Sales Methodologies powered by a CRM

Is your organization looking to adopt a sales methodology?

Do you want to redesign your sales team’s sales process?

Are you hesitating between a CRM solution or another type?

You hear all sorts of things on all sides, but do you ever get the feeling something is missing?

Is implementing a methodology, a process and a CRM solution a wise investment or simply just a trend? What’s the difference between a process and a methodology?

Let’s try to take the mystery out of it!

While a CRM solution is a strategy embodied in an application solution, a methodology is a comprehensive framework supporting that strategy, and a process outlines the sales steps.

Sales process

A sales process could be defined as a series of systematic, measurable steps marking out the path and the interactions with prospects throughout the sales cycle.

The sales process can thus be described as a series of steps that a prospect or sales opportunity passes through. Every step moves the opportunity closer to its ultimate goal: the win.

Following up an opportunity methodically has major advantages: managed sales pipeline; unified practices; measurements; calculations of the weighted value of the opportunities and the sales pipeline of not only the rep, but also the entire sales team; forecast calculations; managed sales goals; etc.

For some people (and I’m one of them), a sales process is the key to success for a sales team. I suggest starting with something quite simple:

  • Define some selling steps (prospection, qualification, negotiation, closing).
  • For each step:
    • recommend some activities and validations;
    • assign a winning probability (in %).

Then, once the sales team is using the sales process freely, I suggest enhancing it by introducing the concepts of weighted value, adding (or removing) forecasts, adding or removing sales steps, and even making the process more flexible if the context (market, product, client) requires it. Thus, a process might rely on a larger or smaller number of steps or sub-steps, depending on a sale’s complexity or simplicity.

Obviously, following a process using a CRM tool can automate a group of calculations and functions that support the process, especially the work of the sales team. Most CRM tools initially suggest or provide one or more sales processes. It’s quite easy to tailor those processes to the company’s business reality, or simply the sales message currently used by the sales team.

Sales methodology

A sales methodology is a more strategic exercise that provides guidance, a message, a strategy and activities that can ultimately be used in any sales process.

Take, for example, the SPIN Sales methodology that comprises a series of questions – questions that can be integrated into the sales steps. The same logic applies to Strategic Selling – where the roles assigned to the different players (economic buyer, influencer), and the red flags, can be integrated into the process.

Before going any further, here is an overview of the different methods used by sales organizations over time. A few examples…

Though proof and documentation exist concerning many embryonic instances of sales methodologies applied as far back as the early 19th century (1800s), it was only in the first third of the 20th century that sales methodologies began gaining credibility.

Thus, Relationship Selling described in the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, published in 1936, suggests a relation based selling approach that still works today.

About ten years later (similar to Barrier Selling, SELL Method and ARC Selling), we find the ADAPT Method, an amalgam of several other sales methods based on the current practices of the time. Note that ADAPT stands for “Assess, Discover, Activate, Project, Transit”.

At the end of the ‘60s and in the early ‘70s, the US giant Xerox invested millions of dollars in designing several of the methods at the source of the “Xerox System” and the Professional Selling Skills (PSS) being taught to reps at the time.

In the mid-‘80s, Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman, ex- IBM representatives, published Strategic Selling, which is still used as a reference today, similar to SPIN Selling, published by Neil Rackman at the same time.

The 2000s saw the arrival of methods such as Solution Selling (2000), Challenger Sales (2011) from CEB, and SNAP Selling from Jill Konrath (2012). Those three methods share a customer-centric approach, where value must be delivered to customers as soon as they make contact with the organizations they want to do business with.

The latest methods can be applied quite rapidly in most organizations, while the old ones give us valuable insight into how the art of selling has developed.

I invite you to take a look at those methodologies and buy or download the books so you can decide which one best suits your organization, or simply confirm that your way of doing things is consistent with mainstream thinking.

Challenger Sales vs. CRM

I recently had a chance to work with a company that had implemented a CRM solution supporting a sales process based on the Challenger Sales method. Besides the tools and functions, the managers and reps now have the benefit of a common language, strategy and goals.

The method supports and promotes a resolutely proactive customer-centric approach, where the rep:

  • tailors his message to the customer’s issues;
  • adds value by offering innovative approaches to the business problems he raises with his customers;
  • steers the selling cycle by synchronizing it with his customers’ buying cycle.

The CRM solution supports the sales process (steps and activities) and can be used to capture and exploit customers’ data.

This all promises considerable potential for standardizing current practices. “Real time” access to data coming from sales activities provides a major competitive edge and makes it easier to transition from a product-centric to a customer-centric vision.