Effective sales methodologies can mean the difference between closing deals and losing them.
But what exactly is a sales methodology?
A sales methodology is a framework and set of actionable steps your reps complete when engaging with a customer. It defines how your sales reps position your products and services, approach prospects, and win deals.
When you have a set of steps for your reps to follow, it helps them present a consistent message to the prospect. It also helps them stick to best practices that work for your audience. Having a defined sales methodology gives them a structure for improving performance.
There are no right or wrong sales methodologies – the best approach for your team depends on your company, your industry, and the current marketplace.
In this article, we’ll explore common sales methodologies so you can choose the right one for your organization.
The Harris Consulting Group and Sales Hacker developed the N.E.A.T. sales methodology – a process for qualifying leads, focusing reps’ time, and making sales.
N.E.A.T. selling requires the salesperson to determine how they can help the prospect based on that prospect’s individual needs and concerns.
N.E.A.T. stands for:
Need: Reps should do a deep dive into the prospect’s biggest problems, challenges, and pain points. What are the most critical things the potential customer wants and needs?
Economic impact: What is the current financial impact of the customer’s pain? How will the customer financially benefit if they can solve their problems?
Access to authority: Which person in your target organization has the authority to make the purchasing decision? Can your primary contact be your product or service’s champion to that person?
Timeline: What is the timeline to get the deal done? Is there an event forcing your prospect to move forward with a decision? Are there negative consequences to missing this date?
Neil Rackham created the SPIN sales methodology in his book, SPIN Selling.
This sales approach is based on the idea that customers buy products and services to solve specific problems. A sales rep’s job is to diagnose those problems by asking questions in four categories: situation, problem, implication, and need/payoff.
The SPIN sales model focuses on buyer challenges, so reps can develop rapport with customers and foster the consultative selling relationships that modern, complex B2B deals require.
Inbound selling is a strategy that focuses on attracting prospects interested in your products and services, and building long-term relationships with those individuals.
Traditional outbound sales systems rely on advertising, cold calling, or email outreach. In contrast, inbound selling attracts customers to you and builds a sales process around content marketing.
By prioritizing customers already engaged with your company, inbound sales provide value through marketing materials. Customers can consume these materials on their own time, on platforms and devices that work for them.
With inbound selling, sales reps can also hyper-personalize content and messaging to propel customers toward the close of the deal.
In conceptual selling, salespeople don’t lead with a strong pitch. Instead, they uncover the prospect’s concept of the solution the offering represents.
This sales framework is based on the idea that customers buy the concept of a solution, rather than the solution itself.
For example, people don’t buy sports cars because of features like horsepower – they typically buy them because of how they feel when driving a beautiful, fast, fun-to-drive automobile. The concept of the car is what moves them to buy.
Once reps understand the buyer and the reasons behind a potential purchase, they can position the concept of your product or services in the most appealing ways possible.
Jill Konrath popularized this sales methodology in her book, SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today's Frazzled Customers. This sales framework helps reps connect with busy, overwhelmed prospects by sharing helpful knowledge. It’s a process of connecting the solution with the person’s highest priorities, and making it easy for them to buy.
Buyers are stressed out and busier than ever. Plus, they have a plethora of available options to solve their problem. Having too many choices can lead to “analysis paralysis” or “choice overload,” which can lead to avoiding making a decision altogether.
“SNAP” is based on four rules for salespeople:
Keep it simple: Be clear and transparent
Be invaluable: Differentiate yourself by adding value to every conversation
Always align: Understand and align yourself with your prospect's goals and challenges
Raise priorities: Help prospects see how (and why) fixing their problem is a priority
According to this sales framework, there’s a gap between your customer’s current state (A) and where they want to be once their problems are solved (B). Gap selling focuses on moving people from A to B.
In this book, Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes, author Keenan writes that reps who use this sales methodology should assess the gap by asking questions about:
The customer’s physical situation, such as the size of the company, the industry, location, and the size of their team
The customer’s primary problem, from a business or technical perspective
The impact of the problem or how the issue is affecting the customer or company
The root cause of the problem
How the problem makes the buyer feel
With this information in hand, the rep can have a conversation about the buyer’s future state, which will be achieved after the customer solves the problem. The salesperson can determine the right communication channels and content to build trust with the prospect and develop an advisory relationship during the buying process.
The Challenger Sale
In their book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, authors Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon assert that most B2B salespeople fit into one of five personas: hard workers, relationship builders, reactive problem solvers, lone wolves, and challengers.
According to their theory, the most successful salespeople are challengers who follow a “teach/tailor/take control” sales methodology.
Their process is:
To teach prospects how they can make or save money when they solve their most pressing business problems.
To tailor and personalize communications to their prospect’s specific needs.
To take control of the sale by challenging the customer and pushing back when necessary.
Target account selling
In target account selling, salespeople focus on choosing the right prospects to sell to, so it’s easier to close deals. This process requires researching potential accounts to select the best possible target audience.
Target account selling can be partially automated using a CRM to identify accounts with particular characteristics or customer behaviors. You can identify common behaviors or triggers that make people most likely to buy, then apply a repeatable, structured process to turn these prospects into conversions and improve sales performance.
MEDDIC sales qualification
The MEDDIC methodology is a highly disciplined, tightly controlled, tech-driven approach to sales. It emphasizes using data to assess whether it’s worthwhile to put a buyer into your sales funnel.
The MEDDIC acronym stands for:
Metrics: What is something quantifiable that your buyer wants to gain when they solve their problem?
Economic Buyer: Who is the decision maker at the company? This isn’t necessarily the sales rep’s first contact at the business.
Decision Criteria: What factors does the prospect use to make a decision? How are those criteria weighed?
Decision Process: How will the decision be made? What’s the timeline for making the decision?
Identify Pain: What problem is the customer facing? What consequences will occur if they don’t solve it?
Champion: Is there an individual at the company who wants you to succeed with the sale? The champion is (usually) the person most affected by the company’s major pain point. They’ll likely directly benefit from the solution you’re offering.
You can use the MEDDIC sales model to qualify prospects and identify where reps should spend their time. This sales framework is particularly beneficial in situations where there are multiple prospects within one company, because it can help you identify where conversions are most likely to take place.
Solution selling focuses on the benefits, relevance, and impact of your solution, rather than its features.
When using solution selling, sales reps dig deep into prospects’ unique situations to identify pain points and establish a set of criteria that characterize an acceptable resolution to those issues.
This approach is similar to sales models like conceptual selling, which emphasize understanding customer issues. With these frameworks, reps focus on asking probing questions to understand underlying needs and offering solutions to problems, rather than just lauding a product or service’s features.
Solution selling places a heavy influence on empathy and connecting with the customer by focusing on their individual needs.
Choosing the right sales methodologies for your business
Your sales approach must align with your industry, your company’s business goals, and, most importantly, your audience.
Finding an effective sales methodology enables you to:
Consistently meet buyers' needs.
Help buyers navigate complex B2B purchasing decisions.
Build trusted relationships that result in a better, more holistic buying experience and increased conversions.
No matter which sales methodology you use, Pitcher’s powerful sales enablement software can help your team become more effective. Request a demo today to see it in action.