Sales Methodology vs Sales Process


  • Too many companies compare a sales methodology vs sales process when designing a repeatable sales model. But the two are not substitutes, they are complementary. It's not a sales methodology vs sales process. It's the combined benefits of the two working together.
  • A selling methodology and predictable selling process are symbiotic. When aligned they create a synergy that lowers sales cycle duration and increases sales win rates.
  • Sales win rates grow by double digits when the sellers process aligns with the buyers purchase process, the methodology shifts from what you sell to how you sell, and the two combine to proactively position sellers with tactics and assets that respond to each buyer objective, requirement or objection.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Sales Methodology vs Sales Process: Benefits of each

Research and the most basic experience show that any selling methodology and process underperform when designed or delivered in a vacuum. Each brings something unique to the seller but if taken separately each actually competes and dilutes the other.

The selling process brings direction and efficiency. Without a streamlined process, the methodology lacks systemic execution and alignment with the buyer's purchase cycle.

The methodology brings strategy and impact. Without methodology, the selling process is focused on efficiency but not effectiveness. It may streamline the sales cycle but will fail to maximize the seller's value.

When integrated, the two harmonize and deliver the greatest performance.

Sales Methodology vs Sales Process

To achieve consistency and repeatability, the methodology must be aligned with each step of the process.

Selling processes consist of progressive stages, but buyers don't always navigate in a straight line. That's why methodologies apply a more dynamic approach to aid and steer buyers in their purchase journey.

The process steps may or may not change based on the methodology. Selling processes are defined first and foremost to align the buyers' purchase process with the sellers' sales process. So, to maintain buyer alignment, it's more important that the methodology align with the process than vice versa.

An Illustrative Example – The Challenger Sale

I'll illustrate a methodology and process integration using the Challenger Sale methodology and a common six step process.

Challenger Sale Process Alignment

Sales methodology vs sales process. See how The Challenger Sale methodology can integrate with a predictable sales process to create synergy and improve sales win rates.

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In contrast to the more common 'Problem-Solution' process whereby sellers flush out the customer's pain and then position their solution as a response, the Challenger model takes a much different route.

The Challenger Sale model is built on a three-step overarching theme of Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control.

  1. Teaching starts by delivering highly relevant insights that surface an unrecognized problem or opportunity that the seller is uniquely positioned to solve. Insights are frequently supported with a contrarian point of view and a more strategic way to consider the customers' challenges. If done correctly, the customer realizes they have a new problem that must be solved. For selling process integration, using the above process map as an example, teaching begins in the Qualification sales step. It then expands in the Discovery step and is reinforced as needed in all subsequent steps. Insights are generated in advance and categorized by topic, seller solution (or product category), buyer role and sales step. They can be catalogued in the CRM system or a content management system so they are automatically delivered using the CRM software workflow tool.
  2. Tailoring is all about putting the customer and their real problem in context and at the center of the discussion. I've found it most successful to use a Socratic method of asking pointed and probing questions. This technique forces the customer to personalize the problems and consequences to their situation.

The customer should be speaking far more than the seller at this stage. Customers should be talking, and reps should be listening and redirecting to the insights-derived problems. If done correctly, the customer will have defined their real problem, and what a solution must offer to solve the problem. This minimum criterion will be uniquely satisfied by the seller's solution. To be clear, this step of the process is not successful if competitor solutions also satisfy the minimum criteria.

For selling process integration, tailoring occurs mostly in the Discovery step. Assets that accompany this step include account plans, buyer personas with customer insights and industry specific economic metrics and drivers that help quantify the problem in financial terms. The customer's problem will be expanded upon in the Strategy and Presentation steps.

  1. In Taking Control, the sales rep strings together the insights and answers in a progressive sequence that leads to their solution. The sales rep shifts from active listening to leading the conversation. From the prior step, reps pick up the insights delivery and reframe the customer's thinking to highlight an unrecognized problem, need or assumption.

They then apply rational drowning, which is a gradual strengthening of the problem and impact to the customer. Challenger reps don't shy away from the money conversation. To the contrary, the customer impact must directly link to the stakeholders' value and economic drivers.

They then create an emotional impact by humanizing the problem in the customer's context. And finally, they share a new way to solve the problem, where their solution is the minimum acceptance criteria. Because the status quo is always the easiest decision, Challenger reps reinforce why change is needed, and underscore the cost of inaction.

For selling process integration, Taking Control is front and center in the Strategy and Presentation steps. Assets to aid the process include competitive intelligence guides, relationship heat maps, win plan templates and stakeholder maps that identify direct (rational) and indirect (emotional) goals for each stakeholder. The CRM software should offer assets at the activity or opportunity records based on sales step progress.

The uniquely derived solution and its economic drivers will be thoroughly illustrated or explained in the Proposal sales step and referred to as needed during the Closure step. As the Challenger Sale model is more of a stimulus-response technique than other models, the stimulus events should be clearly positioned in each sales step and triggered with the CRM system. Done effectively, this will bring simplicity, repeatability and automation to each sale opportunity.

Some pundits suggest that the Challenger Sale actions do not align with individual sales steps and the methodology is delivered in more of a continuous process across many sales steps. In theory, I don't necessarily disagree. But I find this to be a debate without a meaningful outcome. In practice, and having implemented the Challenger Sale model many times, it's been my experience that process step to step visibility gives sellers simplicity, ease of use and a prescriptive but flexible roadmap.

If the methodology is perceived to be complex, user adoption will become a barrier. Similarly, it's the process step to step advancement that aligns with the pipeline and forecast and gives managers the visibility and measurability to deliver the right coaching at the right time and achieve continuous process improvement.

The methodology and process must be aligned to efficiently and effectively direct the revenue cycle to a designated outcome. When the two are integrated, sellers are empowered to proactively lead the process, while  managers are enabled to measure progress, intervene and coach. Sales methodology research shows the combined effort is proven to decrease sales cycle duration and increase sales win rates.