Sales Leader Guide: How to Choose a B2B Sales Methodology
Post by Anthony Iannarino
February 12, 2023
Every sales organization needs to determine how they interact with decision-makers. How the sales force sells determines the sales team's success. This is a critical decision sales leaders must get right. Choosing a methodology that isn't right for your prospective clients will mean losing deals you might have won had you provided your contacts with a better sales experience.
The sales process is no longer linear, and a methodology built for a linear process can no longer ensure success. Sales leaders and managers need to recognize that selecting an effective sales methodology is increasingly important to revenue growth and goal attainment . Your methodology now carries the weight that once belonged to the sales process.
What Is a Sales Methodology?
The major sales methodology is based on the sales organization’s overall strategy. For example, a sales organization with a short sales cycle will likely need a transactional methodology. An organization that relies on complex sales needs a methodology that enables the sales force to handle the many conversations and challenges of the B2B sales process . Within each major methodology is a set of sales strategies and techniques that support the overall strategy.
It's important to recognize that sales methodologies lose their effectiveness over time . Some of the best and most durable sales methodologies were developed over 50 years ago. Since then, buyers—particularly those in B2B sales—have changed. While these older methodologies still have some truths worth acknowledging, a modern sales model and approach will better support sales organizations in the current environment. When making this decision you should consider your team’s sales skills and sales management's ability to support your choice of methodology.
Here will focus on the most popular sales methodologies for B2B selling.
A List of Sales Methodologies
Sandler Training (1967): This is the oldest sales system still in existence. It's based on what David Sandler called timeless principles. Despite this description, many of these principles are not designed for the current business environment.
Consultative Selling (1970): Mack Hanan's approach to selling was based on improving the prospect's profitability. This approach helped sales organizations justify their higher prices.
Solution Selling (1975): This approach is based on identifying a problem and tailoring the solution to each client's unique needs.
Value-Added Selling (1986): This approach highlights the unique features and benefits of the sales organization’s product or service. It's closely related to consultative selling because it focuses on value for money.
Relationship Selling (1980s): This methodology is based on building long-term relationships by providing personal attention and, as in solution selling, tailoring the product or service to the client.
Needs-Based Selling: This methodology uncovers a client’s need and pain points, then presents solutions.
SPIN Selling (Consultative Selling): This is the methodology from Neil Rackham's most popular book, and it is still in use. Rackham’s concepts of the situation, problem, implications, and needs payoff are still used today.
Conceptual Selling and Strategic Selling (1987, 1992): Created by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman, both of these focus on the client’s attitude. Conceptual selling helps salespeople look past the product or service and instead focus on how the client thinks about the concept of the solution. Strategic selling urges salespeople to focus on the attitudes of decision-makers.
Challenger Sale (2011): Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson documented high performers who taught, tailored, and took control.
Level 4 Value Creation™ (2016): This is my sales methodology. It is designed for companies that need to differentiate in a crowded market by using a set of value-creation strategies that cause buyers to prefer to buy from the salesperson and their company.
Why Use a Sales Methodology
You need to choose sales methodology because it provides a common approach for the sales force. To decide which strategy is best for your team, begin by looking at your major strategy. Then, assess what your potential clients or customers need from the sales conversation . Different types of sales require different methodologies and approaches. Unlike the linear sales process thousands of sales organizations adopted in the 1990s, a lot of methodologies start with different sets of assumptions.
You must also train and develop your sales reps to successfully implement the sales methodology you choose. The better your sales approach is suited to your strategy and your clients’ needs, the better your results.
How to Choose a B2B Sales Methodology
When determining which methodology is right for your team, consider the following factors:
Effectiveness: The first factor you should consider is the effectiveness of the sales model and the approach it prescribes. This assesses the methodology’s ability to help you close deals. One way you might explore this is to analyze the effectiveness of your existing sales approach by looking at your data. In what stages of the sales process does the methodology fail or struggle? You have clear and compelling reasons to look for a new sales methodology. If you consistently lose deals or experience falling win rates, your competitors may have adopted a modern sales approach.
Environmental fit: Because so many methodologies were designed and developed in a simpler time, you need to make certain the one you choose addresses the modern buyer. Many modern buyers believe they don't need a salesperson's help early in their buyer's journey. They are doing some of their own research before speaking with B2B salespeople, and some surveys show that an increasing number of buyers prefer a " salesperson-free buying experience.”
Salesforce fit: No sales methodology is right for every B2B sales team. Your team will need to be capable of executing the methodology, and it must consider your business goals and strategies. It's important to arm the sales force with sales strategies that grow revenue. In a world of accelerating, constant, disruptive change, ensuring your sales force provides a sustainable strategic advantage is priority number one.
Client fit: I once had a client that wanted their sales methodology to be transactional. Their clients wanted a consultative approach. If you choose a sales methodology that your clients do not prefer, it will not work for you. In this case, their clients refused to budge. They needed time and conversation. Sales methodologies enable sales teams to gain insight into their customers and their respective industries. These include practices, procedures, and tactics to build relationships, recognize customer needs, and offer customers value. Having an effective strategy in place, sales reps can more easily make connections with clients, boost their loyalty rate, and cross-sell .
Implementation and execution: Depending on what methodology you are leaving, you may have to train the sales force to execute the new approach. For most sales organizations with engaged leaders, it is worth the time and effort to change to a sales approach that improves their results. Equipping a sales team with fresh tactics is a great way to boost their success. Giving them the right tools and materials will help them attain their sales objectives. This may require several sales enablement projects .
Ongoing support: It's important that the sales methodology is still supported and that you have access to help while you execute it. It's also important to have tools that allow you to improve results without posing an unnecessary burden.
When choosing a B2B sales methodology, consider the effectiveness of the approach; how it fits your environment, sales force, and clients; your ability to implement the methodology, and whether you will have access to the tools, sales training, and support you need.