Sales methodologies run the gamut and can be applied to pretty much every area of business.
But at the end of the day, they all serve the same purpose — to create an effective sales system that can be rinsed and repeated to increase productivity, drive growth, and boost revenue.
Not to mention it keeps your salesforce sane and chaos at bay.
Here’s a comprehensive list of the top 21 popular sales methodologies, along with a review and critique of each one.
The Sandler Sales Methodology is a seven-step system that focuses on using low-pressure tactics and taking the role of a consultant or trusted advisor rather than an aggressive salesperson.
And this is an approach that’s especially helpful in our current climate where “79% of business buyers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor — not just a sales rep — who adds value to their business.”
In other words, they don’t want to deal with this guy.
This methodology stands out because it’s illustrated by a submarine.
The logic is that, like a submarine, salespeople should operate stealthily and move from one stage of the sales process to the next.
Just like how the crew on a submarine move from one compartment to the next, closing each door behind them to avoid flooding.
Move sequentially from each stage of the sales process to the next, spending a good portion of time building a relationship through bonding and up-front contact.
Then, move on to qualifying a sale by uncovering pain points, identifying their budget, and determining if a lead is qualified to move forward.
Finally, close the sale and check to make sure the customer is satisfied, with the goal of ultimately getting a referral.
Check out this video from CEO and president of Sandler Training, Dave Matteson for more.
While the methodology was designed to build trust and open up prospects, when improperly deployed, the methodology can come across as overly “salesy” or even too hard lined with the contracts created with prospects.
This sales methodology is based on a 2013 book by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson called The Challenger Sale: How to Take Control of the Customer Conversation.
By looking at thousands of sales reps, Dixon and Adamson determined that the personality of reps could be boiled down into five main types:
The challenger profile, which is the crux of the book, is one that concentrates on teaching customers, encouraging them to consider new possibilities, and challenging their current understanding of business solutions.
There are five main steps reps should follow:
Check out this video from SOCO/ Sales Training for more on Challenger Sale.
The main question I would have for people using this methodology, is does a prospect always need to be challenged?
The answer always depends.
An important way to look at this is how the sales methodology came about. Challenger was published during the last big economic crisis and it was the first direct challenge to “relationship” selling.
A second critique of this sales methodology is that it assumes you must know the prospect better than they know themselves.
Sales personnel using this method should keep these caveats in mind when employing this method.
SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff.
It’s built around asking leads these four types of questions to identify their specific needs and pain points, then using that information to take a personalized approach and build quick rapport.
In other words, SPIN is about figuring out what a lead needs rather than taking a more aggressive approach.
It’s quite simple.
Ask a lead situation, problem, implication, and need pay-off questions to determine what their situation is, what challenges they’re facing, what the consequences would be of not addressing their problem, and how their situation would change if their problem was solved.
From there, match them up with the right product based on their needs.
Or as Emma Brudner of HubSpot puts it, “Rather than explicitly telling prospects about a product or service’s value or potential impact, the goal of SPIN selling is to guide prospects to these realizations on their own.”
This video from Joe Girad of Change Grow Achieve provides a nice overview of the SPIN sales methodology.
Admittedly a great book for professionals to read, even if its only to understand how the profession evolved, one major and consistent critique of this methodology is that it can come across overly formal.
This was developed in the 1990s and revolves around following six key steps to qualify leads.
It’s meant to serve as a simple checklist to ensure that reps gather all of the information they need to qualify a lead.
In turn, it helps prioritize leads so that reps only go after those that are the most likely to buy.
It also helps guide their approach so that they offer the right product.
Follow the sequence of steps in the MEDDIC process:
Here’s a clip from the podcast of sales expert David Weiss talking about the basics of MEDDIC.
Although a great methodology, the main item I would call into question here is to be wary of acronyms in general.
They’re enormously powerful in terms of being a mnemonic device and remembering what you are teaching, but there’s also reason to be doubtful that an acronym encompasses all of the complexities of a sale.
