Understanding the difference between sales process and sales methodology can be confusing as they often get mixed up. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your sales team it is important that you not only understand the difference between the two, but how each improves sales performance in different ways. In this blog post I'm going to help you determine, which does your team need, sales process or sales methodology?
Let me first distinguish the differences between sales process and sales methodology and then I will offer some insights to help you determine if your sales team needs a sales process, sales methodology or both.
Sales Process-Like Going for a Hike in the Mountains
Imagine going for a long hike in the Rocky Mountains. Your adventure begins by laying out the map on your kitchen table and identifying the trail head from where your hike will begin. This is your starting point. At the same time you also identify on the map your final destination. You mark this with a big X. Once out on the trail you come across sign posts every couple of miles indicating your location and the distance remaining before arriving at your final destination. Keep in mind that your journey takes all kinds of twists and turns and you may even find yourself turned around or going the wrong way but fortunately these sign posts are there to guide you. They keep you moving in the right direction.
Top performing sales professionals recognize that corporate buyers go on their own buyer's journey when it comes to evaluating and purchasing products and services. The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. A sales process includes the steps the seller and the buyer must complete before a deal can be consummated. As with going for a hike, a sales process will highlight objective, verifiable sign posts or milestones (think mile makers on the trail) that tell the salesperson they're going in the right direction and indicate how close they are to their final destination (closed deal). As with hiking, your sales journey will likely entail overcoming different hurdles but if you follow your sales process it will prevent you from bushwhacking. A buyer aligned sales process keeps salespeople focused on the customer and ensures the sales rep and the buyer are completing the milestones to ensure they both arrive at their intended destination.
Sales Methodology-The Skills, Tools and Knowledge to Complete the Hike
To optimize our journey and reach our final destination quickly and safely we need to have the proper tools, skills and techniques. For our hike we will want flashlights, topographic maps, hiking boots, climbing rope, crampons and carbines. Naturally we’ll need to know when and how to use these tools.
In order to lead our customer through their buyer journey (AKA sales process) and arrive at the final destination we will need the proper tools, skills, knowledge and techniques. The key of course is knowing when and how to apply these tools , knowledge and skills such as active listening, disarming, objection handling, effective probing questions, business acumen, call planning and many others.
Do I need a Sales Process or a Sales Methodology?
Now that we've distinguished the difference between sales process and sales methodology you are probably wondering, which does my team need? Technically you need both and here is why. I could go to REI and purchase all of the latest and greatest hiking equipment but if I don’t have those sign posts to guide me I’ll still get lost. On the other hand, I could get the best map in the world and maybe even pick up a GPS but if I don’t have the skills, and knowledge I could still end up dead on the side of the trail. Having the map (sales process) without the skills, tools, knowledge and technique (methodology) is even worse.
To optimize sales performance you need both a sales process and sales methodology. In fact, your sales process should support the execution of your sales methodology. Once you define your sales process including the buyer journey you can build a sales methodology that is designed to support your sellers and buyers as they progress through their buying journey. Having alignment between your sales process and sales methodology ensures that the salesperson is perceived by the customer as being helpful (rather than salesy) throughout the process. This keeps the seller in sync with the buyer.
Common Sales Methodology and Sales Process Mistakes
Many staffing companies invest in sales improvement initiatives including sales process and sales methodology training but they fail to align their training content (methodology) with their sales process. This creates confusion on behalf of the sales reps as they’re not clear when or how to apply the material or in what context because the methodology and process are out of sync. As a result they quickly abandon everything that was taught during the training and regress back to their old habits.
Another common mistake is companies invest in training but fail to create and deploy supporting sales playbooks and job aids to drive adoption and reinforce the training. Research from Sales Performance International shows that sales reps lose 84% of what they learn in sales training within 90 days. Playbooks drive adoption which improves your ROI.
Finally, the most common and most fatal mistake staffing companies make is the failure to enroll their front line managers in sales methodology training. There seems to be a belief that because the manager is an "industry veteran" they don’t need to be trained on on the sales methodology. To get full adoption from your sales team, your front line managers will need to adopt the sales methodology including all training material so that they can model and coach to the behavior. When companies fail to enroll their managers in training they actually create chaos because your front line managers believe in and model one methodology while their sales team has been trained to follow a different sales methodology. For more details on sales methodology, check out our eBook, Sales Methodology 101 for IT Staffing firms.
So, which does your team, sales process or sales methodology? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.