In our most recent episode of Talk of the Trade, we sat down with Paul Butterfield, Vice President of Global Revenue Enablement at Instructure and host of the Sales Enablement Society podcast, “Stories From the Trenches,” to discuss the importance of sales methodologies.
After implementing sales methodologies in multiple organisations, Paul has seen the impact of having the right framework to improve your forecasting, your brand experience, and ultimately your win rate. Read on for highlights from the conversation!
What is a sales methodology?
A sales methodology is a standard philosophy that your organisation applies to your process of generating new business. Paul makes a distinction between methodology and process. A sales process is very task oriented: the stages in your CRM, requirements to create an opportunity and move it down the pipeline, and other logistics in organising your sales. Meanwhile, sales methodology is the culture around how you approach prospects. That includes everything from how you make the initial contact, how you earn the right to have higher-level conversations, and generally the philosophy you want all of your sales team to execute at each stage of an opportunity.
In case you aren’t sure whether your organisation has a methodology or not, Paul offers a simple test. If you as a sales manager were to anonymously and invisibly drop in on 10-20 discovery calls on your team, how easy would it be to tell that your team was pitching the same service each time?
If the answer isn’t “easy”, then you need to revisit or create a sales methodology.
Why do you need a sales methodology?
Selecting and implementing a sales methodology is an investment in time and money, so it is tempting to skip it. However, Paul points out that without one, all the effort that the product, marketing, and executive teams put in towards creating a cohesive brand experience goes out of the window. If you don’t arm your sales people with the methodology to execute at each stage, they will end up making it up on the fly. And usually that means your sales people will speak in terms of product and features which results in a race for the lowest price rather than competing based on your brand values.
What are the results of a good sales methodology?
In Paul’s experience, when you have a good sales methodology in place, your executives will hear from your customers about what a fantastic experience they had with their sales people.
On top of that, when you have adopted the right sales methodology, your forecasting accuracy will improve. That is because you have empowered your sales team to better engage with your prospects, so that they actually have realistic conversations about closing dates and numbers, rather than relying on gut instinct.
How do you choose the right sales methodology?
There are dozens of trademarked sales methodologies in the market, and many organisations have homegrown ones on top of that. Paul cautions against getting overwhelmed by all the options. Pick a handful to investigate. Whatever you end up with, keep in mind that it will need to match with your brand values, allow your sales team to scale, and should reflect what your customers need at each stage.
For example, at Instructure, Paul ultimately chose a methodology that is very focused on educating the prospect, since his target customers are educators themselves. Before finalising his choice, Paul went through the formal training to make sure it aligned to his customers. That way, he was setting his sales team up for success.
Paul says he has come across many amazing sales methodologies. The best framework is whichever one that your team can be consistent with. Above all, any methodology should be repeatable, scalable, and auditable.
How do you get your organisation to adopt your new sales methodology?
Once you select a sales methodology, the easy part is done. Now, you have to get your entire sales organisation to buy in to it, too.
Whether you are bringing in a third-party framework or designing one in-house, Paul recommends ensuring at least one internal team member is certified in teaching and customising the framework. That person will be available to reinforce the methodology informally and in regular check-ins.
On top of that, you need your sales managers to espouse the methodology, too. Sales teams will be resistant to change, which means they will only make the effort to adopt your new framework if their managers hold their feet to the fire. Lean on your executive team to show that this methodology is not going anywhere, and then check in with the team leads to make sure they are holding reps accountable for executing the methodology.
How do you measure the impact of your new sales methodology?
After implementing new sales methodologies at multiple organisations, Paul has seen improvements in a few key performance indicators. If you implement the right methodology – and drive adoption across the sales team – then the number of discounted deals should go down, the percentage of those discounts should decrease, and the platform sales with attachments should go up. In all, your win rate will increase, because your forecasting will be more accurate and your reps can focus on the opportunities that will actually close.