Sales Methodology for Professionals: How to leverage effective sales techniques
SPIN, TAS, BANT, FAB, The Challenger.
These aren’t the latest fad diets on Instagram.
These are some of the most popular sales methodologies out there. Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you know them inside out. Perhaps you've been applying one or more of them to your company’s sales process – consciously or unconsciously.
But is your methodology still working in today’s ever-evolving business climate? And if so, is there still room for improvement? (We believe the answer to that question is always a resounding YES!)
What is Sales Methodology?
A sales methodology is a set of principles that outlines how your company approaches each phase of the sales process. These principles will help you clarify your sales process and make it easier to track and manage it across your entire company.
Sales Methodologies became popular between the 1920s and the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that things started to ramp up when Xerox Corporation developed the first-ever modern, complex sales methodology. It proved to be so successful, it went on to be copied by other companies many times over. (Pun intended.)
Why do you need a Sales Methodology?
When it comes to sales, there’s no room for guesswork or trial and error. To succeed – effectively, efficiently, and consistently - you and your team need a trusted set of guidelines. In other words, sales techniques that have proved to work. A sales methodology is what will inform these guidelines.
Sales Methodology can seem like an abstract philosophy. But behind the acronyms, the snazzy names, and the familiar jargon, the right methodology for the right company is guaranteed to translate into tangible results that are scalable, measurable, and most importantly, consistent.
Your chosen sales methodology should appeal to your buyer personas, and when implemented properly, actually prove to be effective. At the end of the day, the right sales methodology will convert into sales techniques that work.
What does that mean? You’ll close sales. And lots of them.
Sales Methodology & Sales Process – what’s the difference?
Don’t confuse sales methodologies with sales processes. While some people may refer to these two interchangeably, there’s still a distinct difference. They are, however, intrinsically linked and both necessary to success.
Simply put, your sales process is the ‘what’ and your sales method is the ‘how’.
Sales methodology helps you determine your sales process. And finding the right sales process is crucial to your efficiency and effectiveness. Whichever methodologies you choose to apply will inform each stage of your process, like how you approach potential customers and how you carry out the conversation that follows.
If sales is a journey, your sales process is the roadmap – a guidebook that takes you through each sales stage, from identifying prospects to converting them into paying customers.
It will keep your team on course, ensuring synchronicity within your organization and producing consistent results.
What are the most popular sales methods?
Below is an overview of our favourite sales methodologies. These overviews will give you a rough idea of what they entail. To make an informed decision, you’ll need to invest time and resources into not just learning how these methodologies work, but acquiring the agility needed to adopt and embrace them. You and your team must approach these new methodologies with the right mindset in order to maximise their benefits. It’s these unique behavioural skills that we specialize in.
Look at this section below as the window shopping phase!
The BANT sales method is a basic framework most suited to the beginning of the sales process because it helps you qualify your sales leads.
BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline, the four points making up the basic checklist that determines whether or not a prospect aligns with your company and if they’re worth pursuing.
Make sure your prospect can afford to work with you before investing too much of your time.
Who has the final say? If it isn’t your point of contact, maybe they aren’t the right person to be involved in the buying process.
Identify their problems and ensure that you’re able you provide them with a solution.
What is their timeline and can you realistically work within it? The tighter the deadline the higher priority they become.
As you can see, the BANT sales method serves an important purpose but doesn’t dig deep enough to provide the information you need to proceed further. This is an example of a sales methodology that’s best mixed and matched with others.
The Challenger Sale was first mentioned in Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson’s 2011 book of the same name, in which they classified sales representatives into the following categories:
- Relationship builders
- Hard workers
- Lone wolves
- Reactive problem solvers
As you can guess by the name of this particular methodology, the Challengers – who have a unique worldview, a strong grasp of business, and a fondness for challenging their prospect’s opinions – are the most successful. It’s no surprise then, that 40% of high-performing salespeople use a Challenger style of selling!
This sales method aims to educate the prospect, adapt the sales process to their needs, and take control of the conversation. Better yet, the Challenger sales methodology can be used throughout the entire sales process.
FAB selling technique
The FAB methodology stands for the Features, Advantages, and Benefits of your product.
