Managing by your Methodology
Sales methodologies and sales training programs are a dime-a-dozen. Simply reading any one (or many) of the best-selling sales books or attending one of the many sales training programs isn't going to turn someone into a superb salesman overnight. It takes time to develop effective sales skills. No matter what methodology you've selected, it only becomes valuable when you put it into practice in the field. People only become 'experts' after they've lived and breathed it for a while. By their very nature, a one or two day training session won't yield significant results. New concepts, principles, approaches and techniques have to be used over an extended period of time before people become fully adept at using them.
First and foremost, salespeople should exercise the discipline of managing their sales activities according to a strategic sales methodology. Even the greatest 'natural born' salesman can improve their performance when they apply a framework to managing sales opportunities.
Sales managers also must take responsibility for allowing their salespeople to wane in their commitment to using the methodology. Ultimately, it's up to management to ensure that the methodology is used.
Most managers would assert that they firmly believe that a methodology will help their salespeople close more deals. So why aren't managers more disciplined about using their methodology?
One of the reasons sales managers don't manage by their methodology is the methodology hasn't been integrated into their business. No one has taken the time to tailor it to their specific selling environment and figure out how it will fit into their sales process. (More details on this issue can be found in another ThisQuarter article entitled "Integrating your sales methodology into your sales organization").
The second major reason sales managers don't manage by their methodology is that they too are creatures of habit. It's easy to throw a new methodology out the window as pressure begins to mount at the end of a month or quarter. A sales manager's primary responsibility is delivering revenue. It's easy to revert to old ways of doing things when you're racing around trying to get deals closed.
So, you ask, "Why should I manage by a methodology?" Following is a brief overview of three practical reasons:
Faster, more effective account reviews: If you're account reviews are similar to most companies, they consist of the salesperson providing a lengthy "story of the opportunity". As the clock ticks, you try to wade through the mountain of details to determine which pieces of information are relevant and which ones should be discarded. Ultimately, the dialog between the sales manager and the salesperson isn't done in a manner that enables the sales manager to quickly assess the sales opportunity and provide valuable recommendations on the strategy and tactics that should be executed to yield the highest chance of winning the opportunity. Using a methodology enables a salesperson and their manager to quickly zero in on the specific things that can be done to win an opportunity.
Individual Skills Development: Utilizing a sales methodology where every opportunity is managed according to the same framework also helps salespeople develop their sales skills more quickly. As we've discussed, repetition is the key to learning. If each opportunity is viewed uniquely, it is more difficult for a salesperson to see where they're a "repeat offender" and hone their skills in that area. Furthermore, a sales manager can more easily identify the particular skills that an individual salesperson needs to develop using a methodology.
Sales Force Development: Managing all sales opportunities across all sales people by the same framework also enables sales managers to spot weaknesses that are shared by their entire sales team as well as potential weaknesses in their sales strategy and sales process. This provides the opportunity to make adjustments that will help improve the overall results of the team. For example, a simple sales process might include three major steps: 1) initial meeting 2) presentation & demo 3) proposal. Managing by a specific methodology might allow you to identify that your sales process isn't providing your salespeople the opportunity to accomplish one of the major objectives dictated by your sales methodology (for example, developing a champion or gaining alignment to executives).
In summary, just like adhering to a workout program, it takes discipline to manage by a methodology. Organizations that engrain this discipline into their sales force have the opportunity to become peak performing sales teams.