The second point I would make here is that if you assume a salesperson has these items from a prospect, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will close.
Understanding processes is not the same as driving people to be motivated about changing those processes.
“SNAP selling is a sales methodology that aims to bring salespeople to the prospect’s level,” writes Emma Brudner.
“SNAP is an acronym that encompasses four directives for sellers: Keep it Simple, be Invaluable, always Align, and raise Priorities.”
Keeping it simple is about not overcomplicating the sales process and succinctly conveying how your product will make a business team’s lives easier.
Being iNvaluable is about positioning your reps as genuine experts that stand out from competitors and as people leads can trust.
Aligning is about understanding their needs and concerns and showing how your product can solve their issues.
Finally, raising priorities is about tailoring your approach to meet their top priorities first.
From the moment contact is initiated with a lead, reps should have these questions in the back of their minds.
Sales strategist and author Jill Konrath breaks down the SNAP sales methodology in this video.
The modern, conversational tone of SNAP selling is to be lauded.
It fits in our philosophy of helping the buyer make decisions. Where we see this one fall a bit short is that it lacks specificity on how to go about the sale.
While we loved the modern take on the methodology, a bit more detail on what sellers can do to help their buyers would have been great to see.
Want another catchy acronym? You’ve got it.
CHAMP stands for:
As you can tell from the order, CHAMP focuses on challenges first and figuring out what specific pain points a lead has.
Then, it moves on to determining authority by identifying who the key decision makers are.
After that there’s money to see if a company has the budget to afford the product you’re offering.
And finally, prioritization aims on determining how pressing a company’s needs are and what areas to focus on first.
Ask relevant questions to unearth the information needed for challenges, authority, money, and personalization.
This post from Insight Squared offers some great examples.
Then, have your reps base their approach accordingly.
Again, beware of acronym-driven sales methodologies. Easy to remember, but more complicated in executing.
Assuming you identify all of the items in this acronym, it doesn’t guarantee the sale. The biggest critique of this methodology is that it comes across as transactional in nature and might not be able to encompass all of the complexities of a sale.
This is a problem-oriented rather than product-oriented sales methodology that was developed back in the 1980s.
The purpose of solution selling is to ask the right questions to figure out the main problem a company is facing and have your reps use their experience to come up with an effective solution.
It’s one of the more straightforward processes and involves four main steps:
Here’s an overview of Solution Selling by sales strategist Michael Humblet.
As with all of the older methodologies, we encourage everyone to be a student of them, especially in the context of how to adapt to the modern world of selling.
This methodology in particular focuses heavily on product-knowledge, which might not always be the biggest indicator of a sale.
We have seen inferior products perform better in the marketplace just as salespeople with greater product-knowledge can be outsold by those with less.
We encourage companies to hire salespeople that indeed are able to learn your product inside out, but to also be able to understand them in the context of your buyer and what motivates them to take action and change. This last step is what’s missing from this methodology.
This methodology was created by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman — two of the most widely recognized sales management experts of their generation.
The main emphasis of conceptual selling is to concentrate more on identifying a lead’s needs and their perception of a product rather than taking an aggressive “sell, sell, sell” approach.
By using this technique, “sellers learn how to carefully assess buyer needs, avoiding misalignment between what customers want and what sellers are presenting.”
There are three main steps:
Check out this video for more details.
We are big proponents of focusing on specifically what the buyer cares most about, as does this methodology.
The area of improvement is around the focus on benefits. We’ve all heard the adage “don’t sell features, sell benefits.”
We would expand upon that further to include ROI, human motivation, and a clear understanding of how to enable the champion to help you sell. Benefits alone cannot do this.
Similar to several other sales methodologies I’ve covered, the primary purpose of NEAT is to identify a lead’s needs so a rep can tailor their approach to meet them.
From there, it’s geared around discussing the economic impact to help a lead understand what they have to gain by using your product.
Then, gaining access to authority focuses on finding key decision makers who have the buying power.
Finally, having a timeline outlines the consequences that can stem from not making a decision to buy your product by a particular date.
