The top 9 sales methodologies and how to choose the right one for your business
Learn about popular sales methodologies that can give your reps an effective, repeatable sales process to follow.
Last updated June 8, 2023
“It’s not about having the right opportunities,” author and sales professional Mark Hunter asserts. “It’s about handling the opportunities right.”
In other words, the quality of your leads matters, but understanding how to sell to those leads matters more. Sales reps need to know how to efficiently move leads from potential customers to converted, bonafide customers. They need sales training that teaches them how to do exactly that for your product and market.
That’s where your team’s chosen sales methodology comes into play. Choose a road map that reps can consistently follow to close more deals and bring in more revenue.
To choose the right sales strategy, you need to know your options and understand which are designed for companies like yours. We outline six of the most popular sales methodologies below, along with details on who they work well for.
What is a sales methodology?
A sales methodology is a series of steps that describe how to sell to leads within your market. It teaches sales reps how to move those leads from potential customers to converted, bonafide customers.
Best sales methodologies
SPIN sales methodology
What is the SPIN sales methodology?
SPIN selling is designed to help sales reps close difficult, complicated deals via relationship-building.
Neil Rackham introduced the methodology in his 1988 book, SPIN Selling. Rackham outlines a framework for developing the right questions for customer-centric selling. The method also teaches reps when to ask the questions.
These questions fit into one of the four categories included in the SPIN acronym: Situation, Problem questions, Implication, and Need-Payoff. They’re designed to help sales reps close deals in the following ways:
- Establishing the buyer’s current situation
- Identifying problems the buyer faces that your product can solve
- Exploring the implications (causes and effects) of each problem
- Showing why leads need your product—why it’s worth buying
Use SPIN selling if:
Your goal is to build trust that leads to future investment
SPIN’s emphasis on relationship-building is unique among the most popular sales methodologies. It allows sales reps the time to get to know customers and listen to their customer’s needs. This approach may seem time-consuming, but its results are often long-lasting.
When done effectively, SPIN selling makes the customer feel like you’re there to help them—regardless of whether they actually buy.
That gives reps an opportunity to work with customers where there’s less pressure to buy. Removing some of the pressure to buy creates space for reps to develop a deeper sense of trust with prospects. Customer trust makes it easier for reps to sell products and services that are truly a good fit—in both the short term and the long term.
For companies just starting out, the SPIN methodology is a great way to build trust in the market. Plus, investing in long-term relationships can help differentiate you from a wide competitor pool and support your brand positioning.
SNAP sales methodology
What is the SNAP sales methodology?
Created by Jill Konrath in 2012, SNAP Selling is a methodology that helps reps sell to clients who are stressed out and in a hurry. It focuses on streamlining the sales cycle as much as possible. In other words, it’s designed for the modern buyer.
SNAP stands for keep it Simple, be iNvaluable, always Align, raise Priorities. Each aspect is designed to speak to the types of questions frazzled, rushed customers have in mind:
- How simple is this solution? How much time and effort will it take to implement?
- What does the cost/benefit of this solution look like?
- Does this sales rep (and their pitch) align with our needs and goals?
- Is this solution (and its implementation) a priority, or it can wait?
The idea behind SNAP selling is to distill the selling process down to the core components. SNAP sellers leave aside fluff and relationship-building. Instead, they favor clear, simple communication and an expedited sales process.
Use SNAP selling if:
You’re an industry leader with name recognition
If your company enjoys broad name recognition in your industry, SNAP selling can help you eliminate wasted time. It essentially enables reps to move past the first few steps of the buyer’s journey—heading directly to quoting and dealmaking. You already have the buyer’s ear by virtue of your brand. Don’t waste more of their limited time piling it on to earn their trust or authority.
Your target market works in fast-paced environments
People who work in hectic environments are used to making decisions under pressure. They’re looking for speed and efficiency in the buying process.
SNAP selling helps you outline the sales process in simple terms, making it faster to work through. Clearly state your product’s value and alignment with the buyer’s priorities. From there, it’s easy for them to make a quick decision about whether they want to move forward.
Relationship selling methodology
What is the relationship selling methodology?
This is a relatively new concept in the sales world, one that places the emphasis on building trust and creating real human connections. It’s ideal for when you want to build a customer relationship that deepens over time.
