Sales methodologies are an effective way to train your reps to move prospects down the sales funnel. And unlike sales processes, methodologies can apply to any company in any industry.
We’re going to break down the six most effective sales methodologies and look at: a quick one-sentence summary; how the methodology came about and how it works; how sales teams can implement the methodology; and finally, where the methodology is most effectively used.
Additionally, each methodology is categorized as one of the following:
- Most effective for outside sales
- Most effective for inside sales
- Equally effective for all types of sales
That said, it’s important to remember that this is just a starting point. Any of these methodologies can be applied to inside or outside sales based on the nuances of your business and industry.
Read on to discover the best selling methodology for your team!
Most Effective for Outside Sales
In outside sales, relationship building is fundamental. Sales reps nurture long term business relationships with their customers and tend to work with the same account for an extended period of time.
Here are two effective methodologies for outside sales teams:
1. Sandler Selling
In Sandler Selling, the traditional sales script is flipped: instead of the seller encouraging the buyer to buy, the buyer convinces the seller to sell.
What’s the deal with Sandler Selling?
It was invented by David Sandler for his Sandler Training clients and then published in The Sandler Rules: 49 Timeless Selling Principles and How to Apply Them (find it here).
Basically, it’s the “playing hard-to-get” of sales. Sandler invented it because he was frustrated after striking out on dozens of cold calls. The major shift is thinking of “sales reps” as “sales consultants.” Consultants will be sure their solution fits their needs early in the sales process—and if it doesn’t, they move on. No fitting round pegs into square holes.
Sandler equated his selling technique to a submarine for several reasons: first, they’re stealthy; and second, because if a submarine is flooding, you have to lock off each compartment as you run through it. That is, you can’t skip a selling stage and you can’t turn back—you never risk your time or energy on a sinking sale.
Source: Sandler Training
How does a rep win over a lead with Sandler Selling?
As seen in the graphic above, the selling process moves left to right, starting with a foundation of bonding and rapport-building. If things look rocky at any stage, you abandon ship and move on.
Why is Sandler Selling ideal for outside sales?
The nature of outside sales is that you develop long-term relationships with your accounts—and so relationship building is key. Sander capitalizes on this and helps outside salespeople to minimize windshield time by liberally ditching unqualified leads.
2. SPIN Selling
SPIN Selling encourages sales reps who work with large, consultative deals to ditch “traditional” selling methods and act as a trusted advisor.
What’s the deal with SPIN Selling?
SPIN Selling was invented by Neil Rackman in his 1988 book with a subtitle so long it has three sentences, SPIN Selling: The Best-Validated Sales Method Available Today. Developed from Research Studies of 35,000 Sales Calls. Used by the Top Sales Forces Across the World (find it here).
SPIN Selling is based on this handy acronym: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need/Payoff. This methodology asks sales reps to get the prospect to answer questions related to each of those for elements.
“Situation” looks at qualitative questions about the current state of their business, like:
- Walk me through your day
- Why do you do X this way?
- How important is X to your business?
“Problem” looks for opportunities to solve issues plaguing your prospect, like:
- Are you satisfied with your current process for X?
- How many people does it take to accomplish X?
- How expensive is X?
“Implication” looks at the impact of the issues identified by “Problem,” like:
- What is the productivity cost of X?
- Has X ever negatively impacted your KPIs?
- How would you use the money saved by fixing X?
And lastly, “Need/Payoff” asks questions that get your prospects to say how your solution would help them, like:
- Would your team find value in X?
- Would it help if X?
- Do you think solving X would positively impact your KPIs?
Overall, SPIN Selling is one of the more complex methodologies, detailing the 4 stages of the sale and how reps should handle any objections along the way. You can learn more about it here.
How does a sales rep close deals with SPIN Selling?
SPIN Selling uses questions to get prospects to talk themselves into realizing they have a problem and seeing the benefit of your solution.
Why is SPIN Selling best for outside sales?
SPIN Selling is specifically designed for longer sales funnels where reps get more facetime with clients. Since outside sales are about relationship building and trust, thinking about sales reps as trusted advisors is particularly advantageous.
Most Effective for Inside Sales
Inside sales often involve shorter sales cycles, more accounts per rep, and (typically) smaller but more numerous deals.
Here are two effective sales methodologies for inside sales teams: SNAP and MEDDIC.
3. SNAP Selling
When you have a very limited amount of time to spend on each prospect, SNAP selling helps you to win over the “modern buyer” quickly by following the SNAP acronym: Simple, Invaluable, Align, Priorities.
What’s the deal with SNAP Selling?
SNAP Selling is a relatively new selling methodology invented by sales strategist Jill Konrath in her 2010 book, SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers (find it here).
Konrath’s strategy helps sales reps get inside the mind of the modern, flustered buyer—in fact, her book is written from the buyer’s perspective. She talks about “Frazzled Customer Syndrome,” which refers to the way that many buyers today are tight on time, stingy with their attention, easily distracted, and demanding.
To counteract this, Konrath devised the SNAP system to help sales reps understand their buyers on a deeper level:
- S (Keep it Simple): Frazzled customers don’t want to have to read a white paper to understand your solution. Explain it concisely and make your solution easy to adopt.
- N (Be INvaluable): In the 21st century, buyers are inundated with irrelevant, unhelpful offers. You need to stand out as an expert offering something of significant value.
- A (Always Align): Position yourself as someone who understands the prospect’s core values and main goals.
- P (Raise Priorities): After understanding what your prospect’s priorities are, focus on how your solution helps in those specific areas
This type of selling is most effective in industries with short sales funnels or where you get little facetime. In industries with longer sales funnels (like pharmaceutical sales), your buyers will likely expect you to spend more time walking them through every single detail.
How does a sales rep win over a lead with SNAP Selling?
SNAP Selling is all about making conversion a no-brainer for your frazzled customers. By keeping it simple, being invaluable, always aligning, and raising their priorities, you make their decision an easy one.
Why is SNAP Selling ideal for inside sales?
When you work in inside sales, you tend to have fewer sustained interactions with your leads—they’re busy! You aren’t meeting in person, and so you’re constantly competing for their attention. SNAP Selling helps you get your point across effectively and concisely.
4. MEDDIC Selling
Sales professionals qualify leads for complex, enterprise, or other B2B sales by following the acronym, MEDDIC: Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Plan, and Champion.
What’s the deal with MEDDIC Selling?
MEDDIC Selling was invented by the Parametric Technology Corporation’s sales development team, headed by Richard Dunkel and Jack Napoli. After testing out MEDDIC, they famously boosted PTC’s sales from 300 million to 1 billion.
MEDDIC attempts to nail down accurate sales forecasting in order to identify the strongest leads and opportunities. Here are the questions a sales rep needs to answer:
- M (Metric): How much money can you make (for or save) your lead?
- E (Economic Buyer): Who is the decision-maker at the lead’s company?
- D (Decision Criteria): What are the factors that the decision-maker will consider?
- D (Decision Process): What is the buying process like at your lead’s company?
- I (Identify Plan): What are your lead’s main targets and objectives right now?
- C (Champion): Who is the best person on your team to sell to your lead?
Some of these questions can be answered through research, while others will only be possible to discover by speaking to the prospect. In the spirit of efficiency, you want to answer every question you can first before going to the prospect.
Because of the highly pragmatic approach, MEDDIC is the preferred qualification method for sales teams that are targeting complex, enterprises, high-tech, or other large B2B businesses.
How does a sales rep win over a lead with MEDDIC Selling?
MEDDIC helps sales reps to close deals by choosing their prospects carefully. To put MEDDIC into action, a sales rep should work through the acronym and find the answer to each associated question, either themselves or by consulting the prospect.
Why is MEDDIC Selling ideal for inside sales?
