Today’s sellers have a lot on their plate.
Reps face intense pressure to meet quota and keep pace with buyer demand.
They’re expected to manage multiple communication channels, provide personalized solutions, and even build and manage a personal brand.
And with buyers increasingly performing their own research, there are fewer opportunities to engage directly. Meaning sellers must maximize the impact of every interaction.
A sales methodology helps reps rise to these challenges by eliminating the variables that come from sellers making their own rules for engaging customers.
In this article, I’ll share some of the more popular sales methodologies, then walk you through how to choose and implement sales methodologies in your own sales process.
What is a sales methodology?
A sales methodology is a set of principles that define the tactics used to sell products and services, offering a systematic approach to winning deals. It serves as your benchmark for improvement and allows you to make data-driven decisions about what’s next for your sales strategy.
We’ll be talking about the sales process further down the page, so let’s clear something up: while the sales process and sales methodology are closely linked concepts, they’re not interchangeable.
Here’s a quick explainer:
A sales process is a predefined set of actions that your sales team follows to close a new customer. A sales methodology essentially acts as a blueprint for selling, and defines how you’ll carry out each action defined in your sales process to get the best possible outcome.
Essentially, a sales process acts as a zoomed-out map of the steps that move customers through the pipeline, whereas, your methodology outlines all of the different ways you might approach that process.
How to choose the right sales methodology for your business
The most important thing is you’ll want to make sure you select a methodology that matches your product/service, customer, and market.
If there’s a mismatch, closing deals becomes way harder than it should be.
Consider how buyers work through the purchasing process. How many buyers does it take to make a decision? Do buyers need your help to make a purchase or can they take care of business on their own? What’s your average deal size?
Some methodologies address a single part of the sales process like lead generation, product demonstrations, or how to approach “the close,” while others address the end-to-end process.
Many, as you’ll soon find out, use acronyms.
Here’s a look at some common methodologies and when you might use them.
SNAP was developed by sales expert Jill Konrath in 2012 to speed up the sales process based on the assumption that prospects are busy and distracted.
This methodology identifies three critical decisions the buyer must make before they decide to make a deal (yes, I do realize that there are four letters in SNAP).
- Simple. Make it as easy as possible for prospects to adopt your solution.
- INvaluable. Stand out against the competition by providing unique solutions that add real value to buyers’ lives.
- Align. Align your offer with the buyer’s beliefs and business needs.
- Priority. Stay focused on the prospect’s priorities to win the deal.
When to use it: According to Konrath’s website, SNAP aims to help reps break through the noise and connect with “frazzled” prospects.
The process can be applied to individual parts of the sales process, or on a holistic level, and is used to keep deals moving forward. This may work best for sellers operating in a saturated market—though keep in mind, you’ll need to really lock down your unique value proposition to be successful.
The idea behind SPIN is, there are four types of questions that can help sellers understand buyer’s pain points and goals.
- Situation. How do you currently do A?
- Problem. What’s the hardest part about tracking X?
- Implication. If you continue having issues with A, how will that impact your business in the future?
- Need. If you could do X would that help you do Y and Z?
When to use it: SPIN makes the most sense in the context of discovery questions. This methodology is designed to assess buyers’ current situation and help guide buyers toward making a decision.
BANT was created by IBM to help sellers identify promising opportunities. The idea is, for a lead to be considered “qualified” it must meet three out of the following four criteria:
- Budget. Can the prospect afford your product or service?
- Authority. Does the prospect have the authority to make a purchasing decision?
- Needs. What are the prospect’s business needs? Do they align with what you offer?
- Timeline. What’s the deadline for implementing a solution?
When to use it: BANT is a system for qualifying leads, but it can be used to reassess deals in the pipeline or while considering reaching back out to old leads.
MEDDIC is a methodology for helping sellers understand prospects and qualify leads. The idea is, you’ll work through a series of decision criteria to help you figure out where to best spend your time.
- Economic buyer
- Decision criteria
- Decision process
- Identify pain
When to use it: MEDDIC’s main goal is to save you from chasing bad leads. As such, this methodology is best-suited for developing effective lead targeting, generation, and qualification processes.
Because this methodology involves a good deal of research, followed by a nurture campaign that targets the “champion,” it’s best reserved for big-ticket deals with long sales cycles.
Conceptual selling is a sales methodology that was created by the Miller Heiman Group to eliminate the element of chance in the sales process.
This methodology aims to help salespeople better prepare for their interactions with customers so that every interaction is a win for both parties. Instead of leading with a typical pitch, conceptual selling relies on research, active listening, and asking the right questions.
- Confirmation. Used to reaffirm information.
- New information.
- Basic issues.
When to use it: Conceptual selling is a great way to build trust and develop relationships with potential clients. Its focus on active listening, research, and consensus-building makes this ideal for companies selling custom, high-consideration solutions.
Solution Selling is a methodology that aims to uncover buyers’ top challenges and suggest potential solutions that will help them overcome those obstacles.
It simply requires you to reframe how you present your product or service to prospects, taking a more consultative selling approach.
This methodology includes six steps:
- Prepare. Research must go beyond Googling the prospect’s company. You’ll need to dig into industry trends and market conditions to identify opportunities and threats.
- Diagnose. Ask qualifying questions to gain a better understanding of the problem and gaps in that you can fill.
- Qualify. Understand the decision-making process, who is involved, what needs to happen in order to make a decision, etc.
