for sales reps to move towards team goalsTools for analyzing challenges and finding the best solutionsImproved communication between internal teams and members of the sales and marketing organization What sales methodology will work best for me? Implementing a methodology that doesn’t align with your sales funnel, your customers’ needs, and your business goals can hurt sales performance. Which it’s why it’s so important to choose sales methods that are right for you, ones that fit comfortably into your organization and your product. To find the best sales methodologies for your needs, think about the three key areas of your business: Strategy. Consider your current sales and go-to-market strategy – what do you want to achieve and how can a sales methodology help? Keep in mind that different methodologies support different lengths and types of sales cycles and require different levels of customer engagement. Product. Your product defines how customers move towards a purchase. Some products are easy to use and can be bought through a self-service portal. Others require deeper education from your sales teams in order to convince customers to buy. Choose sales methodologies that support your product. Customers. Depending on how you want to engage your customers and the type of experience you want to provide, some methodologies may be more suitable to your needs than others. Overall, the most important skill in choosing the right sales methodology isn’t mastering a single method. It’s having a handful at your disposal and knowing which sales method to apply to which situation. You have a lot of options. Let’s take a look at some of the top sales methodologies: Top Sales Methodologies SPIN Selling Popularized by Neil Rackham’s book, SPIN Selling, the SPIN method is one of the oldest and most popular sales methodologies to date. SPIN is an acronym for the four elements that a sales rep’s questions should revolve around: situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff. Situational questions help you establish the buyer’s context during the opening stage of a sale. (e.g. “How does your team currently track XYZ?”, “What tools are you using?”). Problem questions draw out pain points a prospect may have. (e.g. “What are the biggest challenges your company faces with XYZ?”, “How time-consuming is it to track XYZ?”). Implication questions ask the prospect how a problem is impacting them and get them thinking about the consequences of leaving the problem unsolved. (e.g. “Are you experiencing high turnover because of this difficulty?”, “Does X expense increase because of Y?”). Need-payoff questions ask the prospect to consider how their situation would change if the problem was resolved. They are intended to get the prospect to imagine a world where their problem no longer exists, prompting them to buy. (e.g. “How would a faster system change your business?”, “Would doing X make it easier to reach your business goals?”). The goal of SPIN is to help guide prospects to draw conclusions and realizations about your product on their own. SPIN selling is best for: Sales reps who sell directly to consumers, such as retail salesBusinesses looking to build trust in the marketSales where prices are negotiation and emotions/pain points can be leveragedBusinesses with a long sales cycle who want to shorten time to commitment The Challenger Method Based on a book from Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, the Challenger sales methodology starts by claiming that every B2B salesperson fits into one of five personas: relationship builders, hard workers, lone wolves, problem solvers, and challengers. And, according to Adamson and Dixon’s research, the most successful of these personas are the challengers – by a wide margin. Over 50% of top complex sellers fit the challenger profile (or use the Challenger method). What makes challengers so successful? They follow a teach-tailor-take control process, which is what the Challenger sales methodology is all about: Teach customers something new and valuable about how to compete in their market. Tailor your sales pitch to resonate with the decision-maker’s specific issue and get buy-in from the entire organization. Take control of discussions around pricing and challenge (or bring a new perspective) to the customer’s thinking around a problem. The Challenger method is an education-based approach. It’s all about leading with insight and assuming that the customer doesn’t know everything. Challengers know what will cut costs for their prospects and provide unique perspectives on the market. The Challenger method is especially good for: Businesses in a new product categoryBusinesses that sell a complex problem or serviceSellers who work with long-term customers or relationship-based selling SNAP Selling SNAP Selling is rooted in the idea that today’s buyers are distracted by other priorities, projects, and challenges. That they are often resistant to anything that seems complex, risky, or simply takes too much of their time… Selling to these frazzled buyers using the SNAP method consists of 4 straightforward steps: Keep it Simple – Make it easy and clear for buyers and don’t over complicate your pitch. Do this with 30-second phone messages, 90-word emails, or one-page letters. Be iNvaluable – Be the person your customers can’t live without. Rather than pitching to them like every other sales rep, demonstrate your understanding of their business and bring the buyer new ideas. Always Align – Stay in sync with your customers’ needs and critical business objectives. Raise Priorities – Keep the important decisions at the forefront of the conversation and always tie their priorities into your messaging. SNAP Selling is perfect for: Reps who are selling to under-resourced buyers that don’t want/need a comprehensive educationSellers who pitch to executives, C-Suite, or other busy buyersBusinesses in highly-researched, well-understood industries Sandler Selling System The Sandler Selling system flips the script on the classic sales model. Sales have historically been based on the idea that buyers are pursued by sellers, but the Sandler methodology says that both parties should be equally invested. It prioritizes building mutual trust on both sides through seven steps: 1. Bonding and rapport building. Establish a bond that encourages open and honest communication. 2. Up-front contracts. Establish roles and set expectations to create a comfortable environment in which to do business. 