The authors of sales methodologies have a vested interest in positioning their approach as being distinctively different from the competition - after all, they have books to sell and (often eye-wateringly) expensive courses to fill.
Sometimes that positioning rises to ludicrous levels - as when one leading provider persuaded the Harvard Business Review to publish an article proclaiming “the End of Solution Selling”. Many of the arguments revolve around petty semantic definitions.
But, as someone wiser than me probably once said, “semantics don’t get you sold”. The truth of the matter is that many of these methodologies are more similar than they would have you believe. Is it really, as some cynics might have you believe, just another case of “same old s**t, different colour”?
If there are three lasting lessons I’ve learned in helping clients implement scalable, repeatable and predictable customer acquisition processes, they are:
- Any sales methodology is better than no methodology, but a tailored approach that is adapted to meet the specific needs of the organisation is almost always more effective than an off-the-shelf methodology
- Even though the purists may argue against it, a blended approach that combines the most relevant aspects of multiple methodologies often delivers a more complete solution than the slavish adoption of one narrow set of principles
- Having a methodology - any methodology - is almost always better than not having a methodology, but if it is to deliver results, the chosen approach must be embedded in the day-to-day operations and activities of the whole sales organisation
This position may not be popular with the training organisations that are trying to sell you their branded courses, but it reflects the practical experiences of many organisations that have invested and the been disappointed in the results of sending sales people on a traditional one-off training course.
Start with the end in mind
Before implementing a sales skills development programme (note: not a sales training course), it’s important that you assess where your sales people are today, and where you want them to be.
As well as looking outside at alternative methodologies, you can learn a great deal much closer to home, by identifying the winning behaviours of your top sales performers and determining what can other team members learn from them.
Be clear about what you are seeking to achieve, and tailor your programme accordingly. It’s particularly critical that you establish an on-going coaching and skills reinforcement programme, and that you engage and equip your first-level sales managers to deliver it.
Include practical daily sales tools
I’d also strongly recommend that any skills development programme includes practical deliverables that will help your sales people identify their ideal customers, and prepare them to qualify effectively and to have productive sales conversations.
A couple of practical and very effective ways of sharing the accumulated wisdom of your existing top performers are to build an easily-navigable collection of customer stories and anecdotes, and to collect and publish proven answers to the most prospect’s most frequent challenging questions.
Treat your investment seriously
This might seem like more work than just signing the purchase order for an off-the-shelf sales training course, and it is, but it’s a lot more effective, and rarely more expensive.
It does require more planning and thought, but I honestly can’t see that as a bad thing. Systematically developing the skills of your people is not a trivial investment, and is rarely effective if it’s an easy one.
If you want a final validation of why you shouldn’t be (just) sending your sales people on a training course and expecting miraculous results, consider this statistic, which comes from within the sales training industry itself: more than 90% of the information presented in a conventional sales training course is lost, forgotten or ignored in less than 30 days.
Is that really the sort of return you want from your sales skills development investments?