Sales Process vs. Sales Methodology.
Both are extremely important.
Both are critical to setting your sales strategy.
Both are often misunderstood, miscategorized or missing!
Every company engaged in selling should define a sales process. Most do not have one, do not recall all the steps/stages or it is the knowledge of very few in their organization.
Simply put, it is the steps or stages that a customer moves through as they advance towards making a purchase from that company. Using the example in the image associated with this article, we can walk through a simple sales process.
Prospect: a potential customer comes into contact with the company (this can be sales or marketing initiated).
Qualify: a determination is made if this prospect fits the new business criteria set by the company (is it sufficient size, in the ideal trading area, target market, etc.). Qualification can be done by the sales representative or in a larger, more sophisticated selling organization, qualification can be done by another function and then turned over to sales as a qualified lead.
Research/Discovery: sales works with the customer to understand their needs and assesses potential opportunities.
Present/Demonstrate: sales reports back to the customers with insights, learnings and solutions.
Check-in/Trial Close: seek to understand where the customer is with proposed solutions. Are there unanswered questions or unresolved concerns?
Manage Objections: work with the customer to give all the required information so as to alleviate concerns.
Close (Get Order): get the customer commitment, gain the order.
Follow-up: after the order is fulfilled, ensure the customer is satisfied. Explore for other opportunity areas.
Repeat: if it is ongoing business, ensure that future orders will flow and quality of interactions ensue.
It is critical for many in the organization to understand the sales process. Not all stages may be managed by a sales representative. For example, marketing and inside sales may uncover and qualify the prospect before handing off to sales. The follow-up (customer satisfaction) and the ongoing relationship may be managed by many other than the sales representative.
In working with a customer relationship management tool (CRM tool), the steps or stages associated with the sales process are useful in determining how opportunities are advancing through the sales process. In coaching a sales representative, a sales manager can look for opportunities stuck at a stage and try to help get it “unstuck”. This work may also point to a skill development need if a sales representative consistently gets stuck at the same stage.
The skills or style of selling that a sales representative will use to move a customer through the stages of a sales process is often a sales methodology.
Sales methodologies are often thought of as sales training. There are many sales training systems available in the market. Examples are:
Professional Selling Skills
Sandler Selling System
Strategic Selling (Miller Heiman)
Solution Selling (SPI)
The Challenger Sale
I am not going to advocate one system over another but I do feel it is extremely important for a company to have a sales methodology. It is the common standard by which all sales people will sell and interact with customers.
In hiring a sales representative, why would you assume that someone else had the foresight to ensure that they were given sound sales training that would complement your company’s business philosophy and practices?
A sales methodology helps guarantee that a customer is supported in a professional and efficient fashion by a sales representative. It should also give a quicker closer cycle and a higher percentage of closed won opportunities.
Working against the standards associated with a specific sales methodology, a sales manager can identify skill deficits that need development.
With a sales methodology, marketing can adapt campaigns, literature and internet resources to align with the methodology by which the sales organization is going to interact with a company’s customers.
Sales Process and Sales Methodology
Sales process is quite distinct from a sales methodology. It is impossible to envision sales success for a company without both. By establishing a sales process that is supported by a sales methodology, you are well on the way to a sales strategy!
Tom Fournier, founder of the Shade's Mills Group, history enthusiast and happy walker!