Sales Methodology vs. Sales Process: Why Both Matter

Anirban Banerjee
December 31, 2021
5 min read

How many times have you heard the terms “sales methodology” and “sales process” used interchangeably? Plenty, we assume. It’s a common misconception that there is very little difference between these two terms. 

However, while one can agree that they are heavily intertwined, they are two separate entities with distinct functions and objectives. 

So, let’s spend the next fifteen or so minutes talking about the sales methodology vs. sales process conundrum, shall we? In this post, we will be taking a detailed look at:

  • What is a Sales Process?
  • Different Stages of Sales Processes
  • What is a Sales Methodology?
  • Sales Methodology Examples
  • Sales Methodology vs. Sales Process: How Are They Different?
  • Sales Methodology vs. Sales Process: Which One Should You Pick?

Alright, let’s get started!

What is a sales process?

A sales process is a consistent, repeatable and sequenced structure of sales-related activities defining every stage and milestone of the sales journey – from prospecting to closing. Think of it as a master plan for sales. It serves as a guide for an organization’s salespersons and is typically well-documented and tied to the CRM. 

Given this definition, a sales process varies from business to business and industry to industry.

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Stages of sales processes

Even though the sales process adopted by a company is a result of several factors, the different stages of sales processes are:

Prospecting

Prospecting focuses on capturing lead information and evaluating whether or not your solution is suited for them. It also involves determining if the potential customers can afford what you offer.

Preparing

Preparing involves the warming up of the lead before initiating first contact. At this stage, salespersons are involved in collecting more information on the prospect and tailoring their pitch, presentation, approach, etc., accordingly.

Approaching

Approaching revolves around making the first contact with the prospect. It could be through meetings, over a call, or even emails. There are several ways through which sales reps can approach the prospect. For instance, the premium approach would require sending gifts at the beginning of the interaction, while the product approach offers a free sample or trial of the product or service.

Presenting

During this stage, the salesperson will present the product or service as a solution to the customer’s pain points. And even though “presenting” in its literal sense may involve PowerPoint presentations, it could also mean making a sales pitch.

Handling objections

Once the salesperson has pitched their offering, they must field any doubts or queries coming in the way of the purchase. Here’s where sales objection handling comes into play. At this stage, the rep will try to remove any doubts, inhibitions, or concerns the buyer may have regarding the purchase.

Closing

Closing is the end goal of any sales cycle. It marks the point where the sales rep has convinced the buyer and handled all objections, and now the coast is clear to finalize the purchase and close the deal. Different businesses have different closing styles - some may follow the all-or-nothing approach to closing the deal while others may offer alternative choices, both of which lead to sales in different forms.

Following up

Even though closing is the primary goal of the sales cycle, the responsibility of a salesperson does not end here. They need to maintain contact with the customer and offer after-sales support through regular follow-ups. Such proactive action on your part seals the deal for customer loyalty, earning repeat business and customer referral.

What is a sales methodology?

A sales methodology is essentially a sales process in action.

It constitutes the various methods, tactics, and strategies employed by a salesperson to keep a prospect moving through the sales process. It connects the sales process to the buyer’s journey by dictating what needs to be done at different stages of the sales process.

Unlike a sales process, which is properly defined and followed, a sales methodology is problem-centric and involves a high degree of adaptability to attune with the ongoing conditions and interactions. And while the sales process covers the entire sales cycle, a sales methodology focuses on one specific area of the sales process.

Sales methodology examples

Let us look at some of the most popular sales methodology examples to understand their role in the sales process:

SPIN selling

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“SPIN” stands for:

  • Situation questions that analyze the present state of the prospect.
  • Problem questions that deconstruct the problems that they face and the motivation behind seeking solutions.
  • Implication questions that probe into the consequences of not taking steps to address the issue.
  • Need-payoff questions to get them thinking about the ideal situation of when the problem is solved.

