Independent research and advisory firm Forrester
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What to ask before changing sales methodologies

7th Oct 2020
Independent research and advisory firm Forrester
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Sales methodology is a topic that evokes a wide range of comprehension among sales professionals, largely depending on their personal history with the methodologies their previous employers used. For some, it’s “that acronym-based qualification process that I learned early in my career.” For others, it’s “that opportunity plan that I’m now required to fill out.” And for still others it’s “that training that we did with those consultants at SKO two years ago — I still have the book here somewhere.”

Sales methodology can be all those things and more, but for simplicity, think of it as how successful sellers execute across the range of selling motions. This is distinct from a sales process, which describes what to do in each selling motion. That simple definition covers a lot of ground, from pre-opportunity activities (e.g., account planning) through the opportunity management lifecycle, and even through handoff to customer success and renewals.

According to Forrester SiriusDecisions Command Centre® data, implementing a new methodology is continually cited as a high priority for B2B sales teams — 89% of them. I interpret this as stating that 11% of respondents are either satisfied with existing methodologies or simply don’t see them as a priority. Thus, just about everyone believes it is a priority to either implement a methodology for the first time or to replace an existing solution.

Why are they replacing methodologies? In the course of our work, we hear three recurring themes:

  • We leaped before we looked. Often methodologies are selected or implemented as a reaction. For example, a new CSO may mandate that “we’re implementing Advanced SuperSellingTM because I used it before, and therefore it will work here.” Or the sales team may say “we’re losing deals in the final stages of the process, and our MONEYTM system rep claims that they can fix this.” To increase the probability that the solution is a good fit, closely examine buyer/seller interactions throughout the sales process and understand what works — particularly for your currently high-performing sales reps.
  • We failed to care and feed. If someone shares a visualized project plan with you that shows nothing to the right of “launch,” you should run. Impact is not realized without adoption, and adoption does not happen without reinforcement, and that requires a plan for continuous follow-up, including success stories, coaching, and continued education. Committing to a methodology is a long-term proposition. If the launch is seen as the fun wedding, then the hard work that comes with sustaining it is the marriage. Enablement teams must set expectations appropriately across sales and marketing that implementation is a long-term commitment.
  • The times, they are a-changin.’ The “changing buyer” is one of the most covered topics among those who research sales and marketing; this transformation has a direct and profound impact on buyer/seller interactions, and therefore on sales methodology. We often hear that methodologies are being updated, refreshed or replaced to make them more relevant to the “new” buyer. Rather than continually change methodologies, it’s much better to begin the journey with a methodology — either built or bought — that can be adapted over time to keep pace with changing buyers.

Whether or not you identify with these common issues, it’s important to know how to assess the effectiveness of a methodology. Is it failing the sales team, or is something else at the heart of the organisation’s issues? The analysis is straightforward if implementation was done intentionally, meaning there was a full assessment of the problem to be solved, a baseline taken, and clear metrics identified and tracked. Creativity is required when there are no objective metrics and no historical context.

In this situation, consider the following questions, which will help diagnose the issues:

  • Does the methodology resemble our high performers, and do our high performers mirror the methodology? If the best sellers are finding better ways to execute, it may be time to consider a change. If the best sellers are leveraging the methodology, then consider driving adoption to the broader audience.
  • Do our buyers appreciate and complement the way we sell? A methodology that begins with the needs of the buyer (NOT the seller) should result in a better buyer experience.
  • Are our sellers using the methodology? If not, it’s important to know why they are not using it. Knowing these two things may indicate whether the issue is a failure to drive adoption or the perception within the sales team that the methodology is not effective.
  • Are deals consistently stalling or falling out at the same point in our sales process? This is relevant if the methodology is meant to address that specific selling motion.
  • Are the front-line sales managers bought in, and is the methodology embedded in their management cadence? Whether due to a failure to prepare them or a negative perception, it is impossible for a methodology to flourish without the front-line sales manager constituency onboard.

After reviewing the answers to these questions, the relative effectiveness of the methodology will be clearer and enablement leaders can make more informed decisions. Consider whether it makes sense to double down on the existing solution and push adoption, or to rip and replace with something better suited to the selling situation and more representative of high performers’ habits.

You can download Forrester’s Chief Sales Officer Planning Assumptions 2021 here.

This post was written by Principal Analyst Eric Zines, and it originally appeared here

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