A sales methodology is just a standard approach to selling. It’s the how.
Not to be confused with a sales process that describes the steps in the methodology. It’s the what.
Do you need a sales process? Yes. Do you need a sales methodology? Yes. They go hand in hand.
Without a sales methodology, your sales team will not know how to sell. And more importantly, they will not know how you want them to sell. Even if you have a team of very experienced salespeople, this is true.
It’s your responsibility, as the sales leader to prescribe the approach you want your team to take. You can’t leave this up to each individual. That’s not scalable, and it’s also not effective. Even the most experienced salesperson needs and wants a guide for how you want them to sell to your buyers.
“The sales methodology is like a set of rules for how you sell your products or services to customers.”Sales Hacker
How to implement a sales methodology
The first step, of course, is to select which sales methodology is right for your organization. I’ve listed some popular ones at the bottom of this article. Familiarize yourself with the options and determine which makes the most sense for your type of sale.
Once you have selected the sales methodology, you will need to:
- Create sales playbook materials in support of the methodology
- Train existing team members on the new sales methodology
- Incorporate training into your new hire onboarding materials
- Conduct periodic refresher training via lunch & learns, workshops, etc, to ensure the methodology is adopted and used correctly on an ongoing basis
- Lean on the sales methodology during pipeline reviews, coaching, opportunity huddles, and deal strategy sessions
Rolling out a sales methodology will fail if you don’t incorporate it into your sales culture and make it part of your everyday conversations. Only you, as the sales leader, can ensure the sales methodology is successful.
Avoid the “we don’t need one” trap
If you hire experienced salespeople, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “we don’t need a sales methodology”. You think they are experienced and they know how to sell so why get in their way.
I’ve made this mistake myself and it resulted in poor sales execution and salespeople approaching every deal differently, making deal management frustrating for everyone—the customers, the sales team and me.
Every salesperson needs a framework for how you want them to sell. And every team needs to use the same approach to selling. Without one, you are no more than a loosely held together band of lone wolves, each making things up on the fly, or randomly pulling in various approaches based on the situation.
You’ll find yourself being unable to coach and provide deal strategy, because each deal will be in a different state. Some sellers will use X as a qualification criteria, others will use Y. Some will handle objections this way, some that way. Some will have a late-stage deal with fundamental information still uncovered, others will have deals stuck in the first stage because they are digging too deep.
If you hire experienced salespeople, it never hurts to hear about what type of methodology they have used in the past, what’s worked and what hasn’t. A sales methodology can be adapted as you use it and find what’s working best. But at the end of the day, you need to be prescriptive about how your team sells, no matter how experienced the team is.
The upside of implementing a sales methodology
When you roll out a sales methodology to your team, you will all be rowing in the same direction, approaching your sales process with the same philosophy. Coaching will be easier because you will be using a common framework to assess deals and provide feedback. Reporting will be more consistent because everyone will be using the same method to progress deals through the buyers’ journey. Deal strategy will be less complex because you will be using the same playbook.
Consider that a sales process defines a step or stage, but that a methodology defines what is happening in that stage—the information we are exchanging with the buyer, the way we are finding, creating and addressing need.
Plus implementing a sales methodology is just more effective. Your results will be better for it.
The downside of implementing a sales methodology
I’ve experienced only one downside of implementing a sales methodology: turning your team into robots.
Anybody can follow a sales methodology, but it takes skill to do it well. When you start using a methodology—regardless of which one—even your most experienced salespeople can slip into “check the box” questions and robotic conversations. That turns the benefits of a sales methodology into a massive fail.
So, when you roll it out, make sure your salespeople understand they still need to use their natural curiosity and relationship building skills. Monitor conversations closely the first few months to ensure the implementation of your methodology is creating a great buying experience. Do a lot of coaching, role play, and deal strategy sessions to really infuse your sales methodology into your culture and make it second nature for everyone.
Some popular sales methodologies
You can make up your own, you can combine things you like from existing methodologies, or you can use one “by the book”. Here are some popular sales methodologies often used in SaaS companies—no need to invent one yourself, as there are many tried and true sales methodologies like these: