Sales Methodology Definition
The term “sales methodology” has been around for a long time. It was a way to elevate sales training to a business process. The idea was to put sales on par with other operational methodologies that drive manufacturing, finance and HR.
Sales vendors quickly hijacked the term and planted their flags on concepts and acronyms. Intellectual property (and we use that word loosely) was packaged and branded. Almost immediately, the term “sales methodology” got muddied.
We’re staring at 2020, nearly 50 years after the consultative sales revolution. And the definition is still unclear to reps and leaders.
The dictionary tells us the following:
a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity.
So, for this discussion, a sales methodology is a system of methods your organization uses to generate revenue.
In the real world, asking a sales leader if they have a sales methodology elicits a range of responses. Many will groan and roll their eyes. Others are zealots of a particular sales training vendors.
Let’s tackle the groans and eye-rolls first. A sales leader’s past experience with the topic typically is marked with many failed attempts. Lots of money and time to implement something that didn’t generate a return. Abandoned efforts. Flavor-of-the-month approaches. Changing leadership and direction. And on, on. Bad experiences often lead to skeptics, and rightfully so.
These negative experiences suggest a strong correlation between the word “methodology” and a training vendor’s branded program. A curious finding.
What other business functions would describe the methods they use to conduct day-to-day operations by referring to a vendor? If we asked about a manufacturer’s method to produce a piece of equipment, would they refer to their McKinsey Manufacturing System? Or, if you asked a retailer about their product development method, would they reply, “Oh yes, we’re a Simon Sinek, shop. We use his methodology.”?
Of course that seems odd. But let’s dig deeper…
Just last week a sales leader said to me, “I’ve tried many methodologies. They’re all about the same. The acronyms might change. We just need to pick one and stick with it.”
An honest answer and one that many sales leaders likely believe to be true. But we think this perspective misses the point… by a longshot.
The real question is whether an organization should buy vs. build a method for their sales.
Many sales leaders choose to buy a sales methodology because it seems easy. Building a sales methodology sounds hard. All things being equal, easy wins.
But things are rarely equal. Here’s a quick guide to help to decide whether you should buy or build a custom sales methodology:
- Does your team need to deliver a sales experience differentiated from your competition?
- Does your method of sales need to reflect your unique brand promise and positioning?
- Not invented here syndrome: Is your team skeptical of things that aren’t home grown?
- Does sales management need a “say” in the design to feel like they have ownership?
- Do you need a method that can evolve as your business changes?
- Is your market undergoing shifts in buying behavior and/or competitors?
- Are your sales KPIs and performance metrics unique?
- Do you need to demonstrate clear ROI from the methodology?
- Do you have many roles that touch the customer?
- Are channel and other external partners involved in your sales process?
- Do support functions like marketing and product need guidance on how best to integrate their efforts with sales?
- Is it critical to align internal processes with customer-facing processes?
- Are your opportunities highly situational, influenced by numerous deal factors?
- Do you sell a complex set of products / services that are tailored uniquely to meet individual customer needs?
If you answered Yes to the majority of these questions, your organization would see a great benefit from building a custom sales methodology.
If you answered No to most, the sophistication of your sales model is likely lower. You might benefit from an off-the-shelf vendor methodology.
Owning Your Way of Sales
In basic terms, a sales methodology is your persona to buyers. Your sales methodology should clearly illustrate ‘how’ to execute the sales experience. A great sales experience is a must today. It provides your prospects a free sample of your company and your solution.
A sales methodology is also your internal sales operating system. It defines the language, processes, inputs, and outputs of your sales team. It also maps the way other functions interface with sales.
So it should be clear. Modern sales requires an effective system of methods to generate revenue. Our experience across multiple industries and sales models finds the best path to that methodology: building your own. There’s much more to gain by investing the time and resources to create a sustainable way of sales that’s unique to your organization. This approach means your sales process adapts to your specific deal scenarios. It is situational to your pattern of buyers, markets, competitors, and more. Building vs. buying a generic program also ensures you deliver a compelling and differentiated customer experience. Adoption speed and increased sales effectiveness will outweigh any false sense of savings.
Reach out to schedule a workshop to learn more about our proven and fast approach to building your unique way of sales.
About The Author
Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.