What is a sales methodology?
A sales methodology can be best described as the steps involved in winning a deal. It’s different from a sales process in that the sales process is looking at the strategic level whilst the sales methodology is at the tactical level of actually winning a sale.
Therefore it follows that a sales process is less transferable between industries and verticals whilst the same sales methodology can be used by two sales teams in completely different industries.
In this article we’ll go through various sales methodologies describing the benefits of each system and then hopefully discover which system is best suited for your business.
We will be covering the following sales methodologies:
- SPIN Selling
- Sandler Selling System
- Conceptual Selling
- The Challenger Sale
- Inbound Selling
- SNAP Selling
- NEAT Selling
- Value Selling
- So which sales methodology do I pick?
The SPIN selling system was developed by Neil Rackham and was developed from research studies of 35,000 sales calls made by 10,000 sales people in 23 countries.
The results revealed that many of the methods developed for selling low value goods just don’t work for major sales.
Therefore Rackham introduced his SPIN system which refers to:
- S: Situation
- P: Problem
- I: Implication
- N: Needs payoff
The main thrust of SPIN selling is that asking the right questions are more important than trying to close. By asking the right questions you demonstrate empathy for the prospect, build trust and get to the bottom of what they want.
The questions revolve around their situation, problem, implication and needs payoff.
Situation questions are there to provide you with the background information you’ll need to properly assess the prospect’s needs. A few examples of situation questions are:
- Explain to me how a typical day works for you
- Who is responsible for X?
- How important is X to your business?
Problem questions are designed to get to the pain points of the prospect and the issues they face daily when trying to operate their business. They’re designed to get to the core needs of the prospect. Some examples of problem questions are:
- How difficult is it to process orders with your current system?
- How long does it usually take to find the information you’re looking for and is it difficult?
- How long does it take to do X and why?
Implication questions are as the title would imply the consequences for the prospect of the problems. By asking them you want to impress upon the prospect that the problem(s) are significant and in need of being redressed. Some examples of implication questions are:
- Does doing X this way negatively affect productivity?
- How does [problem] affect your team?
- What would you do with the time/cost savings from solving X?
Needs payoff questions on the other hand focus the prospect’s attention on your solution. By asking these questions you get the prospect to understand that your solution can alleviate the problem and get them to parrot back the benefits, examples of needs pay-off questions are:
- Would X make it easier to achieve [some goal]?
- Would your team find value in being able to dial out of their CRM at the same time as logging call notes?
- How much time would you save with X?
With SPIN selling the goal isn’t to dictate the benefits of your solution to them but by asking the right questions you weave a narrative that gets them to understand your offering’s benefits which is always better and gains a stronger commitment from them than if they thought they were bamboozled by some fast talking sales pitch after the fact.
Sandler Selling System
The Sandler system is a less pushy sales methodology that assumes that both the seller and prospect are both invested in the sales conversation and the sales rep is more like a trusted advisor than a pushy salesman.
First contact with the prospect is like a relaxed conversation rather than a formal sales call and objections are not avoided at first but brought up, this makes qualifying leads for the sales rep easier and they can know more quickly whether their solution is the right fit for the prospect.
The basic building blocks of the Sandler method are building a rapport with the prospect first, then dealing with any obstacles such as budgetary constraints and then once qualified focusing on pain points to close the deal.
The Sandler method is a great time saver for sales reps because of dealing with objections at the first hurdle rather than after a significant time investment has been made by both parties.
Conceptual selling was developed by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman. It focuses not on selling the product but on the prospect’s concept of a product or service and how it relates to the issues they’re facing.
Conceptual selling is similar to what we’ve discussed previously as it focuses not on pitching but listening to the prospect. This is done to fully understand the prospect’s concept of the issues they’re facing.
Once again in order to gain an insight into the prospect’s concept of the issues they’re facing you have to ask the right questions. In conceptual selling questions can be categorised into three stages; getting information, giving information, and getting a commitment.
Additionally there are five categories of questions as well:
- Confirmation questions reaffirm information.
- New information questions clarify the prospect’s concept of the product or service and explore what they’d like to achieve.
- Attitude questions seek to understand a prospect on a personal level and discover their connection to the project.
- Commitment questions inquire after a prospect’s investment in the project.
- Basic issue questions raise potential problems.
As you can see by following the conceptual selling framework you are focused on listening to the prospect and by asking the appropriate questions you leave the prospect and yourself as the seller with a feeling that the sale will be win-win for both parties. If it isn’t then the seller should walk away.
The Challenger Sale
The Challenger sale method is a relative newcomer and it throws the old understanding out of the window. So far we’ve heard a lot about understanding and building a rapport with the prospect but the challenger method “challenges” that received wisdom.
The better approach is to in fact take control of the sales conversation and teach the prospect.
Challenger sales were developed by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson in 2011, they looked through thousands of sales reps and found that there were five common profiles:
- The Hard Worker: A self motivated striver who puts in the work and loves feedback.
- The Relationship Builder: Is great at building a rapport with clients and is generous with the amount of time they give each prospect.