Simply follow the sequence of steps in the acronym:
Figure out the needs or challenges of a prospect, explain how your product can help, find the right decision makers, and offer a definitive timeline.
Here’s a closer look at NEAT from Richard Harris of the Harris Consulting Group.
Another acronym, this methodology provides a good basic infrastructure for the sale.
It falls short in a few areas. First, the “need” is redundant in many modern sales as they have been ideally pre-qualified. We recommend objective qualification to replace need or interest early in the buying cycle.
The remaining three letters to this acronym fall a bit short as well. It fails to realize that you could find the economic impact without actually motivating them to do anything about it.
It assumes they do on their own. Timeline also needs to be more specific. It’s not just a timeline, it’s understanding the project management aspect of the timeline and how to enable the champion to get everyone else just as bought in as your champion is.
This sales methodology has one main purpose — to ensure your reps are placing their focus on the right prospects at the right time.
Then, it’s a matter of targeting high priority leads and shortening the sales cycle.
Developed in 1989, it’s one of the older sales methodologies but is still relevant because of the supreme importance of lead prioritization.
Here are three basic tips for the TAS sales methodology.
This one can be tough to implement for transactional sales. It might slow down the sale or add red tape.
It also assumes the centralized selection model is the best way to target. We have seen models where having the salesperson select their accounts works and models where they don’t. The key here is deciding if it’s right for you.
As its name implies, customer centric selling is about focusing 100% on the customer experience to distinguish your brand from the competition.
Rather than taking a sleazy used car salesman approach, this is all about empathizing with leads and adjusting your strategy to meet their needs.
There are eight key elements, which should go in this order:
Here’s a quick rundown on this sales methodology.
A much needed pull in the direction of the seller, this methodology does a good job of focusing all on “them.”
This methodology falls short in a few ways for us. First it overly focuses on relationships. Whereas, Challenger focuses exclusively on one type of characteristic for salespeople, this focuses on the antithesis of that, the relationship builder.
Instead of just deploying one or the other, we teach salespeople to be responsive to the needs of the prospect, get to the heart of what motivates them and then in turn use that to drive the sale.
Simply put, this focuses on selling based on value rather than price.
“The ValueSelling Framework is a simple process to manage the conversation with prospects and customers, and develop a mutual understanding regarding how you and your organization can add value to the buyer and their business.”
It’s largely based on fine-tuning conversations and differentiating your products from competitors so leads understand the unique value you bring to the table.
First, perform extensive research on a lead and their company to determine what specific solutions they need.
Then, explain exactly how your product delivers without jumping into the sales pitch too early.
From there, guide a lead through the sales process, while focusing on educating rather than selling.
And throughout the process, a rep should always aim to be personable and add value every step of the way.
For more on this sales methodology, check out this video featuring Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates.
We agree that salespeople need to figure out exactly what the prospect needs and instead of pitching that, we just show it to them.
Where the methodology encourages sales professionals to “add value” we always ask “how” and wish that were more explicit in the methodology itself. The focus on education is a strong suit as well. But just because they are educated on the topic does not mean they will take action on the topic of driving the sale.
This is the proprietary selling methodology of James Keenan, CEO and president of A Sales Guy Inc.
Its aim is to find the gap between where a lead is at currently and where they want to be at in the future.
GAP selling is an extremely buyer-centric strategy that focuses on emphasizing value and how your product is the missing piece of the puzzle.
Here’s the down low on this unconventional approach from its ever enthusiastic and animated creator Jim Keenan.
This methodology definitely has worked well for lots of more transactional sales. The future stating principle in this methodology is meant to show the difference between future and aspiration compared to present and status quo.
The GAP between today and the future could be broken down in more specific and actionable steps and recommendations for the salesperson in our opinion.
Admittedly, there’s some overlap with this and the ValueSelling Framework, with both being focused on showing leads the value they’ll get from buying your product rather than how much they’ll pay.