Getting there, however, takes more touch points than other sales methodologies. Think of it as the opposite of the hard-charging, close-the-deal-and-move-on mentality. Relationship selling requires a sales person who exhibits the following qualities:
- Friendly, chatty, and a good listener
- Detail-oriented—remembers customer birthdays, career goals, and personal interests such as hobbies
- Has a clear understanding of personal boundaries
- Focuses on the customer and their needs
Use the relationship selling methodology if:
You deal in larger purchases that carry more risk and require long-term commitments
Relationship selling works particularly well in the B2B space, especially for SaaS sales. If you’re going to ask a company to sign a long-term, high-dollar contract for your software, trust will be the name of the game. But building that trust goes far beyond making that initial sale—it helps create a safety net for your business. If something goes wrong with your service, having a strong relationship in place with your customers can make the difference between retaining a valued client or seeing them flee to a competitor.
You want accounts that can increase in value due to cross-selling and upselling and that are more stable over time
The better the relationship, the greater the chance you’ll see stable, recurring revenue from your customers. And if you demonstrate that you can be trusted—not just out to close a deal at any cost—you’ll have more opportunities to cross-sell and upsell to your loyal clients.
Solution selling methodology
What is the solution selling methodology?
Solution selling is an approach that focuses on helping clients solve their specific problems. Instead of focusing on a particular product and trying to sell it to a customer regardless of their needs, solution selling requires salespeople to gain a deep understanding of their clients’ pain points and then offering only those products or services that will address those issues.
Sales teams that employ solution selling need to follow a series of steps:
- Gain a deep understanding of the product or service
- Carefully qualify leads
- Identify customer needs
- Help customers realize what their needs are
- Present your product or service as a solution to those needs
- Overcome sticking points with prepared rebuttals
Use solution selling if:
You want to focus on your product or service’s value
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach where clients might end up purchasing something they don’t need—which ultimately leads to dissatisfaction and churn—solution selling enables you to guide customers to identify their pain points. That opens the door for you to present how your product will solve those problems.
You want to build strong customer relationships
When you understand a customer’s challenges and can articulate how your product will help them overcome those issues, you’ll build trust and create a personal bond. That can make all the difference when it comes time to sign on the dotted line–and again when it’s time for a customer to renew.
Challenger sales methodology
What is the Challenger sales methodology?
The Challenger sales methodology is based on a 2011 book by the same name written by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon. In the book, Adamson and Dixon say there are five B2B selling personas:
- Relationship builders
- Hard workers
- Lone wolves
- Reactive problem-solvers
According to the book’s authors, “challengers” represent 40% of top-performing sales reps. The Challenger Sale methodology seeks to help all reps sell more like those stellar reps.
“Challengers” follow a three-step process: teach, tailor, take control. The Challenger Sale argues that these are the most important steps in the sales process. Reps teach the buyer about the industry as a whole, personalize their product, and then solve the problem.
Use the Challenger sales methodology if:
Your product is on the complex side
The first step in this technique is to consult your client about the industry as a whole. Your sales rep will help the customer critically assess the market and the products available. Reps provide all the necessary information up front. That brings clients to a place where they’re better equipped to understand your product and how it works.
You have a large sales department
One of the common pitfalls of large sales departments is the inability to personalize their sales pitch. The second step of this method is all about tailoring the pitch, pushing reps to mold their pitch to the customer’s specific needs. Across a large sales department, adding this step helps ensure a personalized customer experience. This happens without having to forgo a structured team approach.
Sandler sales methodology
What is the Sandler sales methodology?
The Sandler sales methodology relies on a set of 49 rules that dictate how sellers and customers should be invested in the outcome of the sale. Ideally, customers view the sales rep as more of a trusted adviser than a traditional seller.
One of the cornerstones of this method is using questioning to guide customers to their own conclusions and solutions.
Sandler-trained reps also aim to find most objections during the beginning qualification process. If the rep discovers their product won’t address the potential client’s concerns, they walk away. They won’t waste time trying to convince the lead that their product will meet their goals.
Use the Sandler sales methodology if:
Your business relies on frequent deals
By analyzing the client’s goals alongside them, sales reps form a collaborative, long-term relationship. Reps can then leverage this relationship to encourage future repeat purchases.
You’re comfortable walking away from poor-fit deals
The Sandler sales methodology is unique because it requires a candid analysis of the client’s needs. If the sales rep feels the client’s goals don’t align with their product, they end the conversation.
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MEDDPIC sales methodology
What is the MEDDPIC sales methodology?
Big enterprise deals require a large investment of time and effort on the part of sales reps. MEDDPIC is a qualification process that ensures each complex deal is worth that investment.
With the MEDDPIC methodology, sales reps answer these questions before moving forward.
- Metrics: What does the organization need to succeed? How are they defining success?
- Economic Buyer: Who is the person who holds decision-making power for new purchases?
- Decision criteria: What technical, budgetary, or other requirements do you need to meet for the organization to consider you an option?
