There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that a sales methodology can dramatically increase the sales effectiveness of your entire sales organization, significantly increasing your sales revenue. The bad news is that not all sales methodology solutions are implemented well. There are few distinct topics in the world of the Sales VP that raise such polarized views as the effectiveness of sales methodologies. Sometimes the very phrase ‘Sales Methodology’ is enough to make Sales VPs reach for the Pepto-Bismol. On other occasions, sales leaders can point to successful implementations that delivered consistent revenue increases, and improved sales effectiveness.
In most cases where stellar (or steady) sales performance exists it is founded on well crafted and institutionalized selling processes, founded on a strong methodology, and customized to a company’s business. In other cases we’ve seen well intentioned executives make significant investments in Sales Methodology, Sales Process or Sales Training Programs, only to find sales representatives burdened by onerous processes that are too hard to use, and eventually just fall away.
We’ve put together this guide to help you become part of the winning crowd. Whether you choose to use the TAS Group’s methodology (which of course we’d prefer), or not, we do believe that you will achieve considerable benefit by adopting a sales process or methodology – but only if you are clear as to your objectives, what success means to your company, and what measurable benefits you plan to gain as a result of your investment.
Here we provide a list of what we believe to be some of the Critical Success Factors when adopting a sales methodology, including why we think they’re important. Also we have outlined a mechanism for you to consider them, and reflect on what achieving these CSFs would mean to your organization. We would encourage you to use this with your colleagues to score (and later rank) these for your own business and use them as you choose how to adopt a sales methodology. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you’re on the mark with all of these; then you’ve a much greater chance of success.
1. Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness
Any good methodology should help your sales team enhance their selling skills, shorten the sales cycle, and close more of the right kind of deals. Sub-optimal performance usually happens because of poor or late access to key decision makers, a failure to create value in the mind of the buyer, and/or when resources are wasted on opportunities that are not adequately qualified. If these issues resonate strongly with you, the methodology you select should have demonstrable models to show how they can be addressed.
Think about the impact that Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness could have on your organization and decide how important you think it might be as you choose your methodology solution.
2. Standard Sales Process and Common Language
Uncommon productivity results when a sales organization adopts a common way of selling that is understood, not just by the sales team, but by the rest of the departments that support the sales team. Sales representatives are speaking the same language as sales management. Marketing and customer support understand what is happening in the sales cycle, and there is a common understanding of when a sale will close.
How important do you think a Standard Sales Process and Common Language is for your organization?
3. Adoption Rate: Ease of Use and Level of Sustained Usage
To achieve any real sustained benefit from a sales methodology it’s important that the sales person uses it consistently. We think the sales person’s perspective is as important as that of sales management to make this happen. Perhaps the question should be “What’s good for the sales person, what helps him increase his sales?”, rather than “Wouldn’t it be good if you got your sales team to do this?” If the sales person wants to use the sales methodology; isn’t it more likely that it would truly deliver value to him, and by extension his sales management. Spend some time on this issue. Seek out the average adoption rates of the methodology vendors’ customers. Look for tools that are powerful – yet easy to use. Seek out easy-to-use reinforcement tools that keep the methodology alive and part of the sales person’s everyday life.
Reflect on how important Adoption Rate, Ease of Use, and Level of Sustained Usage is to you as you consider investing in a sales methodology and score its importance to your organization.
4. Leverage Existing Investments: Integrate with your CRM system [Fully!]
If you use a CRM system, you’re already asking your sales team to enter their opportunity information. You’re asking them to work their opportunities in the CRM system. We would suggest that it would then make sense that the methodology that you choose should integrate tightly with the CRM system, to amplify the benefits of both. Let’s say you are using Salesforce. You probably want to make sure that all of the data captured in the methodology application is inherently accessible to Salesforce reports, dashboards, and other applications. When properly integrated, you do not have to worry about the security of a third party cloud, the data transfer issues that occur with non-native solutions, or the reliability of a third party hosting infrastructure. Examine the relationship between the methodology vendor and the CRM vendor. Make sure they are strategically aligned – so that as you grow with your CRM system, your methodology integration can keep pace. This means that the learning and methodology can be available just-in-time and in context. As the sales person works with an opportunity in the CRM system, the methodology should be always present, just where the sales person needs it.
For your organization, how important do you think it is to Leverage Existing Investments and Integrate with your CRM system as you deploy a sales methodology?
5. Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy: Know when deals will close
One of the results of deploying a sales methodology should be a consistent sales process used throughout the sales team. When that happens you can remove much of the subjectivity from trying to assess when a deal will close if the methodology provides tools to convert qualitative progress into meaningful quantitative forecast data. Inaccurate forecasts can cause credibility problems for the sales organization, and real operational difficulties (cash management, production, etc.) for the business. If this is important to you we would recommend that you examine how the methodologies that you are evaluating meet this requirement.
What is the impact of inaccurate sales forecasts on your business? Is this a problem that you want to have fixed as part of the sales methodology implementation?
6. Gain Control of the Sales Process by Creating Value for the Customer
If a sales opportunity is real, the customer understands the need to change. He may not, as yet, have figured out the transformation that may be necessary, but an effective sales person, with the right tools, will guide him through that discovery and, through that journey, demonstrate evidence of his understanding of his customer’s business and his ability to create value for him. The methodology you select should provide your sales team with tools to support them gain control of the sale.
More than just assessing the health of the opportunity or defining the appropriate strategy, is your new methodology/process going to help you move deals through the funnel faster?
7. Customized to (the multiple sales functions in) your Business
Is the methodology you are adopting flexible enough to allow customization to your company’s way of doing business, or do you have to adapt what you do to fit in with the methodology? It’s important that a methodology brings structure, but not at the expense of how you want to run your sales team. The methodology needs to be prescriptive enough to optimize sales effectiveness while still being flexible enough to fit your business and support your business objectives. Ideally you should be able to have a common base methodology for your entire sales function, but yet be able to substantially tailor it to reflect the different needs of, for example, an inside sales team as well as a field sales teams, or a new business team alongside existing customer account management.
One of the strengths of a methodology is that it provides a structured approach. But can it be adopted to the rhythms of the different part of your business while maintaining that structure? You should rank this as important if you have small and large sales, new business and renewals etc.
8. Track Record of the Methodology Vendor’s Previous Implementations
The sales methodology market is very fragmented and served by a myriad of vendors. The success of an implementation is a function of the core methodology, how it is applied to your business, the implementation and after sales support, as well as the consultants or trainers who engage with you. We think there is always considerable merit in checking out the past record of your supplier, just as you should do when you are hiring a sales person. Ask about the preparation in advance of the engagement, the actual delivery and training, the experience post implementation, how well what was implemented is being used, and most importantly how it supports the core business objectives.
Where Next? – Get Internal Alignment
To really focus on what’s important to your organization, you might like to list the scores that you recorded for each of the questions, and then in the summary table below rank which is most important to you. Pick the CSF that you want above all others and place 1 in the Rank column, then move on to the next most important and place 2 in the Rank column, and so on. If you share this exercise with others involved in the project it will help you achieve alignment, uncover what’s really important, and make success more likely.
To really focus on what’s important to your organization, you might like to list scores for each of the questions, and rank which is most important to you. Pick the CSF that you want above all others and place 1 in the Rank column, then move on to the next most important and place 2 in the Rank column, and so on.