It is not the Methodology – Stupid

A sales methodology is a methodology is a methodology.

Not something you would expect a sales methodology vendor to say……but it’s true.

When you consider, for example, deal management methodologies they need to cover four basic topics:

  1. Confirm there is an opportunity – Qualification
  2. Prove that it is worth winning – Justification
  3. Position you to beat the competition – Differentiation and
  4. Align you with the right contacts with the right messages – Relationships

If your methodology does not cover these four bases then it will not work. The thing is with the exception of the quick fix offerings with ‘the close that deal with one question’, type of approach most methodologies cover these bases and do basically the same.

So if it is not the methodology then why is there so much dissatisfaction?

There are six key reasons why even good sales methodologies fail:

  1. Classroom based training from the old generation sales methodology vendors fails to get the message across. It has been around for decades and yet organisations remain unhappy with the results.
  2. The cost of the old generation approach is way too high, the training is expensive and the time off territory in class carries a very high opportunity cost in terms of lost selling time.
  3. Classroom learning away from the business environment and sales process makes the experience theoretical and remote. Analysis proves little is retained and on return to the business the remote theory is soon forgotten in the hustle and pressure of the real world.
  4. The business CRM platform does not support or incorporate the remote methodology meaning any use of the methodology taught has to be accommodated outside of the standard company process necessitating duplication of data and normally completely separate systems.
  5. The sales manager is marginalised and excluded from the coaching and adoption process resulting in fragmented adoption and use of what little is learnt and remembered. It must be the sales managers’ role to manage the sales process and resulting activity. Otherwise what is a sales managers’ role?
  6. Sales people see the methodology as a management tool with no value to them

To get a methodology (even a good one) adopted, successful and affordable you need to:

  1. Deliver the methodology on territory with sales management directly responsible for adoption and coaching for their team. A focus on manager coaching backed by on line training negating the need for classroom training and the associated absence from territory by field sales is the only way to achieve this.
  2. Learn in your specific business environment and processes to provide essential relevance, far higher retention and ensure the theory is truly wedded to the practice of the CRM and specific company processes.
  3. Make the sales manager the focal point for both adoption and the resulting improvement in sales techniques and associated activities. The methodology must align and support the sales manager’s account and deal review process and enforce the essential dialogue between manager and sales exec and manager and senior management.
  4. Capture unstructured information, acknowledged as a company’s most valuable asset and essential for understanding any sales process.
  5. Make the methodology and associated software easy to use and give the sales teams effective tools that provide a competitive edge. The perceived benefit of using the methodology must be greater than the perceived effort required to make it work or it will not be adopted. The focus must be the value it brings to the sales professional not the benefit it brings to general management, though one will naturally lead to the other.
  6. Have company systems that provide a consistent work environment that matches the company’s sales objectives, allowing virtual team participation spanning different geographies and time zones if required.

In short; unless the methodology is part of your business culture and day to day process; the sales manager is in control supported by executive management and the sales professionals are enthused and engaged, the investment in the sales methodology will fail.

Steve Bale

Steve Bale

Having graduated in Economics from Bath University, Steve made the switch to the technology industry where he progressed to leading Oracle’s applications business in EMEA. More recently he has run a number of tech start-ups an mid-caps, focussing on sales improvement and overall business positioning. Steve is Chairman of SalesMethods.