- Decision process: What steps does the organization take to vet and decide on a purchase? What stakeholders are involved?
- Paper process: What contracts are required and what steps are needed to process and sign the order?
- Identify pain: Why is the organization seeking a solution in the first place? What problem are you solving and what impact does it have on the organization?
- Champion: Who is the person in the organization who needs your solution the most? Who will push to make the purchase happen?
By answering these questions up front, reps ensure that the potential deal justifies any time spent with a prospect.
Use the MEDDPIC sales methodology if:
You’re selling large deals
On its face, MEDDPIC is designed to produce fewer deals, so you can focus on the largest ones that are most likely to close. If your business relies on having a lot of customers, MEDDPIC may hamstring your sales team from bringing in leads. However, if your typical deal size is large, your reps need the bandwidth to close them. MEDDPIC affords them that time and space.
You’re comfortable walking away from low-value leads
According to MEDDPIC selling, the prospects you choose are more important than the rest of the sales process. That means reps need to be comfortable walking away from leads that aren’t valuable enough to justify the time required to close them. If they don’t meet the designated criteria (assessed using the MEDDPIC questions) for your sales organization, you don’t move forward.
Conceptual Selling sales methodology
What is the Conceptual Selling sales methodology?
Also called the Miller Heiman sales methodology, the Conceptual Selling methodology urges salespeople not to lead with a pitch. Instead, reps seek to uncover the prospect’s concept of their product and understand their decision process. It’s solution selling.
The methodology was developed by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman. The method is founded on the idea that customers don’t buy a product or a service; customers buy their concept of the solution that offering represents.
The Conceptual Selling method places a heavy emphasis on listening. To that end, it suggests questions to help reps uncover the solution prospects need. The questions fall into five categories:
- Confirmation questions reaffirm information you’ve heard from the buyer.
- New information questions help reps to home in on the prospect’s concept of your product and what the prospect wants to achieve through the product.
- Attitude questions look to understand a prospect and their motivations on a personal level, along with uncovering their personal connection to the project.
- Commitment questions help reps gain insight into a prospect’s level of investment in the project.
- Basic issue questions raise potential problems.
The rep uses these questions to understand the prospect’s view of the problem and the solution. From there, they can tailor their pitch to mirror the desired solution.
Use the Conceptual Selling sales methodology if:
You’re selling complex deals that require many people to sign off
It’s easier to generate agreement around a solution than a product. All decision-makers can get behind solving a problem within the business.
Objections tend to arise when you break it down to the details of a particular product. Concerns around small details can prevent reps from securing sign-off. And when you’re dealing with many decision-makers, that process happens over and over. Instead, the Miller Heiman sales methodology enables reps to harness sign-off on the broader solution. Then, they work out the finer details.
You’re comfortable taking a customer-centric selling approach
Conceptual selling inherently requires sales reps to give up the driver’s seat. Instead of leading with a pitch, reps spend much more time listening up front. They follow the potential customer’s lead, tailoring their ultimate pitch to the customer’s concept of your product. Sellers used to driving conversations and prescribing solutions may be less comfortable here.
What about a mix of sales methodologies?
If you found yourself nodding along with more than one of the sales methodologies outlined above, you’re not alone. In some cases, the right choice for your sales team or company may involve combining multiple sales methodologies.
If that sounds like you, it doesn’t make sense to shoehorn an entire team into one sales method that doesn’t always fit.
Use a mixture of sales methodologies if:
You have multiple buyer personas who respond best to different sales methodologies
This can happen when you offer multiple product types or if you have a particular prospect that doesn’t fit the usual mold. For example, your deals may require sign-off from end users and C-suite executives. In that case, you’re better off using different methodologies to approach each type of decision-maker.
You’re unsure which methodology will work best for your team
If you have gotten this far and still aren’t sure which methodology will work best for your team, that’s okay. Test multiple sales processes with different buyers. You can better measure and assess which works best for your sales team after you’ve tried a few.
How do you choose a sales methodology?
The best sales methodology is the one that works for your team and your customers. Here are a things to consider to help you choose:
- Use data to verify the right sales methodology for your team
- Whenever you implement a new sales methodology (or a few of them), closely monitor how it affects sales performance
- Measure how the new method impacts the number and rate of deals moving to closed-won
- From there, you can make your own judgments about which methodology works best for your team, your company, and your customers
Zendesk Sell makes it easy to track closure metrics and gauge the effectiveness of your sales method. Take a free trial to see how our CRM can help refine your team and your sales process.
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Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most out of their teams.
7 secrets of sales leadership
Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most out of their teams.Read now