By: Ray Makela on May 3rd, 2023
Selling Skills vs. Sales Methodology: Understanding the Difference
Sales success requires salespeople to have both selling skills and a sales methodology. Selling skills are crucial for effective sales conversations, while a sales methodology provides a structured approach to the sales process. Sales leaders must balance these two approaches to help their team close deals and increase revenue. Dive in to learn more about the differences between these approaches and how to balance them for revenue growth.
What Are Selling Skills?
Selling skills are the foundational competencies that salespeople need to succeed. They encompass various aspects of the sales conversation, from booking the first appointment to presenting the value proposition and clarifying objections.
A complex deal may require understanding all players, mapping the account, and building a strategy to approach the deal. On the other hand, a short sales cycle may require the ability to grasp the customer's problem quickly, build a relationship, and show how their product can support the challenge.
Finally, negotiating and closing the deal are critical selling skills that can be taught and trained. Sales professionals can learn how to change their underlying behaviors through a sales training program that focuses on teaching these skills.
What Is Sales Methodology?
Sales methodology is a framework that outlines a set of steps or stages for the sales process, from the initial contact with a prospect to closing the deal.
While having a methodology can help with scalability and consistency, not all methodologies fit every business. Often, they can overcomplicate things and take away valuable time from salespeople who would rather be in front of customers.
Moreover, just having a methodology isn't enough. The challenge lies in getting people to improve how they do things and execute the steps outlined in the methodology. It requires a change management approach that considers the day-to-day realities of the sales team.
By applying the methodology to specific scenarios and getting real-time feedback, salespeople can improve their skills and achieve better results.
What Makes Them Different?
Sales methodology is a tool that can make the sales process more predictable and more efficient, requiring less work. However, the effectiveness of selling skills ultimately helps close the sale.
Top-performing salespeople with solid selling skills can make sales without a clear sales methodology, while middle performers and newer reps may struggle because they lack the stages or steps to follow. In such cases, the sales organization needs to map out clear stages, and define each stage’s customer behavior and the underlying skills that are required.
Sales methodology can be compared to guard rails at a bowling alley. They ensure the sales process goes smoothly and serves as a guide to middle performing sales reps who can use it to improve deal flow. They help ensure the deal stays on track despite setbacks along the way.
Aligning Selling Skills with Sales Methodology
To align your team's selling skills with your sales methodology, you need to identify the specific skills required for each stage of the sales process.
For example, in the prospecting stage, your team needs to have strong research and communication skills to identify potential customers and build relationships. In the presenting stage, they must have excellent presentation and storytelling skills to communicate the value of your product or service effectively.
By identifying these specific skills, you can create a customized training program that helps your team develop the skills they need to succeed at each sales stage in the process. The skills training can include role-playing exercises, one-on-one coaching, and online learning modules that cover the key skills and techniques needed for each stage.
How Do You Balance Them Together?
It’s important to have well-defined stages in the sales process, where the expected inputs and outputs from the customer and the necessary skills for each stage are clearly outlined.
By building these stages into the CRM, sales professionals can advance deals from discovery to demo, through negotiation and closing, or whatever the appropriate next step is.
Balancing the need for individual selling skills with the need to follow a structured sales methodology can help salespeople close more deals and be successful in their roles.
Ongoing Training and Coaching
While having strong selling skills and a sales methodology is essential, continuous training and coaching are critical to maintaining the sales team's peak performance. Effective sales training programs should be tailored to each salesperson's unique needs, focusing on addressing their specific challenges. Sales coaching offers personalized support, enabling salespeople to develop their skills and overcome obstacles.
By providing ongoing training and coaching, sales teams can continually improve their skills, learn new techniques, and stay up-to-date with industry trends. It enables them to adapt to changing market conditions and remain competitive in a crowded marketplace.
Furthermore, training and coaching can help keep salespeople motivated, engaged, and committed to their work. This reduces turnover, enhances job satisfaction, and ultimately leads to better outcomes.
By setting clear goals and metrics for success, sales teams can track their progress, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate their achievements. Sales leaders should work with their teams to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with their overall sales strategy and then regularly review progress against these metrics.
Measuring success goes beyond just tracking revenue and deals closed. It can also include tracking other important metrics such as customer satisfaction, win rates, and sales cycle length. By understanding and analyzing these metrics, sales leaders can identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize their sales process.
It's important to note that measuring success should not be a one-time event. Rather, it should be an ongoing process built into the sales team's culture. Sales leaders should provide regular feedback and coaching to their teams and celebrate successes along the way. By creating a continuous improvement and learning culture, sales teams can drive better results and achieve long-term success.
CRM systems, for example, can provide a wealth of information about customers, their preferences, and their behaviors. This information can be used to personalize the sales approach and make it more effective.
Sales teams can also use technology to automate certain sales processes, freeing up time to focus on high-value activities. Call recording software and conversational intelligence applications can be invaluable in highlighting strengths and skills gaps demonstrated during the sales process. Tools like email marketing platforms, chatbots, and social media platforms can also be used to engage with customers and build relationships in a scalable way. These skills and applications need to be embedded into the sales process and defined in a clear sales playbook.
Selling skills are foundational competencies encompassing various aspects of the sales conversation, while a sales methodology is a framework that outlines a set of steps for the sales process.
Sales teams can benefit from both selling skills and a sales methodology to succeed, but it's essential to understand the difference.
Organizations must ensure that their sales teams have the right skills to execute the sales methodology and that the methodology reflects the most effective sales strategies for their industry, target company and deal size. Clear stages should be mapped out, and each stage should clearly define what inputs and outputs are expected from the customer, along with the skills required at that stage.
Aligning selling skills with sales methodology is critical for sales teams' success. To balance these two elements, ongoing training and coaching should be provided, success should be measured regularly, and technology should be utilized to enhance the sales process.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.