- Educate. Present insights into how the prospect stands to benefit from your product/service. This might include customized reports, case studies, or white papers.
- Solve. Share a custom solution that solves the exact problem the prospect is facing. Be sure to demonstrate ROI/value from the buyer’s perspective.
- Close. Address objections and lingering questions and reiterate benefits to seal the deal.
When to use it: Solution selling can be used in a wide range of sales processes, but it’s a time and resource-intensive methodology. That means this approach is best suited for organizations that sell custom solutions, interact with multiple decision-makers, and have a long sales cycle.
Inbound selling is a process that focuses on bringing customers in, as opposed to traditional outbound processes where sellers make contact first.
The idea is to gain a deep understanding of your buyer’s needs, challenges, and goals—then applying those insights to create content that speaks to individual buyers’ interests. From there, inbound sellers use educational content and thought leadership to gently guide buyers toward a decision.
When to use it: Inbound selling is an effective methodology for just about any company, inbound is perfect for self-serve buying processes or reaching buyers that perform a lot of research up front. You’ll see this a lot with SaaS companies that rely on really comprehensive blogs and free tools to bring in leads.
Challenger selling comes from a 2011 book by Matthew Dixon. In it, Dixon categorizes sales reps into the following five profiles:
- The Hard Worker. This person is self-motivated, interested in personal development, and honest feedback. They don’t give up easily and are likely to take direction well.
- The Problem Solver. This seller is detail-oriented and reliably responds to stakeholders with solutions to their problems.
- The Relationship Builder. This rep is a consultative seller who is good at building rapport with prospects and forging connections with colleagues and clients alike.
- The Lone Wolf. Lone wolves are self-assured, independent sellers that get results but are difficult to manage.
- The Challenger. Challengers love to debate and challenge customers. They have a deep understanding of the prospect’s business and their unique pain points and bring a unique view to the sales process.
Of course, this methodology aims to get sellers to become “Challengers.”
This methodology is similar to solution selling, but speaks to our inherent love of putting people into categories, a la MBTI personality tests, astrological signs, and so on.
Challengers focus on making buyers aware of threats and opportunities that could make or break their business. Then, they’ll educate prospects and present tailored solutions to close the deal.
How to implement a sales methodology: a sales blueprint for lasting success
As mentioned, the goal of defining and implementing a sales methodology is to reduce the number of variables that could impact each deal.
If each seller applies their own set of best practices, there’s no “control” in place for measuring your “experiments.”
That means you may end up measuring sales performance with inaccurate data—which in turn, undermines the entire sales process.
Below, we’ve outlined how to implement a selling blueprint that keeps you in control long-term.
Map out your buying process
The first step in implementing a sales methodology is to map out the steps a buyer takes on their path to purchase.
Here, your primary goal is to understand the current state of the buying process, and what’s happening at every touchpoint in the journey.
At each stage, you’ll want to understand the following:
- What is the buyer’s objective?
- What do they need to do to make a purchasing decision?
- What information do they typically consume at this stage?
- What questions do they ask?
- How do they communicate?
- What are some common objections?
- What needs to happen to get them to take the next step?
- What roadblocks prevent buyers from moving forward?
Align the sales process with the buying process
With your sales process mapped out, your next move is filling the gap between buyer needs and your current messaging.
You might use surveys or interviews to figure this out, but it helps if you’ve got the right tech on your side—think social listening, sentiment analysis, behavioral insights, etc.
The goal is to get a complete picture of the buyer, their pain points, and needs.
Once you’ve determined how your buyers interact with your reps and content at each stage, the next thing you’ll want to do is to match buying activities at each stage with the sales process.
At each touchpoint, make a list of the following:
- What the buyer is doing
- How sales should engage
- What content is helpful at this stage
- What criteria must be met to determine whether the buyer has moved on to the next stage
As you work through this exercise, you may find that you need to adjust your sales process—just make sure you define this before moving any further with the implementation process, or else you may end up building a strategy on a rocky foundation.
Determine which methodology you’ll use at each stage in the process
Once you’ve mapped the buying process to the sales process, you’ll then need to determine which methodologies you’ll apply at different stages.
My recommendation is to start by selecting an overarching methodology that aligns with your brand’s voice and values. For example, if your goal is to position your reps as trusted advisors, you might opt to use the solution selling methodology.
From there, you can layer in methodologies that apply to specific parts of the sales process. You might look toward inbound selling to engage buyers during the research stage or MEDDIC for lead qualification. Maybe SNAP is your best bet for capturing your audience’s attention.
In any case, it’s worth noting, you’re not bound by the rules laid out by the Miller Heiman Group or Jill Konrath, you can mix, match and customize methodologies to meet your sellers’ needs.
Create training and coaching materials
Once you’ve finalized your methodology mix, it’s time to create a training and coaching process to get everyone on the same page.
- Start by documenting your new methodologies.
- Create guides and playbooks that break down key concepts
- Develop group training opportunities and interactive exercises for fine-tuning skills
- Come up with a coaching plan for 1:1 skills development
Without a solid methodology in place, the whole sales process falls apart.
Once you establish a methodology and get your reps up to speed, you’ll be able to learn which behaviors, tactics, and content impact the sales process for better or for worse.
From there, you can experiment with different approaches to see what works—or doesn’t.
And one final note: sales methodologies aren’t meant to be static.
Buyer expectations are always evolving, technology is advancing, and the competitive landscape continues to get tougher. The methodologies you use must continuously adapt to keep pace with change.