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):
- Needs Analysis
- 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 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!