- The Lone Wolf: An independent type that follows their own instincts
- The Problem Solver: A reliable and details oriented type.
- The Challenger: Focused on the end goal, loves to debate and doesn’t mind pushing the customer out of their comfort zone
Out of these five profiles the challengers represented 40% of the top performing reps in Dixon and Adamson’s analysis.
Challengers win by understanding the way the prospect works and seeing the flaws and drawbacks and pointing out a better way, to get the prospect out of their comfort zone and see a new way of doing things. The challenger sales method is especially useful in complex sales situations where taking charge can be more beneficial in moving things along.
Inbound selling has become more and more popular with the rise of the internet. It’s about pulling in your customers whether it be through content marketing or social media.
We’ve grown our user base for RealtimeCRM by focussing on who are customers are and then building a content machine that is relevant to them that draws them in.
For a tight inbound marketing strategy you need to have a granular understanding of who your customers are and where they are. Then be ready when they land on your site or social media to engage with them, whether it’s reaching out through DMs or on your live chat – you want to focus on active prospects who’ve shown an interest by reaching out to you in some way.
MEDDIC stands for:
- Metrics: What is the economic impact of the solution?
- Economic Buyer: The person in charge of the budget
- Decision Criteria: The criteria used to compare different supplier offerings
- Decision Process: The stages in their supplier selection process, in layman’s terms how will they pick a supplier?
- Identify Pain: What is the pain and link it to their KPIs and state what the cost of doing nothing is
- Champion: The key individual who has the power to drive the opportunity and evangelise for your offering.
The MEDDIC methodology was developed back in the 90s which is now a very long time ago though it seems like it was only a few years ago. The crux of this sales methodology is better qualification so you know whether to invest more time and effort into a worthwhile prospect.
There’s nothing worse than not knowing and wasting your time on rotting deals in your sales pipeline.
So basically the above acronym serves as a simple checklist for you to find the key players and check that there is a need and therefore a benefit to be gained from your offering.
SNAP stands for:
SNAP selling assumes your prospects are going to be busy so it’s on you to first keep things simple, and make things easy and clear for your prospects.
Next, you want to be invaluable to your prospects, a useful resource who understands their problems and can suggest solutions, you’re their trustworthy advisor not just a sales rep.
You have to also be aligned with their goals and demonstrate how your product or service can reach those goals faster, and lastly you have to identify and make sure you meet their priorities and not lose sight of the forest for the trees.
By following this you can maintain focus and momentum pushing through the sales process.
Another acronym, NEAT stands for:
- Economic Impact
- Access to authority
NEAT is a twist on our favourite BANT (Budget, Need, Authority, Timing). Instead of qualifying prospects from the point of view of the sales rep you qualify based on how much as a salesperson you can help the prospect.
So NEAT is focussed on listening and understanding first and then once you’ve found the pain points to then couch your product as the solution.
Basically, identify their core needs, the real pain points and then demonstrate the economic impact of your solution. Make the prospect understand the value of the impact whether it be time saved or costs reduced.
Then identify the person or people with actual buying power and map out how you will eventually reach out to them, and lastly what’s the timeline for getting the deal? Make sure you get a go live date to get the clock ticking so that there’s pressure to get the deal done.
If there aren’t consequences for not going live then it’s not really a deadline.
Value selling is based upon benefitting the customer throughout the sales process. This means you don’t jump straight into the sales pitch but do your homework and once you’re there in the room speaking to the prospect let them talk and explain their situation. This allows you to gain insight you otherwise wouldn’t have and use it to identify ways in which your offering can solve problems that are raised.
What follows next seems obvious but you’d be surprised how often sales reps mess this bit up. Align your product’s benefits with the problems raised, don’t just meander through a predetermined list of pros without the prospect’s context.
You want to make sure they see and understand how your offering will help them and fit into their business process.
Following on from this you want to be more like a teacher than working with a cold sales script. If they have problems, walk through various possible solutions, it’ll help build trust and demonstrate that you have a nuanced understanding of their business.
Lastly, ask open ended questions that don’t just result in a glib yes or no answer and guide the prospect through the buying process with a personable approach, if they make a decision that you think will lead them down the wrong path make it known but use examples of previous experiences where a similar decision was made and how it went wrong to make it less accusatory and more helpful.
You want to lead but without being domineering and removing any possible tension.
So which sales methodology do I pick?
The sales methodology you choose will depend on your product, its price and complexity as well as the lead time to make a sale.
Some of this will require testing but if you’re selling a product for $10 with a 14-day trial then the approach you take is not going to be the same as if you were selling a product for $100,000 with a 6 month sales process.
Once you’ve picked your sales methodology you’ll have to get your sales team onboard that might mean retraining people especially if they’re used to rapport building approaches and the challenger method for example is alien to them.
Fundamentally, choose a sales methodology that meets your prospect’s expectations. If your methodology is too complicated and ends up frustrating them it’s a bad fit, if it’s too simple and there are many unanswered questions or they feel neglected it’s a bad fit. You need to strike the right balance for your customers.
Fundamentally, it’s about your customers not really about you.