In the never-ending search for higher sales performance, many organizations invest in sales process and sales methodologies, often without understanding the difference between the two.
It’s an understandable mistake—after all, many methodologies (SPIN and Sandler, for instance) include rudimentary process elements as part of their structure, while many processes require elements of methodology in order to function well.
While there can be some overlap between sales process and sales methodology—for instance, the Sandler submarine presents buying “stages” that could form the backbone of a process—the essential quality of a process is that it systematizes the stages and steps to move the sale toward its conclusion. Without it, the sales organization will experience chaos.
A complete system includes both a sales process and a sales methodology
The sales process is different for different organizations, but some elements tend to be similar. Within each stage are steps that the salesperson must take and verifiable outcomes seen from the buyer’s perspective. For instance, inside the “qualifying” stage, a few steps include identifying the decision-makers and stakeholders; validating the industry, company size, and revenue; and uncovering the prospect’s motivations and willingness to change.
Inside each step of the process, the methodology comes to play. Within the qualifying stage discussed above, for instance, many sales methodologies teach questioning techniques that the salesperson can use to gather information about the company’s structure, size, and stakeholders. Without these techniques, the salesperson might know that they need to find out who the stakeholders are, but they might fail because their unskilled approach puts the buyer on the defensive. Or they might simply be too afraid to even ask because they don’t have the skills to do it effectively.
Thus, sales teams that have a process but no methodology will suffer from inferior results, while those that integrate both into a complete system will gain substantial benefits.