Sales process and sales methodology – what’s the difference?

By George Brontén - Jan 14, 2015

George Brontén

Sales process and methodology sometimes get mixed up, which can become very confusing and costly. In order to maximize the effectiveness of a sales team, there can’t be any confusion between the two.

Sales process – the treasure map

Using a metaphor, I’d like to describe the sales process as a treasure map. It has a clear starting point and a big X marking the treasure. There’s never a straight line to get to the treasure and in sales it’s a journey you make with your prospect.

It’s not always clear from the beginning what the treasure will contain, but if it’s perceived to be substantial, there are likely to be many stakeholders involved and it will take some time to get there. The map will outline important milestones and provide guidance along the way, but the journey will involve many challenges to overcome, which will vary from case to case.

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Sales methodology – techniques and skills

To make sure the journey is worth traveling and to maximize the outcome, the map needs to be complemented with techniques and skills on how to get to the destination. How and when you apply these on your journey, such as rapport-building, active listening, mindful questioning, framing and business acumen determines the success of your quest. Some of these skills and techniques can seem easy to learn on the surface, while truly mastering them can take a lifetime of practice.

The most popular sales methodologies have been created by people who’ve studied masterful professionals and modeled their behaviors into replicable methods. Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling is an example of a popular sales methodology, focusing on a brilliant questioning technique. Some have worked to combine methodology and process, such as Dave Kurlan with Baseline Selling.

Other popular methodologies are Solution Selling, Insight Selling and the controversial Challenger Sale. An important methodology benefit is the use of specific terminology and measurement. Leading a team towards a destination, where some use the metric system, while others use the imperial unit system, wouldn't be very effective.

The one needs the other – giving depth to the map

Having the skills and techniques but lacking a map is ineffective. Having the map and lacking the skills and techniques is even worse. Sales process and methodology need to be combined for maximum effect. We can imagine methodology like topology on the map, now clearly seeing hills, valleys and obstacles and proactively being able to navigate through them. Another layer provides the structure to provide continuous learning and coaching while on the journey. 

Sharing is growing

An experienced treasure hunter will have learned many skills and techniques and will be a better map-reader. She will be able to assist less experienced travelers by training and coaching them. The managers should make efforts to bottle these best-practices and poor them into your interactive map to minimize micro-management and continually provide high-level for everyone on the team.

Research shows that as much as 87% of new skills is forgotten within three months if not reinforced in daily operations.
George Brontén

Common mistakes

A lot of companies invest loads of money into sales methodology training, without providing maps and navigational tools thereafter. Research shows that as much as 87% of new skills is forgotten within three months if not reinforced in daily operations.

Another mistake is failing to educate the managers and providing them with the resources needed to ensure that the newly learned skills will be converted to successful behaviors.

The biggest mistake is not even realizing that a map and resources are needed; causing massive hidden costs such as high staff turnover, low win rates and eroded margins. Sales people, management and leadership need navigation equipment to create an interactive map combining process and methodology and always make the journey educational. 

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George Brontén
Published January 14, 2015, written by

George Brontén

George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the world's 1st Sales Effectiveness Software that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.

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