Sales Process & Methodology
You've decided that your business requires sales as a JTBD. What is your sales motion? Do you rely purely on inbound leads, where you have a sales team that only responds to prospects inquiring about your product or service? Do you rely on outbound, where you are cold calling and cold messaging prospects that fit your ICP? In either case, do you field an inside sales force (doesn't travel), field sales (travel), or do you take a hybrid approach?
Whether launching a sales effort means a fractional job for your CEO, hiring full-time sales professionals, or outsourcing - the sales process and methodologies you employ don't fundamentally change. A well-defined combination of sales process and methodology can offer a comprehensive framework to guide sales activities from qualifying leads through deal closure. It can also help your business achieve repeatable and predictable results.
What it Means
At its core, a sales process is a defined sequence of steps and activities that your sales team will follow to move a prospect from the initial engagement to closing a deal. It provides a structured framework for managing and advancing customers through the sales cycle. In other words, this is what people are referring to when they talk about the "sales funnel" or "sales pipeline."
The sales process typically includes stages like lead generation, qualification, proposal, negotiation, and closure. While the process offers a roadmap for the sales journey, it remains flexible and can be adapted based on individual client needs or market shifts. The sales process should have clearly defined criteria for what qualifies a prospect or opportunity to be in each stage and how they progress to the next stage. Here is a simple example of what a sales process may look like:
Sales processes are highly customized across businesses and, in fact, many orgs have full-time employees constantly managing and tweaking their company's process. The important thing is that you define a structure for your business, you define the goals and KPI's you will use to track that process, and you iterate as needed until you find something that meets your sales forecasting needs. One last note: deals do not move backwards a stage or "up" the funnel. They may "leak out" (i.e. deal is lost), but they don't move backwards in a functional process. Deciding what to do with deals that have "gone cold" is an important part of setting up a solid sales process.
Sales methodologies describe how your sales force interacts with prospects through the sales process - asking good questions, uncovering pain points, getting to next steps, etc. It encompasses the mindset, strategies and techniques that your sales people will use to build relationships, identify customer needs, and drive successful outcomes. Tactically - what is your sales person going to say when the prospect answers a cold call? How will they hook the prospect? How will they handle objections? These are fundamental questions that can be answered by your sales methodology.
Popular Frameworks for sales methodologies include: The Sandler Selling System, MEDDIC, Solution Selling, Challenger Selling, SPIN selling, Gap selling
Why it Matters
Let's take the example of a B2B SaaS company. They might adopt a sales process consisting of stages like prospecting, demo, trial, negotiation, and closure. At each stage, they employ the Solution Selling methodology, focusing on understanding the prospect's pain points and tailoring their software as the optimal solution. This may include tasks such as:
Establishing upfront contracts with the prospect - getting a small "yes" at the beginning of a meeting or call can get the prospect into a psychological sense of control and make them more comfortable with the conversation and concept.
Identifying pain points - does your prospect actually have a problem that your company can solve? Have they tried to solve it before? If so, how'd that go? If not, is it just too low on their list of priorities?
Qualifying the prospect in or out as quickly as possible - you've established a paint point that you can address, but that's not the end of the story. Does your prospect have budget authority to make this decision? If not, can they influence the person that does? You don't want your sales team repeatedly focusing on prospects that will drag out their time and attention across a long sales cycle with a series of maybes that result in you being ghosted after six months.
Unveiling the decision making unit (DMU) and buying process - if you're selling B2B software, then there will likely be many stakeholders that a prospect must involve in the decision. Who does your prospect think may be involved in the decision? What has the process looked like when they've purchased a similar software?
Here your sales rep is trying to figure out key information like: Who is the project champion that will sell this internally? Who is the economic buyer that will sign off on budget for your software? Who else may be waiting in the wings to shut you down? Hint: it may be IT, legal, or purchasing.
Once you've completed the customer discovery process, you've checked all your internal boxes to qualify this prospect in. What are the next steps to getting to a PO? It may involve more than just a demo. There may be a custom POC or other series of meetings and events that lead up to the PO. You should have a good idea for what the sales process and customer journey looks like from initial contact to close.
Stack it - Resources & Tools
The High Velocity Sales Organization by Marc Wayshak - an actionable overview of structuring and running your sales organization.
Sandler - a well established sales training organization as well as process and methodology. I personally benefited from some informal resources that summarized Sandler, but they offer many types of resources to support your sales team.
Gap Selling by Keenan - a popular resource on problem-centric selling. Also check out his podcast where he has callers pitch him on their product.
Game Plan Selling by Marc Wayshak - a handbook for your outbound sales efforts.