That said, Value Selling is a bit more simplistic in its approach and zeroes in on three main areas:
Some sales companies like ROI Selling have developed strategic tools like an assessment tool, value calculator, TCO tool, and ROI tool to streamline the process.
First, come up with a customer avatar — someone who embodies your ideal lead.
Then, figure out what their exact needs are and the challenges they face.
Finally, create a comprehensive list of ways your product can help a lead overcome those challenges.
Here’s a video about the essentials of Value Selling.
These bullet points all have areas for improvement. The first is obvious. If it were so obvious who is motivated to purchase products we would all be doing this.
Second, pain points alone don’t mean the prospect will do anything about those pain points. As mentioned with earlier methodologies, benefits alone might not be motivating enough to drive action.
We would encourage a much greater level of specificity than is provided in this methodology including how to deliver value and what specific “micro” steps should be taken to realize the sale.
If the name Jordan Belfort sounds familiar, it’s because he was the guy who wrote The Wolf of Wall Street, which went on to become one of the biggest movies of the last decade.
Also known as straight line persuasion, way of the wolf involves keeping leads on a “straight line” where the rep stays in control every step of the way.
If the lead strays from the straight line, it’s the rep’s job to gently steer them back until a deal is ultimately closed.
A rep must do three key things:
Note that Chili Piper is an excellent tool for #2 when you’re looking to qualify leads.
Chili Piper qualifies leads in real-time and automatically sends them to the right rep in a specific meeting queue.
Chili Piper also streamlines the handoff process and automatically assigns meetings in a rep’s calendar, giving them more control so they always have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on.
Check out this video for more details on the way of the wolf.
Although loathed by many for his shady dealings, the author of this simple methodology goes a long way to helping salespeople visualize the sale.
The straight line is a very simple but straightforward way to visualize the sale and is accompanied by actual strategies on how to conduct the sale, which is missing from many.
In true Belfort style, some elements of the book and methodology are a bit hyperbolic. My “used car salesman” radar goes off a bit listening to some of the videos, even if the visualization exercises really do work.
Modern sellers are acutely aware of any tactics sales people do that are self-serving and don’t have a tolerance for it. Sales people would benefit from using this methodology, the tactics in the book, with a bit less “Billy Mays” tonality.
Developed by sales strategy mastermind Jacco van der Kooij, Winning By Design is one of the newer methodologies and is all about using data and processes to build winning sales teams.
It’s very scientific and is perfect for data-centric companies that are committed to using the large volume of information out there to their advantage.
It revolves around a four-step process:
This is the first methodology on the list so far to place a strong emphasis on data, playbooks, and coaching and specifically calls them out.
Their SaaS selling methodology focuses on a holistic approach to the whole funnel, we find this more descriptive in nature of what is happening rather than prescriptive in showing how to do it.
We think all of the elements mentioned by Winning By Design are hugely important to the modern seller, but we would encourage salespeople to go a step further and show how to accomplish each of these steps.
I mentioned Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman earlier in Conceptual Selling.
The Miller – Heiman sales methodology overlaps with Conceptual Selling in terms of the emphasis on long-term relationship building rather than just going for jugular with the immediate sale.
But it differs slightly because the Miller – Heiman sales methodology places more focus on finding decision-makers and identifying the best path to closing a deal.
At its simplest, there are three essential steps:
The biggest critique of this process is we find it to be incredibly vague and overly simplistic. An emphasis on how and more specificity is needed here.
The system seems a bit inefficient in practice especially for SaaS sales. How do you categorize contacts? How do you determine influence? How do you know who will support you? How do you influence? There are too many unanswered questions surrounding this methodology to make it reliable.
Buyers are smarter and more allergic to sleazy salespeople than ever.
The Transparency Sale, a methodology based on a book by sales leader Todd Copponi, tackles this distrust head on and creates an approach that’s all about “unexpected honesty.”
It acknowledges that today’s buyers have access to an immense amount of information, and as a result, have become increasingly skeptical — something that modern sales reps need to account for.
