What is a sales methodology?
Sales methodology: a definition
A sales methodology is a set of guidelines helping your sales team close deals. A good methodology also gives your sales reps a series of actionable steps to reach their goals throughout either the whole sales process or just part of it.
Sales methodologies are frameworks which give both the general philosophy that will animate the sales process and how to get things done. A sales methodology generally revolves around buyer psychology as it is designed to walk salespeople through:
• how their target audience thinks;
• what they want;
• what they fear;
• what drives them.
Sales methodology, sales process, sales models: differences
These three notions are closely related to one another so you need to understand what sets them apart.
This is how you sell your product or service to your customers. It is actually so close to sales methodology that many people tend to think they are one and the same. Both are a mix of principles and actionable and scalable steps but sales models are often more perceptible to the buyer. Examples of sales models:
• broker sales;
The term “process” says it all : it is a cycle of the few same steps repeated over and over for every time a prospect is funneled through a corresponding sales cycle. Obviously, every business has its own spin on it, but a standard sales process includes at least the following stages :
• preparation / analysis;
• replying to objections;
A sales process tells your sales reps what they need to do next. It is basically a roadmap with all the milestones and tasks to perform.
A sales process maps out what needs to be done, a sales methodology gives the sales team all the tools they need to advance from one step to the next (strategies to close more, the information they need to gather, etc.) In other words: the former defines the “what”, the latter focuses on the “how”. Therefore, sales methodologies constitute the missing link between the sales process and the buyer’s journey.
Being a subset of guidelines, a sales methodology is not written in stone. While a process is rigorously outlined, a methodology is adjustable by design: it has to be modified and customized on the fly, depending on the prospect’s reactions. This is why, in order to be efficient, most sales methodologies focus on a specific portion of the sales process.
Unlike sales processes, the content of the sales methodologies does not change that much from one business to another. Even though there are many adjustments, the core principles remain the same.
A process, as we already pointed out, is meant to be used over and over again, as it hails from a long-term development vision. Which sets it apart from sales methodologies, rather conceived to address short-term issues.
Why should you implement sales methodologies?
Most benefits from the successful implementation of sales methodologies are really consequences of everything we talked about so far. But let’s review them anyway.
It gives you sales reps standards to aim for which enables you to make sure everyone is on the same page. In turn, uniformity facilitates favorable outcomes and makes sales performance more predictable. Plus it greatly helps in terms of communication and teamwork.
This is achieved through best practices and techniques which simply but efficiently help salespersons hone their knowledge and skills and close more. These new sales methods also allow new hires to get up to speed and complete their training sooner.
Deepened customer insight
Most sales methodologies put the emphasis on how the buyer makes decisions depending on their pain points and needs. This insight is most welcome because it is a perfect set-up for relationship building and subsequently, CSAT.
A sales methodology clearly features which actions need to be performed, in what precise order, every step of the way, within the sales process. It allows for a clear overview and tracking of the work in progress which ultimately smoothens the whole pipeline as potential hurdles are more easily spotted and anticipated.
We already talked about that particular advantage: a good sales methodology can be modified to tailor to specificities relative to buyer persona, demographics, activity sector, region, etc. Because it is flexible, a sales methodology can also be continuously improved.
10 best sales methodologies
The following list does not follow an order of performance because there is just not a universal one size-fits-all methodology.
1. BANT selling
BANT is a classic sales qualification framework developed by IBM. It stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. This framework helps sales professionals assess the viability of a potential deal.
BANT criteria are in fact 4 questions :
• How much is your prospect’s Budget?
• Who among their organization has the Authority to make the final decision? • What is the prospect’s Need?
• What is their Timeline for implementation?
The main bulk of the effort is put on making the most of high-probability opportunities, and streamlining the sales process. While there are evolving perspectives on BANT (such as NEAT), it remains a foundational tool for qualifying prospects in various industries.
2. Challenger sale
The Challenger Sale is originally a book by Brian Adamson and Matthew Dixon. Their thesis is that there are five types of B2B salespeople among which the Challenger ones are the most successful as it corresponds to “more than 40% of high-sales performers”.
This personality is proactive, curious, ready to learn and likes to take the initiative. However, their methodology is not exclusive to them and can be learned by the other four types of sales reps.
The Challenger sale methodology can be broken down into three steps:
• Teach: they point out problems and new ideas to the prospect;
• Tailor: they adjust their speech to their audience;
• Take control: this one is self-explanatory, they keep an eye on the prize at the risk of being disliked.
In the end, it helps build trust and sets you apart from your competition and it is particularly useful in B2B contexts where there is a strong need for guidance.
3. Conceptual selling
This methodology is also sometimes referred to as the Miller-Heiman method, after its developers. It is centered on understanding and addressing the customer’s specific needs. It focuses on developing a deep comprehension of the customer’s business, challenges, and goals rather than taking the lead with a pitch.
