Michael Webb poses the question: Is a Sales Process the same as a Methodology? He provides a thoughtful view (though doesn’t answer the question until his additional comment—make sure you see that).
I thought I’d dive in because it’s a confusing issue. A sales process, in my view, is a road map to guide the sales professional in facilitating their customer’s buying process. A sales process focuses on deals and opportunities. It focuses on helping improve the sales professional’s effectiveness and efficiency. It is a set of steps and critical activities that has been developed based on the organization’s experience. Win-Loss analysis is a great starting point for developing a sales process. Analyzing and modeling customer buying processes is another useful way of defining your selling process. The sales process must be consistent with your company’s business/market strategies and priorities.
In the end, the sales process should outlines the major steps, for example qualification, discovery, proposing…., and critical few activities sales professionals should follow to assure they are pursuing good deals—opportunities that are real and fit the company’s sweet spot. The process outlines the activities critical to achieving success and winning!
Every company has it’s own selling process. At a high level, the steps may be similar, after all we all do qualification. But it’s at the critical activity level that the sales process needs to be unique–after all, these are driven by our company’s strategies and priorities. The process is driven by its strategy for how it wants to work with its customers. The process is driven by the company’s experience in winning or losing deals.
Sales processes need to be SIMPLE! As I said, it’s a road map. It doesn’t define every bump or pothole in the road, it doesn’t outline every twist and turn. It provides general direction and focuses on the critical activities to get you to your destination—winning a deal!
A sales methodology is an artifact of a vendor’s approach to selling. There are many methodologies out there: Solution Selling, Customer Focused Selling, Provocative Selling, and others. Each of those methodologies represent a vendor’s philosophy about selling and most have a generic sales process embedded into their methodology. I won’t editorialize on these methodologies. However, in engaging a vendor and choosing a methodology, make certain they incorporate your sales process into the training they provide you. Think about it, the sales process for selling enterprise software is different from selling semiconductors and is different than selling process control systems. The selling processes for competing enterprise software companies is different—each has its own strategies, priorities, and goals for how it wants to interact with its customers.
One final thing to remember, the “Selling Process” focuses on winning deals and opportunities. However, there are many other processes important to the sales organization. Some of these include the forecasting process, account management, lead management, and so on. Many processes overlap with each other, it’s important to understand these overlaps.
There is a lot of jargon we toss around in sales (and in other functions). Sometimes it serves to make things more complicated and confusing than is needed. In any discussion about process, we should strive for simplicity and clarity. Otherwise it becomes meaningless.
Now back to the issue, do we need a sales process or a sales methodology? No sales professional or sales organization can perform at the highest levels without having a sales process to guide the execution of their sales strategies. A sales process is mandatory for success. Sales methodologies are great, I’ve studied most of them, I’ve gotten value out of each in refining the way I sell, I’ve developed some of my own methodologies. I encourage every sales professional to learn and read. Take the best elements of many sales methodologies to help improve your own performance.
I’d be interested in your views and feedback on my distinctions of Selling Process and Selling Methodology. What do you think?