It’s easy to remember and even easier to implement. In fact, out of all the sales methodologies, it might be the easiest to wrap your head around.
But don’t be fooled by its simplicity, because it’s also surprisingly effective. Instead of rattling off a list of features, it’s about painting an attractive picture of how your product brings value to your customer’s life.
Features are the characteristics of what you’re selling —things like the style, the shape, and the color.
How do the features work and what purpose do they serve? Those are the advantages.
A benefit describes what the prospect gains from your product’s features and advantages.
The only catch to this method succeeding is that it requires you to have extensive knowledge of your product’s features, advantages, and benefits. So do your homework!
If FAB is one of the easiest sales methods, then MEDDICC is among the most advanced. This methodology uses comprehensive measurement techniques to qualify leads and identify where your team should be investing their time.
The stages of the MEDDICC sales process are:
- Economic Buyer
- Decision Criteria
- Decision Process
- Identify Pain
These steps focus less on how to make the sale, and more on where sales are likely to happen. You might find this methodology useful if your company has multiple possible targets and favors a tech-driven, highly disciplined approach.
In the Sandler Sales methodology, the sales rep adopts the role of trusted advisor. It’s about mutual understanding, collaboration, and finding solutions by asking the right questions instead of forcing a product on someone who may not need or want it.
The Sandler Selling method consists of three stages:
- Build and sustain the relationship
- Qualify the opportunity
- Close the sale
This is a great foundational methodology that integrates well with a variety of sales processes. And you might want to investigate this one further because 88% of salespeople with Sandler training said their sales strategy improved.
No fancy acronyms here. The description of this methodology is right there in the name!
Solution selling takes a holistic approach to identify the prospect’s needs. Once these problems are uncovered, the sales rep can then recommend the right product for solving them.
Solution Selling is made up of six steps:
If you believe in selling with empathy, Solution selling might be for you, because instead of selling a product, you’re selling a solution to someone’s problem. And that’s not all. By slightly reframing how your product is presented, you can easily implement Solution selling into your current sales process!
The SPIN sales methodology was created by Neil Rackham who analyzed an incredible 35,000 sales calls to get to the bottom of why high-performing salespeople get such great results.
It’s great to ask questions. That’s Sales 101. But time is money, and you don’t want to waste either by asking questions that don’t give you the answers you need. Thankfully, SPIN selling helps you get to the point by narrowing questions down to four categories designed to discover your prospect’s pain points and demonstrate how your product can help them.
SPIN stands for:
- Situation questions: what is your prospect’s current situation?
- Problem questions: what problems do they face that you could solve?
- Implication questions: what are the causes and effects of their problems?
- Need-payoff questions: why is your product worth it?
SPIN Selling is best used at the qualification stage of the sales process and is sure to garner results, by cutting through the noise and getting to the root of what your prospect needs.
TAS, which stands for Target Account Selling is a proactive approach that enables you to target potential customers instead of waiting for them to come to you.
It’s a concept built on in-depth research and information gathering. Extensive effort is made to ensure that the right prospects – those people particularly likely to buy – are chosen.
TAS is the least customer-focused methodology, in the sense that most of the work is done before initial contact with a prospect is even made. In fact, because of its focus on identifying targets with specific characteristics, it can be largely automated.
TAS is most suited to B2B sales, and due to its primarily investigative nature, is only ideal in the discovery stage of the sales process.
No one wants to feel like they’re selling for the sake of selling, which is what makes the Value-based method so appealing. It’s an approach that puts the customer first and ensures that value is added every step of the way.
Value-based selling is about first understanding why your product brings value to the customer. With this knowledge, you can better close deals quickly and more humanely. Plus, it’s a great way to only engage leads who are likely to become your ideal customer.
The Value-based selling method consists of the following steps:
- Qualify your prospect
- Position your capabilities in the context of client issues
- Ask the right question
- Develop the Value
- Identify power
- Develop a mutual plan
- Close the sale
The Value-based selling methodology focuses on lead qualification and its simple, repeatable steps can be easily incorporated into your existing sales process.
What do the best methods of sale have in common?
