Defining Sales Process & Methodology for Capital Equipment Sales
Guide to episode
- Sales Process and Sales Methodology must be actively created and maintained
- Sales process has to be built on buying behaviors
- CRM is an important tool to create accountability to sales process and reinforce sales methodology
- Sales training, sales management and sales coaching are critical to successfully implementing sales process and sales methodology
Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. I create these brief videos every two weeks to provoke some thinking for industrial manufacturing company execs. If you know of one who you think might find some value, please share it with them.
B2B Industrial Sales Process and Methodology
Today in this episode we’re going to talk about sales process and methodology. These are two terms that are critical to revenue growth success but are often conflated. So let’s first define them.
What is a sales process?
Sales process is the steps a project must traverse to reach a closed/won status. In an average and common process, this includes a couple of vague steps like “Identify the decision maker” and “confirm the budget.” We’ll talk more in a bit about what it should include, but it needs to be more specific. For instance instead of “identify the decision maker” a strong B2B industrial sales process might require “identify the person with budget authority”, “identifying 8-10 members of the buying team”, and “quantify the cost of failure to solve the problem.” The impact of a well-designed sales process relies to a small degree on training and to a large degree on accountability.
What is a sales methodology?
If that’s sales process, then what is a sales methodology? Sales methodology is the framework and technique that your team uses to efficiently and effectively complete the process and get to close. This is the sales tactics, questions, and phrasing, order of discovery, etc.
Without methodology, you could hand the same process, even a really good one, to a sales team and each would approach it differently. Some with great skill and technique and some clumsily. They’d obviously achieve very different results. Success with methodology is fundamentally dependent on a methodology that matches your market, and that is relentlessly trained, practiced, coached, and refined.
Let’s pause there for a moment.
How to Develop an Industrial Sales Process and Methodology
A mistake companies often make is to develop their sales process in a vacuum. A strong sales process has to be properly based on strategy, incorporate buyer insights, integrate marketing and sales, and be hung on a technology framework. This is something that I emphasize as part of the ORE™ or Overall Revenue Effectiveness approach to revenue growth. We must work backward from how buyers want to buy and map our marketing and sales to that.
How do we map sales process to buyer expectations and incorporate these other elements?
First, start with an understanding of the buying team and buying journey. How does a company normally go about making a decision about a product like yours? What roles are involved? At what stage in the process? What priorities/concerns do different departments normally have?
In complex machinery sales it’s easy to say you’ll go to the “decision maker” except often decisions are made by consensus and tedious project research is conducted by mid-level managers (who might not be so excited about the project!). So while it makes sense to work with the senior exec who will personally approve or lobby for budget, at the same time you have to support him or her by selling the team that will need to agree.
Once you understand the buying journey and buying team, including the nature of the five buying decisions that I discuss then you can map the touch points, types of conversation, types of engagement, and the questions that need to be answered in each case. These will include technical, business, and personal. It will include uncovering the reasons a project will fail, as well as those that would help it succeed. This combined information further helps to map the sales process against marketing and sales resources, and against the right sales enablement content to be used in each case.
In other words, a strong process is built on a holistic understanding of buyers (lots of strategy and market research) so that marketing and sales are properly applied. But that’s not all. It’s not enough to simply identify the sales process steps that have to be accomplished.
Those steps must be built into your CRM using different tools within a comprehensive CRM.
Using CRM to Enforce Accountability and Nurture Technique
Playbooks should guide and efficiently capture conversations to provide structure to assist reps. Each stage in the capital equipment sales pipeline should incorporate the requisite sales process steps to be completed – normally in the form of quantitative and qualitative data that needs to be completed – in other words, numbers and narratives. This is critical to support your sales management team’s effective coaching and to increase your confidence that your forecasts are reasonably accurate.
Remember that methodology is technique. It’s about training, coaching and role-playing. So you might assume that that’s completely separate from the CRM. That’s an incorrect assumption. For example, conversational AI systems help digest reps’ recorded calls to accelerate coaching and technique improvement. Playbooks with reminders of how to phrase and ask questions can reinforce methodology and encourage pre-call planning and post-call debriefs. And templates and scripts can help reps overcome an urge to improvise when in fact the right sales play is to intentionally create some tension.
Consistently Update Sales Process
As important as process and methodology are, though, it’s amazing how few companies regularly review and refine the process, or train the methodology. What worked fifteen years ago when today’s VP of sales was a star rep likely doesn’t work today – at least without some important tweaks. A relatively manipulative face-to-face Sandler approach isn’t likely to succeed with today’s buyers who research virtually. Further, it takes reps (as in many practice repetitions) to get comfortable enough to try things that feel unusual or awkward, much less perfect them.
The Importance of Sales Training
This means every B2B industrial sales team needs sales training. Just as top athletes have coaches and elite military members engage in hyper-realistic training to achieve and lock in incremental improvements, sales teams need to be trained too – by outside talent that brings updated insights and technique. And they need routine coaching. If your team hasn’t been trained within the last couple of years, you’re leaving money on the table and losing deals.
The bottom line is that good sales process and sales methodology don’t happen by chance. They require explicit creation and refinement. That in turn requires research, integration of marketing and sales, and the right technology. And it all needs to be supported with training.
I’m Ed Marsh. If you found value in this episode of Signals from the OP check out the full playlist and maybe even like it, share it, and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog SignalsFromTheOP.com.