Over the years we've had Strategic Selling, TAS, Solution Selling, SPIN Selling, Customer Centric Selling, Value Based Selling, RSVP Selling, Challenger Selling, "make it up as we go along" selling - the list goes on and on.
Many of these methodologies claim to be "the best" - and as recently as 2012 the Corporate Executive Board, promoters of the "Challenger" sales methodology - actually convinced the Harvard Business Review to publish an article wherein they claimed that "Solution Sales" (in their eyes a competing sales methodology) was dead!
The answer is - "YOU DON'T"!
The breakthrough thinking is to start by looking at how B2B buyer's buy - the modern "buyer's journey".
As shown in the diagram below - buyers go through a standard routine every time they want to buy something - and this buying process is quite different to our standard sales process! It's by understanding the buying process that we can choose NOT one sales methodology to follow - but RATHER WHICH methodology to follow WHEN!
An event that causes a potential B2B buyer to move from being "calm" to "having their status quo shattered" is called a "sales trigger", according to the authors of SHIFT! It's experiencing this feeling of being in a "window of dissatisfaction" that causes a buyer to start on a new buyer's journey.
The Challenger sales methodology talks about three core skills - one being to "teach" the customer a new way of running their business, based on some unique insight. Undertaking this teaching is a way of instigating a sales trigger - and hence the "teaching" part of the Challenger methodology is appropriate to start buyers on new buying journeys.
Solution Selling, SPIN Selling and similar methodologies are aimed at getting a buyer to reveal a problem, that they may or may not know they are experiencing. Per the new buyer's journey - these techniques are of most use to get the buyer to realise, and hence reveal, a problem they're experiencing. Once uncovered the methodologies assist the buyer to understand the impact of the problem - and they work to build a vision of what the buyer's world will look like when the problem is overcome.
The Strategic Selling methodology is designed to kick in once the buyer has framed their desired solution, and decided to approach the market, running their procurement process. Strategic Seling talks about creating personal wins for buying influences and "covering the bases" of all the buying influences - but unlike methodologies targeted earlier in the buyer's journey it has little to say about how to create new "fresh" opportunities.
Throughout a large part of the buyer's journey, sales people need specific skills to "take control", pushing to keep the customer moving. To "speak in the customer's language" the sales person also needs to "tailor" what they are saying to suit EACH of the CEO, CFO, CMO, Sales Director, HR Manager etc. The Challenger sales methodology talks about both taking control and also tailoring the conversation.
So - what does it all mean? Lots of conclusions - but the fact is that modern B2B sales directors need to be across a multitude of sales methodologies, "picking the eyes" out of each one depending on where any particular prospect is on their buyer's journey.
Is your sales team selling in line with the buyer's journey? And are they using the right methodology at the right time?
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