Sales Methodology vs. Sale Process: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?
Sales and sales methodology enthusiasts like me may be guilty of sometimes letting ourselves get swept up in our enthusiasm for our topic. We might forget that the terminology we use — while necessary for explaining important concepts — can be confusing. We throw around words like “sales process” and “sales methodology” without slowing down to clearly define the subtle yet critical differences between them.I can admit it. From a certain perspective, there’s not much difference between the words “process” and “methodology. But as I hope to make clear in this article, there are some key distinctions between your sales methodology and your sales process.
For your IT staffing firm to grow, gaining new accounts and empowering your entire sales team to meet and exceed quota, you need both.
Sales Methodology and Sales Process: Two Definitions
Let’s start with a couple definitions.
- A sales process defines the steps that a sales rep and the buyer need to take to complete the purchasing process, from lead, to opportunity, to close. It provides sales reps with a road map telling them exactly what the buyer needs to in their buyer journey and what selling activities the sales rep needs to compel the buyer to complete the next step in their buying process. A documented sales process allows you to identify, qualify, diagnose, and measure opportunities and then determine the next step in the sales process.
- A sales methodology describes how you execute each step within your sales process. Your sales methodology details how a sales rep will compel the prospect to take action and move from one stage of the sales cycle to the next.
The table below provides more details on the differences between a sales process and a sales methodology:
Call plans and call scripts.
Steps customer completes to make purchase.
Account planning or strategic account development.
Stages in your sales cycle.
Objection handling (how you handle objections).
Qualification criteria (how you qualify leads, accounts, opportunities).
How a Sales Process is Like a Trail Map
I like to think of a sales process as a map.
If you’re going for a hike in the mountains, your trail map will tell you exactly what direction to head in to get from one campsite to another and how many miles you’ll have to traverse. In the same way, a sales process will tell you the steps you and your customer will follow to take a deal from start to finish, first email to close.
What your sales process won’t tell you is how to execute each of those steps. The same is true of your trail map. If you encounter a cliff on the way to your campsite, your trail map won’t teach you how to rappel down it. Nor will it do much good in the place of proper climbing equipment.
This is where your sales methodology comes in.
Anyone can get from the top of a cliff to the bottom — with an assist from the law of gravity. But it takes a certain amount of skill, training, and the right equipment to make the trip in one piece.
Similarly, anyone can make a sales call. But it takes a certain amount of skill, training, and the right equipment (a call script, for example) to for the call to result in a follow-up meeting.
Are you starting to see why a sales process without a sales methodology is useless (and vice versa)? While a sales process will tell your reps what to do to close a deal, a sales methodology will tell them how to do it.
It’s really the how that differentiates quota-crushing reps from under performing ones.
Why You Should Integrate Your Sales Methodology Into Your Sales Process
It’s important that you take the time to map out your sales process, including your customers’ purchasing process and how they evaluate IT staffing vendors and hire IT contractors.
Most corporate buyers start evaluating vendors once they realize they have a problem that needs to be solved or a goal that needs to be achieved; perhaps a big project is coming up or the existing vendors are failing. From here, the buyer may begin evaluating vendors. It is from this point forward that you want to map the steps the customer must complete (process) and how you will engage with the buyer at each stage and compel them to move to the next stage of the sales cycle (methodology).
Your sales process supports both the sales rep and customer through the buyer journey or purchasing process as well as your sales methodology.
By integrating your sales methodology into your sales process, including your CRM or ATS, you will accelerate adoption of both your sales methodology and your CRM/ATS tool — not to mention your new hire training and ramp up.
Your Sales Methodology Should Reflect Who You Are as a Business
My recommendation, of course, is that you unite your entire sales team around a single, well-defined, effective sales methodology. Allowing everyone to do their own thing can be disastrous.
This doesn’t mean that each individual sales rep doesn’t have their own personal strengths and can’t continue to leverage those strengths. But it doesn’t mean they get a “free pass” and shouldn’t be required to follow and apply the methodology, either. The methodology should complement each rep’s unique strengths and provide them the support they need around their weaknesses.
Even top performers have weaknesses and bad habits.
(I talk all about this in my latest ebook, “Sales Methodology 101 for IT Staffing Firms: Your 6 Big Questions Answered.” Follow the link for your free copy.)
A good sales methodology emerges naturally from your sales philosophy and values. It expresses how you engage your prospects and your customers. For example, at Menemsha Group, we firmly believe that IT hiring managers (your prospects) expect the time they spend with a salesperson to be a valuable use of their time. So when you look at our call plan methodology and how we engage prospects on a call, or how we conduct a sales meeting, you’ll see our emphasis is always on providing value by educating the client on relevant topics.
Our sales philosophy and values are baked into our sales methodology. Yours should be, too.
I hope I have done my job here and clearly explained the important differences between a sales methodology and a sales process. But if you still have questions, please let me know in the comments section below.
My latest ebook also answers some of the most frequent questions IT staffing firms have about sales methodologies. Get your free copy by clicking below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.