C-Suite Network™

Categories
Best Practices Sales Skills

You Need Both: Sales Process AND Sales Methodology

In the sales performance space, there are those who think sales process and methodology are the same thing, and those who realize they’re different. If you couldn’t tell which side of the debate I’m on, they’re different, and do different jobs.

Some of the confusion is that both are kinds of process, although methodology isn’t always as predictably sequential.

Process:  Selling Activities.

The term selling process refers to the actions a selling organization takes along its selling journey. These steps might include (but might not be limited to):

  • Prospecting
  • Qualifying
  • Needs Analysis
  • Demonstration
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation
  • Close and Implementation.

When these are detailed sufficiently, people throughout the selling organization know what deliverables they need to support the process at what times, what documentation is expected, what resources are typically required, and much more.  Process grows into a “playbook”.

Notice that these are seller-centric activities.  Once your company builds its sales process, this are a great way to track an opportunity pursuit through your funnel or pipeline.

Today’s CRMs are mostly built around processes.  They usually come with a generic process provided, and one of the first thing a company needs to do is define their process in that CRM.  Manager dashboards will also be boilerplate at first.  It’s commonplace to track selling activities like calls made, emails sent, lunches bought, demos scheduled, and more.  Once you have management reports and analytics defined and refined, sales managers can track a lot of activities really efficiently.

There is one thing missing from sales process:  the customer’s buying process.  Tracking only selling activity fulfills the great promise of  CRM when:

  • All customers buy the same way
  • Every customers is equally engaged
  • All customers have the same needs
  • Customers respond equally to the same “value messages” (a term I really disrespect.I’ve blogged on this before, and am likely to do so again in the near future).

Every sales professional knows what doesn’t happen when they keep churning through a sales process while a customer has not progressed through a buying process.  Methodology solves for that.

Methodology: Selling Behaviors (which engage a buying process.)

Sales methodology consists of trainable, coachable, trackable selling behaviors that engage a customer in a buying process.

It’s easy to measure process, like number of telephone dials (especially with CRM/phone system integration). Measuring number of quality conversations is hard.  Don’t do either in isolation.

Ironically, I hear sales leaders tell anyone who will listen that they need to measure quality and not quantity…while looking at sales process analytics.  The reason that they’re achieving the results they may be because they’re measuring activity.

Methodology…behaviors…keeps the sales process aligned with the buying process.  Methodology behaviors might look like (but might not be limited to):

  • Understand the buying process being used
  • Understand all of the buying personas.
  • Planning and executing meeting plans to uncover all needs, all desired outcomes, and the value of all of those outcomes to the various personas.
  • Building a case for change, including adding personas where your value warrants.
  • Cultivating internal support for a proposal.
  • Aligning demonstration, then proposal points to persona outcomes.
  • Building the value case
  • Facilitating any customer change management, and setting implementation up for success.

Because every customer buys differently, methodology tends to be less rigidly sequential.  The customer buy process drives methodology, but should generally track with a well-designed (that is, customer-centric) selling process.  For example, change management appears prominently near the end of a sales process, but methodology should have uncovered individual persona outcomes and developed supporters of the change all through a pursuit.

Process vs. Methodology:

 First, I should point out that by “vs.” above, I don’t mean that there is an either/or choice.  You need both.  The “vs.” is because I want to contrast the two to show why you need both.

Process vs Methodology Table

Process organizes and orchestrates the complex web of selling organization activity around selling and delivering the company’s offer.  Methodology organizes the selling organization’s effort to facilitate a customer buying decision.

Sales process is measured by activities, which can be measured by any current CRM system I’ve ever heard of.  Methodology is about selling behaviors; only a few exceptional CRMs track behaviors, although most can be modified to do so.

Sales process, as simple activities, can generally be learned and mastered via a straightforward “knowledge transfer” class of training.  Methodology involves behavior change, and requires some element of coaching to lock in behavior change.

Process adoption and compliance results in selling efficiency, whereas methodology focuses on building customer-perceived value of your offer.  Great methodology drives customer value, which makes selling more effective. Efficiency and effectiveness can both drive up sales, but in different ways.  Efficiency might mean churning more prospects through a low close-ratio process each month.  Effectiveness could mean increasing the close ratio.  They aren’t mutually exclusive. They are synergistic.

Don’t Confuse the Two.  Don’t Limit Yourself to Either/Or.

I hope that you found this compare and contrast article useful.  Process and Methodology are both worthwhile pursuits. I help clients with both, and they feel different.  Please comment below, or contact me directly if you have any detailed questions.

To your success!

Categories
Marketing Personal Development Sales

Sales Culture, Elevated.

This article is part three of a three-part series on the future of sales performance.