Through strategic questioning and active listening, you aim to align your offer with the prospect’s conceptual framework. This approach emphasizes creating a shared vision of success, fostering collaboration, and building long-term relationships. By tailoring solutions to your customer’s unique circumstances, conceptual selling enhances the likelihood of meeting their requirements and establishing a foundation for enduring partnerships. It is best used in high-stakes B2B contexts where there are a lot of parameters to consider.
4. Customer-Centric Selling (CCS)
This one also comes from a book, by authors Holland, Bosworth and Visgatis. As expected, CCS prioritizes the customer’s needs, preferences, and expectations throughout the entire sales process. With this framework, you develop solutions according to your prospect’s challenges and goals.
Like conceptual selling, CCS promotes a consultative approach, where sales professionals actively listen, engage, and collaborate with clients to co-create value. Both approaches present similar benefits (long-term commercial relationship) but what differentiates CCS from conceptual selling is that it is less focused on questions and more balanced around the 8 following elements:
• conversation over presentation;
• asking questions over giving your opinion;
• solution instead of trying hard to be liked;
• decision-makers are your only contact point;
• product usage and not a product only;
• better make a quality sale to one customer than many mediocre ones to different people;
• the prospect’s timeline is more important than yours;
• empowering over convincing.
5. Inbound sales
Inbound sales is one of the most popular sales methodologies. It was met resounding success with the progressive arrival of the Internet in every home and business over the last two decades.
It is yet another customer-centric approach but with a twist: inbound sales methodology revolves around attracting, engaging, and delighting prospects through relevant and valuable content.
Rather than employing traditional outbound methods, you leverage techniques like content marketing, social media, and SEO to draw potential customers to your business. By providing informative and helpful content, you position yourself as an industry expert and build trust with your audience.
Inbound sales focuses on understanding the buyer’s journey, addressing their pain points, and nurturing leads through personalized interactions. This methodology aims to help you create meaningful connections, ultimately resulting in a more informed and satisfied customer base.
6. MEDDIC and its variations
MEDDIC and its later versions MEDDICC and MEDDPICC are one of the methodologies that only deal with a specific part of the sales process: lead qualification.
MEDDIC guides your sales professionals through a structured process broken down into six stages:
• understanding the customer’s key Metrics;
• identifying the Economic buyer;
• Uncovering decision criteria;
• mapping the Decision process;
• Identifying pain points;
• cultivating a Champion within the prospect’s organization.
By rigorously evaluating these factors, your sales teams can prioritize strategic opportunities, tailor their approach to customer needs, and increase the likelihood of successful deal closures in complex B2B sales environments.
7. Sandler Sales System
Developed by David H. Sandler during the 1960s, the Sandler sales methodology is a consultative and relationship-oriented approach. It advocates for a mutual qualification process where your prospect and you jointly assess the potential fit. This system aims at:
• uncovering prospect pain points;
• challenging assumptions;
• establishing a foundation of trust.
The Sandler selling system encourages sales professionals to avoid traditional, pushy tactics and instead employ a systematic, collaborative method. Like other consultative approaches, it values understanding the prospect’s buying motivations and adapting the sales approach accordingly.
8. SNAP selling
SNAP selling was invented by Jill Konrath and first introduced in his 2010 book. It is designed to bypass the following issues: potential buyers have too much information to process on extremely short timeframes. This is why you have to follow 4 basic principles :
• Simple: go straight to the point when presenting, avoid unnecessary details.
• Invaluable: show how your solution checks all their boxes and then some.
• Alignment: don’t deviate from the prospect’s circumstances and aspirations.
• Priorities: your solution should be at the center of their attention as it addresses urgent issues.
It is one of the most direct methodologies and is especially advised for customers that are too busy to go through a long process.
9. Solution selling
Solution selling is more about working out solution packages fitting every criteria than reaching out to the prospect and trying to sell them a specific product. It is very efficient but it also requires you to be :
• a good listener and observer ;
• creative enough to invent a new solution for every customer ;
• skilled enough to implement and support it.
10. SPIN selling
Last but not least, SPIN selling was created by Neil Rackham in 1988. Here, the idea consists in asking four pertinent sets of questions to their clients :
• Situation: “What is your main production focus ?” “How many people work on your operational teams?”
• Problem: “If a power outage occurs, how long does it take to be fixed?”
• Implication: “How much do you lose if your operation is interrupted for 2 hours?”
• Need: ”Who would benefit the most from solving your logistics issue?”
By asking questions, SPIN gently nudges people into realizing their problems instead of outright telling them what they are.
Now we encourage you to explore these methodologies. Obviously, you don’t need to implement and even learn them all but you should know enough to take your pick. To choose your methodology, simply assess both your customers and your sales teams and don’t be afraid to test on small projects before going full scale.
If you like learning and are an advocate for continuous self-improvement. If you consider you owe it to yourself to live up to your full potential and become the best version of the leader or manager you can be, then get started with CoachYZ!