The Trouble with Sales Methodologies
Why do sales methodologies fall short of their intended outcomes?
This question has challenged sales leaders for years. How could a clear set of plans for winning the sale lead to such underwhelming results?
Maybe the answer is elusive because there are several reasons, not just one. Understanding these reasons is the first step in building a sales methodology that works. If sales managers know what’s standing in their way, they can begin to find a way around it.
Where Sales Methodologies Go Wrong
In our work with industry-leading businesses, we’ve learned that there are three key problems that undermine the success of most sales methodologies.
The Content is Not Customized
The content of the methodology is not adapted to the specifics of the business. The concepts might be logical, but they are not fit for the challenges the sellers face. The approach only seems to work in the context of scripted scenarios that are only found in the classroom.
The Technology Does Not Fit
The sales technology doesn’t support the sales methodology. Often, this means that the CRM technology doesn’t guide the seller to apply the methodology. Instead, the technology encourages one set of behaviors, but the methodology supports another.
The Measurement Doesn’t Match the Methodology
The sales methodology is not paired with the right measurements. This is a problem because most people will do what looks best according to the measurement, not the methodology. Why? Because measurements are often part of the performance review.
Building a Better Sales Methodology
Building a better sales methodology means overcoming these three problems. The question is how.
Sales leaders need a framework for developing a sales methodology that fits the selling organization’s real-world challenges with supporting technology and meaningful measurements.
Doing so means taking a new approach that consists of three parts, each of which addresses the above problems.
Develop an Agile Approach
The sales methodology needs to be flexible. Why? Because every selling scenario is different.
Many sales methodologies are built to work within a limited range of settings. The problem with this approach is that some sales pursuits fall outside this range. In this environment, a rigid methodology isn’t relevant.
This problem is intensifying because sellers today are seeing more variation in the kinds of sales they pursue. Every customer challenge is different. Each stakeholder group has a different decision-making process. Adding to this challenge is the fact that the nature of the sale often changes during the pursuit.
For example, the stakeholders may discover that their initial needs were based on a misunderstanding of their core challenge. As a result, they realize that they need a different solution. Without an agile sales methodology, it is difficult for the seller to make the adjustments needed to track and address these kinds of changes. Even business leaders recognize how much change lies ahead. Consider research from PwC showing that CEOs intend to allocate 60% of their investments towards initiatives aimed at reinventing the business for the future.
How to Make the Approach Agile
- Build a methodology that is designed to benefit from frequent changes in the customer’s needs. This means having the agility to recognize and then build from unexpected developments in the pursuit.
- Provide sales training that is module-based. This allows sellers to focus on the skill-building that is relevant to their specific needs. Examples include individualized modules focused on negotiation skills, prospecting skills, or virtual selling.
- Take time early in the sales methodology development process to map the content to the specific needs of the sales team. This happens by having in-depth conversations with sellers and sales managers about the challenges they encounter.
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Use Technology Built With The Seller In Mind
Technology is one of the major ways in which a new, agile sales methodology is introduced to a sales team. This is especially true for large, distributed sales organizations. Getting it right is critical because even the best sales methodology will not take hold unless the technology is capable of delivering the concepts and learning in a way that fits the seller’s schedule.
Traditionally, there has been a disconnect between technology and methodology. It’s as if they were developed separately. As a result, sellers often find themselves stuck in lengthy lessons that require them to step away from sales opportunities. Learning becomes a check-the-box exercise.
When done right, technology can facilitate the adoption of a new sales methodology. This means using technology to design the digital learning process that meets the seller’s need for efficiency and expediency. It also means using research-backed methods of instruction like blended learning, reflection, and interleaving.
How to Make Technology Useful
- Use technology that can deliver learning in short formats. Doing so keeps the material engaging and makes the concepts more “sticky.” Each session should include just one concept.
- Use technology that can connect the training to the CRM system so that sellers can more easily apply the concepts to in-pursuit deals.
- Make the learning experience long-term so that skills do not erode over time. Doing so means using mobile-optimized instruction that reinforces concepts in short bursts.
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Make Progress Visible
Progress is only visible with the right measurements. The problem is that the measurements often provide insight into the wrong areas. The metrics might reveal how engaged sellers are when learning the new sales methodology. Or they might show how effective sellers thought the instructors were.
Measurements like these don’t help managers see what matters most: outcomes. Sales managers need to see how the methodology impacts things like win rate, revenue, and sales velocity. Using outcome-focused metrics not only makes progress visible but also drives the adoption of the sales methodology. That is, when sellers see how the methodology increased win rates, they become more likely to apply the methodology and use it consistently.
Having the right measurements in place is important when progress halts. In this case, sales managers are able to isolate the specific areas in need of attention. The result: coaching becomes more effective and sellers feel more supported.
How To Make Progress Visible
- Adopt a measurement practice that works in the short term and the long term. Short-term metrics help managers get an early read on the effectiveness of the methodology and long-term metrics drive the sustainment of the methodology
- Integrate the measurements with the CRM system so sales managers can see when and where key parts of the sales methodology are being applied to real pursuits
- Link measurements to the methodology. This means asking each seller to gauge, on a scale, how well they have satisfied each of the key parts of the methodology
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