MEDDIC doesn’t necessarily require direct interaction with prospects in order to qualify (or disqualify) them as leads—much of the groundwork can be done before ever in reaching out.
Similarly, as it was invented by salespeople at a technology company, it’s particularly well-suited for selling within industries that lean towards inside sales.
Equally effective for Outside or Inside Sales
Some sales methodologies are less contingent on the type of team and instead speak to a fundamental shift in the role that reps play in the selling process.
Here are two selling methodologies that tend to be equally effective for both outside and inside sales: Challenge and Solution.
5. Challenger Selling
Sales professionals take on a “Challenger” personality type and adopt a “teach-tailor-take control” process.
What’s the deal with Challenger Selling?
It was invented by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson in their book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation (found here).
Challenge selling acknowledges that, in the 21st century, sales is a complex landscape. People don’t need (and can’t have) sales reps to hold their hands every step of the process, and sales reps are getting their first actual point of contact much further down the sales funnel.
In this brave new world, Dixon and Adamson determined that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the purchase experience and that most every B2B sales rep falls into one of five personality types:
- Hard Worker
- Relationship Builder
- Lone Wolf
- Problem Solver
As context clues would suggest, Challenger salespeople consistently saw the most success in sales, making up 53% of “high performers.”
According to the executive-training firm, Garter, Challengers have their own unique view on the world, understand their customer’s business, love to debate, and like to push (or challenge) the customer.
How does a sales rep win over leads with Challenger Selling?
They teach the lead their unique perspective, tailor their pitch to suit the specific needs of their client, and take control of the conversation about financials.
Why is Challenger Selling equally effective for outside and inside sales?
Unlike other sales methodologies, Challenger Selling is more about a fundamental attitude shift in the mind of sales reps.
It’s about encouraging sales reps to be like a dog with a bone—to be willing to do whatever it takes to close the sale—and it doesn’t necessarily favor inside or outside sales.
6. Solution Selling
Solution Selling encourages sales reps to focus on the unique benefits their product or service offers to each prospect.
What’s the deal with Solution Selling?
Most sales reps have heard “Sell Benefits, Not Features,” which is an adage that arose out of Solution Selling. It was invented by Michael Bosworth in his timeless book, Solution Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets (find it here).
Today, Solution Selling is such a popular sales term that many people don’t realize that it’s actually a coined term! (Kind of like Frisbee . . . but for sales.)
The typical sales funnel will loosely follow the Solution Selling roadmap:
- Prospect: Identifying potential buyers who could benefit from your “solution”
- Qualify: Evaluate if their decision-making process fits your sales cycle
- Discovery: Learn the prospect’s specific needs
- Add Value: Access key decision-makers and position yourself as their “champion”
- Present: Share a customized solution with emphasis on ROI
- Close: End on a mutually beneficial agreement
Where this methodology may vary from the solution-based selling that you’re already familiar with is in its specificity. There are various questions reps are meant to ask along the way, and each offer is customized for the customer—not necessarily by segment, which can be time-consuming.
How does a sales rep win over leads with Solution Selling?
In Solution Selling, the sales reps shape their pitch and offer to suit the needs of each individual prospect.
Why is Solution Selling equally effective for outside and inside sales?
Reps should always highlight the solutions they offer their customers, no matter what industry, type of team, business size, or any other variable.
What All Sales Methodologies Have in Common
No matter how you decide to move forward—if you use one of the techniques above or something else—there is one valuable sales lesson to draw from the most popular sales methodologies (aside from the fact that acronyms are useful): the importance of implementing a system and sticking to it.
It may seem obvious, but it’s imperative: sales reps must have a designated structure in place that helps them to consider several variables at a specific point in the sales process.
You can evaluate methodologies all day, but at some point, you and your team will have to take the leap.
To determine which sales methodology (or methodologies) are right for your team, try rolling out one at a time while keeping an eye on your core KPI. Give reps time to understand and incorporate the new methodology, and then use data analysis to determine its effectiveness.