The list above is by no means exhaustive, and will most likely keep growing as the way we do business continues to evolve. But upon examination, there is one glaring similarity between them all:
They’re all people-driven. You could say, they lead with the lead! And there’s a good reason for that.
A study conducted by Dixon and Adamson found that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience. That’s how critical it is to put the customer first; their needs and desires, and buying goals.
Take the TAS sales methodology, for instance. Even though the majority is carried out before contact is made with the prospective customer, it’s still entirely centered on getting to know them.
Your customer interactions matter, maybe even more than you think. So find out what they care about, what obstacles they have, their plans, and goals for the future. Invest in them, and they’ll invest in you.
How do you find the best sales techniques for your company?
Companies that follow a defined workflow are 33% more likely to be high performers. A structured sales process benefits your team and your customers and sets everyone involved up for success.
So, the question isn’t whether or not you should adopt a sales methodology. That goes without saying. The question is,
- Which methodology or methodologies will work best for your company and your customers?
And once you’ve determined this,
- How will you train your sales staff to ensure that these sales techniques are implemented optimally?
Many companies mix and match methodologies. That’s because some methodologies are more suited to certain stages of the sales process than others.
You may have an unwritten idea of what your company’s sales methodologies of choice look like, but there are benefits to truly identifying and understanding them. Once you do that, you might even realize that the methods you’ve been using all along aren’t the best ones for your company. After all, what your customer needed last year might not be what they need this year.
There isn’t one overall sales methodology out there that happens to be the best, and that can make choosing the right methods a bit of a challenge, especially given the vast array of options to choose from. However, you can’t go wrong if you start with following:
- Don’t look to your competitors for direction. (What works well for some might bomb for others).
- Build genuine relationships.
- Prioritizing your customer’s needs.
- Use a method that strikes a balance between the time you invest in a prospect and the cost of your product.
Make sure your method aligns with your business goals and your customers’ needs.
Future-proofing: why should you reassess your current sales techniques?
So, why not just stick with the methods you’ve always applied? Well, for one thing, sales methodologies are not intended to be static. Besides, if they were working, you probably wouldn’t be here reading this. Change is hard to come by, but always inevitable.
The world is rapidly evolving – how we do business, how we consume content, how and why we spend our money, and what we spend it on. It would be naive to assume that while everything changes around us, the needs of our customers remain the same. That’s why it’s critical to future-proof your business.
In order to be able to serve your customer in the future, you need to create alignment across your entire company, and implementing the right sales methodology will facilitate this.
If you’re a seasoned pro with a proven track record and a tried and true way of working, this might be a bitter pill to swallow. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, we beg to differ.
Ongoing training and education can be the difference between keeping up with the times or getting left behind. No one wants to be added to the list of brands that failed to innovate and faded into obscurity as a result, like BlackBerry, Blockbuster, and ironically, Xerox!
Want our top tips for leveraging sales techniques?
So you’ve undertaken extensive research and have some idea about the sales methodologies that might work for your business. What now? It’s time to set yourself up for success, starting with two simple yet invaluable steps.
1. Count on your customers
Choosing the right sales methodology and sales process is critical to your success, and as we mentioned earlier, your future, current, and past customers hold the key.
- Get to know all your customers well!
- Do your research.
- Ask the right questions then ask more questions.
- Employ your listening skills.
- Take the lead when it comes to the conversation and communicate proactively by anticipating their challenges. And don’t feel like you need to fill every second of silence either. These moments have a value of their own because they provide customers with a chance to think and then respond truthfully.
2. Invest in training
Neglecting to educate your sales team adequately does them (and you!) a massive disservice. They deserve to be fully equipped with the tools they need to implement the sales process you’ve chosen. And don’t just plan a one-off training session and forget about their further growth and development. Companies that invest in formal, ongoing training processes can yield up to 50% higher net sales per sales rep.
How’s that for a return on investment?
Are you ready for the future of sales?
We hope you’ve been inspired to dive deeper into the sales methodologies listed above and look closely at your current sales techniques. Remember, change is inescapable, and with proper training, it’s doesn’t have to be such a scary overhaul of your existing processes.
After all, the future of sales is bound to happen – with or without you. So hop on and join us for the ride.