In parts 1 and 2, I wrote that:

  • CRM alone not enough; in fact, many companies have found it’s the tail that wags the dog.
  • Process, and even more importantly, methodology are real difference-makers. Coaching process and methodology makes performance improvement sustainable.

In this article, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the coaching that drives long term sales success. Sustaining world-class performance is about sales culture; culture that ingrains process into the operating rhythm of the organization. Process and methodology do no good unless they are internalized by a sales organization, and the process of internalizing establishes a strong sales culture. When a methodology becomes the default go-to-customer approach for your organization, it enables the three goals of a sales system:

  1. Drive deal-winning behaviors, not simple activity-based measures.
  2. Re-vector at-risk deals, identifying and mitigating risks with opportunities.
  3. Replicate winning across, raising the performance of all sellers in the team.

Dynamic coaching culture

CSO Insights has conducted extensive research supporting the value of a dynamic coaching culture.  The research shows that companies whose coaching culture captures analytics from successful sales, refines sales data into define winning sales behaviors – then supports sales leaders as they coach those behaviors across the sales force outperform their peers.  Dynamic coaching culture is different than simple coaching:  there is a closed loop between results and how process and methodology is emphasized by the organization.  This loop drives self-sustainment and continuous improvement.

Dynamic coaching cultures experience far superior outcomes than average sales organizations:

  • A higher percentage of these companies meet revenue plan.
  • More reps make quota. The gains come from across the sales force, not just a few high performers
  • Win rates are higher. This means forecasts are more accurate
  • Late loss rates are lower. Fewer of those resource-sucking late losses that ruin sales productivity
  • Staff turnover is lower. Lose fewer of the people you want to keep, rehab more of the marginal performers, converting them to keepers.

A robust self-sustaining coaching culture builds the foundation for two things:

  1. Sales performance. The outcomes above are worthwhile goals in themselves, but…
  2. Self-sustaining culture (manager bench strength, coaching acumen, leadership succession/career path). Building a sales culture to last means building sales careers worth having.

The Past, Present and Future of Dynamic Coaching

Let’s look at where we’ve been, and where we’ve led our industry: coaching on CRM-resident tools.

I’ve worked with Miller Heiman Group (and its predecessor, Miller Heiman) tools for almost 30 years. Success in my business is all about delivering outcomes for clients. The reason Miller Heiman Group is the largest in the B2B space is that we’re the partner sales organizations keep engaged with longer…we have the least leaky bucket…growing our clients is how we grow.

Based upon thousands of client engagements, I can tell you with absolute conviction that the key to long-term success is in not conducting training events, but executing long term change in selling behavior organization-wide.  A successful engagement is almost universally the one with a robust component of sales manager coaching, where front line managers become the primary change agents.

The gold standard of coaching is personally diagnosed and delivered by the front-line sales manager (FSM).  This kind of coaching is high-touch, requiring not only discipline by the FSM, but a corporate capability in developing coaches and prioritizing coaching activity over the many other demands on an FSMs time.

While manager-delivered coaching is preferable, it is not always available at the right time for every deal.  We have also noticed that a large proportion of coaching is on a core set of selling behaviors.  That is, managers tend to diagnose and coach the same behaviors over and over.  With the right methodology and the right CRM system (one that helps track deal-moving behaviors, not meaningless activities), an intelligent coaching platform is possible.

Where you can go:

  • Instead of manager-initiated intervention, how about system-led?
    • Not today’s activity-based prompts. Selling behavior-based prompts…seller actions that moves deals, not activity that occupies selling time
  • A rules engine, based upon 40 years of Miller Heiman Group expertise, which can diagnose those repetitive selling
  • AI/big data capabilities which can take it even further.

Where are You?  Where Do You Want to Go?

When you’re tracking and managing to activities, today’s CRM can work just fine.  On the other hand, when you’re trying to establish a rigorous selling culture with a consistent management cadence, you can more efficiently accomplish the three goals of a world-class sales system::

  1. Drive winning selling actions. This means actions, not activities.
  2. Change deal outcomes more rapidly identify at-risk opportunities and figure out how to re-vector them toward success.
  3. Replicate success. Learn what behaviors predict success in your business, and turn them into a rules engine for your sales tool to automatically recommend.

We Can Take You There

Miller Heiman Group has leveraged over 40 years of sales performance expertise into a powerful set of tools.  They have bundled methodology with a dynamic coaching application, which can be freestanding or integrated with a CRM system. It helps front line sales leaders by lightening the routinized part of their coaching load, allowing them to concentrate their time on higher level opportunity strategy.  Sellers become more effective by building sound selling behavior habits.  Finally, senior sales leaders see improved results, and have insight-producing analytics into how to improve sales even more.

I’m excited about this new capability, and am thrilled to offer it to clients. Contact me to discuss whether we might drive winning actions, change deal outcomes, and replicate success in your organization.

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration