Top Sales Methodologies: How To Choose The Right One For You
Talking about sales methodologies can feel a little like looking at a map.
A map gives you the picture you need to find a path to your destination. The map doesn’t dictate the destination, or how to get there. Instead, it provides a guideline. It highlights the obstacles that you might encounter and presents potential paths forward.
But it’s up to you to determine the best route.
That’s a pretty good illustration of what it’s like to lead a sales team. You’ve got an end goal in mind: build a pipeline, close deals, and drive revenue. But there are a lot of ways to get there.
And that’s where picking a sales methodology comes in.
Sales methodologies are structured approaches to selling that can help your sales reps reach your destination. Everyone might know where you’re going, but without a structured approach, you might have five different reps taking five different paths to get there.
Picking a sales methodology helps your team stay on track and gives them the tools they need to reach their desired outcome—more closed deals—in a more reliable way. Having some structure to sales calls and other sales activities can help boost sales performance and give sales leaders valuable data about what is working.
That’s why using a proven sales methodology is a simple way to train and level up your sales team. But choosing the right method makes all the difference.
What is a sales methodology?
A sales methodology is a framework a sales organization uses to guide the sales process. Most sales methodologies (or sales models) include a set of principles, strategies, and tactics designed to help sales reps effectively engage with prospects, ask the right questions, identify buyer’s needs, and close deals.
Why implement a sales methodology
80% of sales require five follow-up calls after the initial contact but, 44% of sales reps give up after one “no.”
Stats like these might encourage the negative perception that salespeople are far too persistent, but the numbers don’t lie. And as all sales managers know, persistence is an absolute necessity.
A sales methodology standardizes your selling process, driving the adoption of best practices throughout your sales team.
Sales methodologies are widespread—and with good reason. They make a massive difference to the effectiveness of your B2B sales strategy:
- They provide a guideline for your sales reps to follow when preparing for conversations with prospects.
- They empower your salespeople to present your solution in a way that’s tailored to each individual prospect or the personas of their ideal customers.
- They’re proven and repeatable, eliminating the guesswork that often comes with selling.
- They make it easy for your sales organization to be consistent and treat all prospects similarly, reducing the likelihood of missed deals or opportunities.
- They can save time and help your team become more efficient by qualifying prospects faster, reducing the sales cycle.
- They help you codify and learn from your team’s experience to shape what effective selling looks like at your sales organization.
How to choose the right sales methodology for you
Since there are so many different sales methodologies, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by choices.
But analysis paralysis doesn’t move your sales organization forward.
Some methodologies are easy to disqualify based on your industry or the type of product you’re working with, but you’ll probably still end up with many options that could work for your team.
When choosing the right sales methodology for your team, you should consider your:
- Company goals and objectives
- Customer preferences and buying behavior
- Sales team strengths and weaknesses
- Market conditions and competition
- Product or service complexity
Company goals and objectives
Your sales team is the key driver of your company’s future growth.
The sales methodology you choose has to be aligned with your company goals. If you need to increase market share in the short-term, you may need to choose a sales methodology that emphasizes aggressive prospecting and lead generation, like Challenger selling.
When resources are extra tight, it might also be worth working with a methodology like MEDDIC that allows you to disqualify prospects early on—enabling your to focus your attention on deals that have a higher likelihood of success.
But if your objective is to increase customer loyalty, you might choose something that helps build long-term relationships with customers, like Gap selling or Sandler sales.
Customer preferences and buying behavior
This would suggest that using a sales methodology to build rapport and offer tailored solutions, such as SPIN selling, might be ideal. That said, some customers value convenience and efficiency more, highlighting how the right choice really depends on your customer base.
Sales team strengths and weaknesses
Fact is, some sales methodologies just may not mesh with your sales team.
Sales representatives (called lone wolves by the folks that developed Challenger) often develop an individual style and approach to selling, using tips and tricks that each individual is confident they can effectively implement.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying them out and seeing which approach drives the best results. There’s always room for training and development, and with the right sales enablement, you can help anyone get better at applying a specific methodology.
But sometimes, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
Giving your team tools to approach their sales conversations in a better way is a win for all.
Market conditions and competition
The market often dictates what’s successful and what isn’t.
If your competitors are successfully using a particular sales methodology, you may want to consider adopting a similar or contrasting approach. A contrasting approach can differentiate your brand, attracting prospects with different needs than your competition's.
Product or service complexity
Highly-complex products and services require a different touch.
There’s a huge difference between selling products where the value proposition is straightforward, simple, and obvious and a product geared towards enterprise customers with a team of decision-makers.
More complex products benefit from an involved selling strategy, such as Gap selling, or presenting your solution with a proof of concept template.
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What's working today
Before we dive into the full list of methodologies, we recently hosted Richard Harris, Founder @ The Harris Consulting Group and Nathan Clark, Director Global Sales Enablement @ UpGuard, to discuss popular sales methodologies and their relevance in the world of modern selling, with recommendations to maximize sales success:
Sales methodologies to consider
Sales methodologies vary widely in what they offer and how sellers use them. Some define specific steps for the entire B2B sales process. Others are more suitable during one or more parts of the sales process like qualifying leads or closing deals. These types of methodologies don’t usually include steps to follow but rather suggest a general sales approach (like consultative selling) or questions to ask (such as Neil Rackham’s SPIN selling).
You can mix and match different methodologies and sales models based on your prospects, customers, industry, and sales strategy.
Here are some examples of different popular sales methodologies to consider.
In the Gap selling methodology, the sales rep is charged with understanding both the prospect’s current state and desired future state. Then it focuses the sales messaging and their solution on addressing the gap between the two.
This methodology was developed by Keenan a well-known sales coach and the CEO of ASG (A Sales Growth Co.) and the author of the book, Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes. Keenan encourages sellers not to take buyers’ words for granted at the beginning of the sales process and to get to the heart of the issue causing the gap. This will allow the seller to pitch their solution to effectively close the gap for their prospect.
Suitable for: Complex sales environments with longer sales cycles and prospects with issues that clearly need to be solved. It may not be suitable for those who sell luxury products or services that are viewed as nice to have.
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Enterprise sales, sometimes called complex sales, is the process of selling goods or services to larger companies. In this way of selling, sales reps need to navigate larger buying teams, longer deal cycles, and more complexity. The payoff for this hard work is generally a bigger paycheck, as deals in the enterprise space can often come with hefty commissions (and revenue for the company).
Selling in an enterprise environment requires attention to detail, persistence, and the ability to craft a game plan to keep the right stakeholders engaged through the entire process so that the competition doesn’t come out ahead.
While enterprise sales in and of itself isn’t a sales methodology, several methodologies work well in these environments. Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman’s Large Account Management Process (Miller Heiman LAMP) gives sales reps a good framework for running an enterprise deal. This is not the only way to run enterprise sales, and sales methodologies like Challenger, The Sandler Selling System, and many others can provide valuable frameworks to close deals.
Suitable for: Any sales team that sells to enterprise organizations, selling in enterprise saas sales or anyone selling large multi-year deals.
MEDDIC is an acronym that stands for metrics, economic buyer, decision criteria, decision process, and champion. In this methodology, sellers are looking to identify the metrics used to quantify success in the deal and the economic impact. Then they need to seek out the economic buyer - this is the person on the buying team who can say yes to the deal when others say no and say no to the deal when others say yes. The seller also needs to understand both the decision process (who will make the decision and when) and the decision criteria (how the deal will be evaluated). And finally, they need to seek out a champion within their prospect’s organization. The champion is someone who can help sell the deal internally.
MEDDIC is considered a qualification methodology, meaning most of this discovery work is done at the beginning of the sales process. It can be coupled with other methodologies to give sales reps a framework to engage the prospects through the rest of the sales process and guide them towards closing the deal.
Suitable for: Enterprise sales, technology sales, and sales teams who have a very specific ideal customer profile (ICP) who need to clearly evaluate if a prospect may move forward in the sales process.
MEDDPICC is like MEDDIC 2.0. It adds a few letters to the acronym to help sellers achieve their goals. The P in MEDDPICC stands for paper process. As technology continued to advance, sales reps who sold longer-term SasS and tech deals began to realize that they needed a way to manage contract expirations and renewals, and thus the P for paper process was added to allow for this.
The other C in MEDDPICC stands for competition and encourages sellers to identify anyone or anything they might be competing with, including a no-decision and the prospect’s ability to keep the status quo.
Suitable for: SaaS and other technology sales teams with long contracts and the need for periodic renewals or upgrades.
Proof of Concept
Proof of concept is a sales methodology that relies on demonstrating your product or service in a sales context. In this methodology, the sales rep uses the demo to show how the product or service will solve a prospect’s pain point or business need. The other objective of a proof of concept is to show how onboarding or adoption will work so that the prospect is able to envision their teams using the proposed solution or service.
Suitable for: SaaS products, physical products, or services like training that can be easily demonstrated in a short session.
The Sandler Sales System is a seven-step sales methodology that is consultative in nature. Because of this, it is considered a lower-pressure sales methodology. It starts by having the salesperson establish bonding and build a rapport with the prospect. The next step once a relationship has been established is to set up a contract or establish the roles and ground rules for doing business together. The third step in the Sandler process is to identify the prospect’s pain. This goes along with the next step which is to establish the budget. Then, the sales rep can focus on the decision-making process. From there, they will create an agreement that addresses the need, budget and is aligned with the decision process. The final step is to confirm the post-sales process and ensure they secure the deal.
Suitable for: Complex deals in the software, technology, managed services or consulting industries.
Target account selling
In this methodology, sales reps are focused on building relationships with high-priority accounts. This methodology is a very targeted approach to cultivating the customer base you want to have in your business since it involves identifying the right accounts before beginning any outreach.
With target account selling, sometimes also known as Account Based Marketing (ABM). Sales and marketing might work together to create customized and targeted messages for these very specific buyers as they move through the sales funnel.
This is one of the best sales methodologies if you’re looking to curate a list of handpicked customers but it can be demanding due to the high level of customization needed to do it right.
Suitable for: Enterprise and mid-market sellers in all industries who want to focus on a select set of customers in a specific niche.
Like SPIN, BANT is an acronym that stands for budget, authority, need and timeline. It is another methodology that is great for qualifying prospects and helping sales reps determine quickly if a deal will move forward in the early stage of the sales process.
Understanding if a prospect will share their budget and get you access to authority in the organization like key decision makers early in the sales process is a good indication that they are ready to buy. Focusing on the need and timeline will help a sales rep put together the most compelling proposal that is a win-win for the buyer and the seller.
Suitable for: Less complex deals and higher volume selling as there are fewer process steps than other methodologies like MEDDIC and MEDDPICC.
Transactional selling is often seen as a little old-school.
This is how people have envisioned sales to work forever: You’re aiming to make a transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible. The goal isn’t to build a long-term relationship or establish rapport with your prospects. It’s to make the sale.
Although it gets a bad rap sometimes, transactional selling does have some benefits. In other words, it works for some situations—usually when you’re aiming for high sales volume and sales efficiency. It’s not typically a good fit for high-value products or for SaaS businesses.
Suitable for: Industries such as retail, where customers make frequent, low-value purchases.
Solution selling, or customer-centric selling, is a big jump upwards.
The focus here isn’t simply on selling your product (such as in transactional selling), but on identifying the customer’s pain points and presenting your product as a solution to that problem. It’s a great way to make sure you’re selling to the right prospects, encouraging long-term customer loyalty and higher retention.
Suitable for: Industries such as IT, healthcare, and finance, where customers have specific business challenges that require personalized solutions.
What do buyers want from sales professionals in the first call? 69% of survey respondents say it’s “Listen to my needs.”
Consultative selling is an ideal sales method to achieve that.
The salesperson and the prospect work together to identify the customer’s needs before the salesperson provides a tailored solution that’s uniquely effective for them. As you’d expect, the goal here is to position your sales reps as consultants. Prospects should see them as people who are deeply knowledgeable about the industry and equipped to help solve their potential problems.
Consultative selling is a great way to build customer trust and rapport, identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and improve the buying process. But it requires highly skilled salespeople, who are experts in their industry.
Suitable for: Industries with complex or technical products or services, such as software or technology.
Challenger selling, as documented in best-selling The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, is effective, but it can be harder to get right. It involves challenging the customer's assumptions and offering new insights to solve their pain points and business challenges.
It’s great during economic downturns or when working with established companies that move slowly because it encourages you to provoke your prospects and convince them that not spending is missing out on opportunities. The Challenger Sale methodology emphasizes the importance of building credibility and trust with customers by providing value and insight—often making them think about things in a new way or questioning the status quo —and when done well, it can help differentiate you from your competition.
Suitable for: Industries such as technology, healthcare, and finance, where customers have complex business challenges that require new solutions.
SPIN Selling is a sales model that can be used in a consultative and solution-based approach. It focuses on asking specific types of questions that are open-ended questions to identify the prospects:
The goal is to understand the prospect’s needs and decision criteria before making a sales pitch. It’s ideal for building credibility with prospects and discovering unmet needs.
Suitable for: Industries such as consulting, professional services, and software.
In conceptual selling, you sell the concept or idea your project is based on rather than your product or service.
This means deeply understanding the prospect’s business goals and pain points before presenting a solution. An effective sale depends on positioning your product in a way that appeals to that individual customer's needs. Conducting research, asking questions, actively listening, and personalizing solutions are all essential components of conceptual selling.
Suitable for: Industries such as marketing, advertising, and media.
How to implement a sales methodology
Once you’ve selected a sales methodology, implementing it doesn’t have to be complicated. You want to keep it simple, especially at first, to avoid overwhelming the team.
- Develop a training plan for the sales team. Sales methodologies are a tool to help your sales team. This is especially important for the more complex methodologies, as it’ll help make sure everyone adopts the new approach.
- Define metrics for success. Choose the most important KPIs that you’re targeting and set goals for the team, so you can easily measure how effective the methodology you chose is.
- Create collateral for your sales team. It’s much easier to make a new methodology part of your sales process when the team has everything they need for it. This may involve creating new sales scripts, qualifying questions, and objection-handling strategies that align with the methodology.
- Explore aligning sales and marketing strategies. Create a more targeted and effective lead generation and conversion process by getting your sales and marketing teams on the same page. Marketing can provide qualified leads to the sales team, who can then use their expertise to convert those leads into customers.
- Monitor and adjust based on long-term performance. If the methodology isn’t as successful as you’d like, you might need to make adjustments or offer additional training to your sales team.
Enable and empower your sales team
As you’re thinking about training and adoption it’s important to remember and account for the fact that your team may be remote or distributed. Virtual selling has seen a meteoric rise over the last few years, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the best tools in your toolkit for virtual selling is sending great proposals that win over your customers.
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The question is how
If you’re implementing any of these sales methodologies and want an effortless way to fold them into your sales process, try out Qwilr’s sales methodologies templates. These templates make it easy for you to unlock revenue by creating a sales experience that impresses and engages your prospective customers.