Make time for methodology in the shift back to selling

May 26, 2020

Make time for methodology in the shift back to selling

It’s tempting to think about the first tentative steps out of lockdown as an opportunity for businesses to get back to normal as quickly as possible. And that’s especially tempting for sales organisations. We’re all aware of the targets we were chasing a few months ago – and we’re all aware that our businesses are depending on us to revisit and rebuild the opportunity pipeline. However, is rushing back to selling as usual really the best option?

Consider the following stats from research conducted by the leading sales training consultancy, Miller Heiman Group, before the crisis. It found that only 23% of buyers would describe sellers as one of the top three resources they turn to when seeking advice, that 70% would rather wait to engage with sellers, and that more than 60% describe sellers as interchangeable. It’s an argument for focusing on building a more strategic, value-adding and intentional approach to selling going forward.

LinkedIn recently hosted a virtual panel with sales leaders, where we heard how organisations are responding to the current disruption by doing exactly that. These leaders told us how they are focusing on building a sustainable sales strategy that can help them to navigate the new selling landscape. They talked about building their sales teams’ capabilities now, in order to maximise their effectiveness a few weeks or months down the line. It’s wise advice, and it requires more than just reviewing the pipeline and deciding how to approach priority accounts. If organisations want to consistently perform over the coming months, then this is the moment to invest in developing and embedding a meaningful sales methodology.

What is a sales methodology?

A sales methodology is a framework for success that’s practical, repeatable and scalable. It provides a roadmap for each stage of the buying journey that equips each rep to connect your company’s business strategy with the particular value that a buyer is seeking. Rather than giving sellers a script, it helps them find the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ they need to move each sales conversation forward.

Sales methodologies are something only a minority of organisations typically make time for. That’s due to the pressing nature of quotas and reps’ constant battle to spend more time selling (something that sellers in Western Europe only get to spend 40% of their time doing in our latest State of Sales survey). However, with selling patterns disrupted, buyers away from their desks and reps struggling to make calls, this balance has shifted. Time is more available than it was – and investing that time now in order to improve sales effectiveness during a prolonged recovery makes a lot of sense.

Finding value for buyers in difficult times

Methodologies are the key to demonstrating value for buyers on a consistent basis. this makes them crucial at a time when those buyers are working remotely, often with flexible hours and shifting priorities, and sales conversations will only happen if those buyers are motivated to make time for them. Methodologies can also help sellers to make effective decisions when the size and shape of the sales funnel are changing – and demand could look very different to just a few months ago.

LinkedIn has been working with Miller Heiman Group to quantify the difference that sales methodologies make to performance – and identify the key components involved in developing and deploying these methodologies effectively. We found that the sales organisations which succeed in embedding a shared methodology at their organisation win 55% of their forecasted deals. Those that fail to do so land only 36%.

The three pillars of more effective selling

The foundations for more effective selling through methodologies are built on three pillars:

  • The sales methodology itself 
  • Effective reinforcement through coaching and target-setting
  • Technology that equips sellers with the actionable insights they need to put the methodology into action.
Meeting sellers’ demand for coaching and reinforcement

These features ensure that the methodology is coachable – and success depends on building a coaching strategy around it. Miller Heiman Group has found that sales organisations which invest in a strong sales coaching programme see a 16.6% increase in win rates for forecasted deals.

Our State of Sales survey for Western Europe shows a real appetite for this type of coaching among sales professionals themselves. In the UK for example, 33% of sellers say coaching one of the top two activities they would like to spend time on with their manager – and yet, only 24% get to spend that time at the moment. It’s significant that top performing sellers who exceed quota by 25% or more are 48% more likely to get the coaching they want.

How will you incentivise your team in the months ahead?

Coaching strategies don’t work in isolation when it comes to reinforcing sales methodologies, though. It’s equally important to ensure that KPIs reflect the approach that you are encouraging your sales team to take. This is especially true at a time when pipelines are under pressure and there’s a temptation to link sales teams’ targets directly to the bottom line. If you’re serious about taking a strategic approach to prospects during these difficult times, then it’s important to ask whether your reward metrics align with your methodology.

An embedded methodology will be a powerful strategic advantage for any sales organisation over the coming months. However, activating that advantage depends on sellers having access to the insight they need, when they need it. Successful methodologies are underpinned by sales technology that focuses on identifying the next best step at any moment of the sales cycle. 

 

At a time when roughly half of sellers in Western Europe complain that there are too many sales tech tools to choose from, it’s sales intelligence tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator that are rated as critical by the top performers. It’s yet more evidence that sales professionals want the support of a structured approach in the months ahead. Making time for methodology now can ensure that they have one.

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