The SPIN sales methodology guides the prospect into discovering your product or service as a solution to their pain points rather than aggressively making the sale.

N.E.A.T selling

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NEAT selling replaced standard sales methodologies like BANT and ANUM. NEAT is an acronym for:

  • N: Understanding core buyer Needs and corresponding challenges.
  • E: Economic impact of effecting change versus inaction.
  • A: Access to Authority responsible for making the purchase decision.
  • T: Timeline or Time frame against which the decision needs to be made.

NEAT is primarily used for customer-centric lead qualification as it helps sales managers gain in-depth knowledge of the prospect and their requirements.

SNAP selling

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SNAP selling helps salespeople align with the customer in a more meaningful and value-driven manner. SNAP covers the principles of:

  • Keeping it Simple
  • Being I(N)valuable
  • Always Aligning
  • Raising Priorities

It follows a direct approach for outreach where the value proposition is made instantly clear.

Challenger sales model

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The Challenger Sale model categorizes sales professionals into five unique profiles, these are:

  • The Hard Worker - self-motivated and does not give up easily.
  • The Lone Wolf - may not be a team player and is difficult to work with but can singularly deliver results on various fronts.
  • The Relationship Builder - follows a calculative approach to consultative selling through rapport building.
  • The Problem Solver - can solve every problem using a responsive and detail-oriented approach.
  • The Challenger - has an astute understanding of the business, enjoys challenges, and possesses the skills and competencies to overcome them.

And amongst these profiles, salespersons who fit the “Challenger” profile are the most high-performing ones.

The Sandler system

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The Sandler Selling System relies on the equal participation of the buyer and seller to carry a deal forward. It is quite a diversion from the standard sales process as it views the stakeholders as equals with proportionate responsibilities. 

Salespeople who follow the Sandler Selling System do not waste time convincing prospects to purchase their goods and services but rather advise the buyer to discover the solution to their pain points.

MEDDIC

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MEDDIC is a lead qualification technique for enterprise sales. While following the MEDDIC approach, sales reps have to ask the following questions:

  • Metrics: What is the cost liability of the problem?
  • Economic buyer: Who is responsible for monitoring the budget in the buying process?
  • Decision criteria: What is the process of evaluation used by the decision-maker to select a vendor?
  • Decision process: How does the organization choose a vendor?
  • Identify pain: What are the trigger events and economic impact of the problem?
  • Champion: Who is selling on your behalf?

Sales methodology vs. sales process: How are they different?

So far, we have broadly covered the differences between sales methodology vs. sales process, which can be summarized (and elaborated upon) into the following points:

  • The sales methodology is a subset of the sales process and supports it at various stages.
  • The sales process governs the entire sales cycle, and the sales methodology focuses on a smaller segment of the sales process.
  • The sales process defines the “what” of selling, while the sales methodology defines the “how” aspect of it.
  • Different organizations have different sales processes, however, they may follow the same or similar sales methodology techniques.
  • Sales processes are more or less immutable, while sales methodologies are dynamic and vary depending on the situation.
  • The sales process is a factor of the industry, sales journey, and target audience, whereas the sales methodology is a result of substantiated psychological principles, sales philosophies, and field-tested sales strategies conducted and formalized by sales experts.
  • The sales process, on the whole, caters to the organization's long-term growth. The sales methodology addresses an immediate and pressing problem (which will eventually accrue and contribute to the sales process objectives).

The one-two punch for successful sales

Despite the differences between sales methodology vs. sales process, it is worth stating that they are tied together with a common goal — to drive sales and to make it more efficient. The sales process offers direction to the sales team, and the methodology guides them in this direction. As such, they cannot truly operate in a vacuum and must be thought of as two sides to the same coin.

The collective action of the two equips the salesperson with the means and medium of delivering in accordance with broader organizational goals and helping businesses grow!

Interested in learning how Wingman can help you implement a sales methodology for your sales team? Book a demo here.

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