3. Pain. Dive in and uncover the problems your prospect has. 4. Budget. Uncover if your prospect is willing and able to invest the time, money, and resources needed to fix their problem. 5. Decision. Find out who, what, where, why, and how the prospect wants the buying process to go. 6. Fulfillment. Propose your product or service as the solution to the prospect’s problem. 7. Post-sell. Establish next steps, discuss future business, and prevent the loss of the sale to the competition or buyer’s remorse. Sandler claims that 88% of salespeople trained in the Sandler Selling System said that their sales strategy improved as a direct result of becoming familiar with the methodology. These are amazing results! But don’t be fooled, the Sandler Selling system needs to fit your business model in order to be a smart methodology choice. The Sandler Selling methodology would fit: Businesses with high-touch B2B salesBusiness with a product or service with a unique value proposition that’s competitively pricedOrganizations that emphasize sales prospecting and have high qualification standardsSales reps who have issues with prospects who avoid commitment and/or disappear How to implement a winning sales methodology The goal of implementing a sales methodology is to reduce the number of variables that could impact each deal. If each seller applied their own selling frameworks, it would be impossible to measure what works, what doesn’t, and how it impacts the performance of the whole organization. Think of sales methodology implementation like A/B testing for 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. Below, we’ve outlined how to implement a selling blueprint that not only aligns sales teams, but gives you actionable results. 1. Map your buying process Your first step should be to map out the steps a typical buyer takes on their path to purchase. Your primary goal here is to understand the current state of your buying process, and what’s happening at every touchpoint in the buyer journey. At each stage, ask the following: What is the buyer’s objective?What do they need to make a purchasing decision?What information do they typically consume at this stage?What questions do they ask?What are some common objections?What needs to happen to get them to take the next step?What roadblocks prevent buyers from moving forward? You’ll use these insights to help you uncover the best possible sales methodology to use for each touchpoint. 2. Understand buyer needs Next, the buyers’ needs have to be taken into account. You’ll need to bridge the gap between their needs and what your current sales messaging is. This might require you to employ some qualitative research (e.g. talking to customers on the phone, assembling focus groups, etc.) You should segment buyer needs into three buckets: Business needs. These can be identified using a sales intelligence platform, like Apollo.io’s B2B database, or directly reaching out to your prospects during the discovery phase. Financial needs. What is the value your product or service delivers to your buyer? This bucket is for potential buyers who have prominent fiscal pain points. Personal needs. Apart from technical or fiscal needs, buyers can have personal motivations. Maybe this is career advancement, personal time-savings, or desire to fit it to a certain group. 3. Determine which methodology you’ll use at each stage You can have a pre-dominant sales methodology across your sales team, but it shouldn’t be treated as a one-size-fits-all solution. Adam Hawes, CRO at GatherContent, uses this analogy: “Sales methodologies are like items in your wardrobe. You need to choose the right one for the right occasion and you should be comfortable combining different methodologies to meet your buyer’s needs.” Using that mindset, you’ll need to determine which methodologies you’ll apply within the different buying stages and at each touchpoint. We recommend you start by selecting an overarching methodology that aligns with your brand’s voice and values. If you sell to a lot of C-suite executives, you might opt to use SNAP selling. If you’re selling to customers who have complex problems, you might choose consultative selling or the Challenger method. Feel free to adopt existing methodologies or develop unique methodologies based on your own understanding of your customers. From here, start to layer in methodologies that apply to specific parts of the sales process. Inbound selling could work to engage buyers during the research stage or MEDDIC could help with lead qualification and initial conversations. This is the time to mix, match, and customize methodologies to meet the specific needs of your buyers. 4. Create training and coaching materials Once you’ve finalized your methodology mix, you need to create the right training and coaching processes and materials. This is arguably the most important part of implementing sales methodologies. There needs to be a universal understanding that these methodologies hold importance and should be used in and through all sales conversations. And not because you want to force everyone to be compliant, but because leadership teams believe it will lead to better results. Here are some strategies for this fourth and final stage: Document all of your new methodologies in great detailCreate guides and playbooks that salespeople can immediately utilizeDevelop group training opportunities and interactive exercisesCreate coaching plans for 1:1 skills developmentGather detailed analytics and reports for future optimization and adjustment Final Thoughts Without a sales methodology in place, your whole sales process can fall apart. Establishing a clear methodology strategy helps sales teams learn which behaviors, tactics, questions, and content impacts the sales process for better or for worse. One thing to keep in mind: never be static! Buyer expectations are always evolving and competitive landscapes continue to get tougher. Consistently re-visit your sales methodologies, and experiment which approaches bring your organization more booked meetings, more closed deals, and more satisfied customers. For more sales insights, connect with Apollo.io across your socials! Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, or (even better!) sign-up for Apollo.io to unlock a world of actionable sales intelligence and insights. Karli Stone Karli Stone is a copy writer and content creator living in Los Angeles, CA and a proud University of Washington grad. When she’s not wordsmith-ing, you can find her biking along Santa Monica Beach, following the Seattle Seahawks, or catching a flick at her local cinema.