The Transparency Sale teaches reps that being honest not only helps them find more qualified leads but can help them close the deal quicker.
By the way, Chili Piper can help you accelerate the sales process by allowing hot leads to conveniently book meetings with you.
You can qualify, route, and book leads in a single click, and they’re then automatically routed to the right rep.
Here are the four main steps:
Get more details straight from the horse’s mouth in this video featuring Todd Copponi.
We’re big believers that buyers should be transparent with prospects. This methodology is something modern salespeople should study.
It is something that should be done on every call as well. We find it to be more of an embodiment of what you should do on an ethical level than the tactics and strategy behind closing deals.
Short for Surge of Accelerating Revenue, the primary goal of SOAR is to get through to decision makers more efficiently to dramatically boost revenue without doing laborious networking gruntwork.
And using this sales methodology can have some amazing results, where “a salesperson can make 12 net dials and reach a combination of 10 top-level decision makers and influencers.”
One of the key figures of SOAR is Paul Madott, a master certified instructor of the program.
He’s an expert at making strategic contact and has helped countless companies attack prospecting and meet their goals.
Paul says that SOAR is all about getting past “gatekeepers” to make contact with decision makers.
Here’s a quick rundown of the strategy behind this technique:
Once you get through to a decision maker, your chances of making a sale surge.
Here’s a video of Paul Madott going into more detail about SOAR.
On the surface, this methodology comes across as one element of a prospecting methodology for us.
Those who might be struggling with cold calls or someone in a hyper transactional sale should study this.
The methodology does introduce questions. How does this apply to companies where leads are overwhelmingly from email? What about the longer sales cycle? The demo call?
“Winning Complex Sales is designed to help sales professionals analyze and improve their sales process in current opportunities. Working in teams, participants create an Opportunity Roadmap outlining a concise strategy and action plan.”
Using this methodology offers many benefits, including building tighter, more cohesive teams, making more accurate sales forecasts, making better use of resources, and increasing revenue.
Here are the highlights of the steps involved in Winning Complex Sales:
My first question with this methodology is the upfront investment of time I would spend doing the necessary step directly proportional to revenue I would close having done so?
That’s a big question that should be measured. Also how do you go about prospecting? How do you craft a unique proposition and what is the benefit of doing so? Why is a competitive strategy important? How would you define weaknesses?
Overall this seems overly broad and lacking specificity. It also doesn’t seem like it could be widely applied to generate the results it purports to be able to do.
Traditional sales are usually geared around using “push” tactics where reps aggressively try to make a sale.
Inbound sales is the opposite of that and uses “pull” tactics that focus more on educating leads and gently guiding them through the sales process.
And this is an approach that has really caught on in recent years as customers have grown increasingly wary of fast-talking, backslapping salespeople.
First, you must closely analyze the three main phases of the customer journey — awareness, consideration, and decision.
Then, create an inbound sales strategy that revolves around four key steps — identify, connect, explore, and advise.
From there, devise strategies to improve the buyer journey, while taking a personal approach that allows you to build rapport and gain trust, where your reps take the role of trusted advisors.
Former Chief Revenue Officer and current HubSpot advisor Mark Roberge offers a great explanation of the Inbound Sales methodology in this video.
The obvious critique is: what about other channels?
To go beyond that, what are the behaviors a salesperson can engage in that can influence or help this sale?
Inbound sales people would benefit from having a process that automatically routes qualified meetings to their calendar to accelerate deals even faster, and then uncovering the factors that brought them to you as well as the deeper underlying motivations for change.
These small changes could have huge implications for inbound performance which this methodology doesn’t always take into account.
“A framework that outlines how your sellers approach each phase of the sales process.”
Identify what your overarching goals are and choose a sales methodology that best aligns with them.
For instance, if your main goal was to get to decision makers more efficiently, you would want to focus on SOAR.
However, choosing the right sales methodology is entirely dependent on what method will most likely succeed in any given situation. That situation is influenced by the decision makers with whom you’re involved, the sales process within the prospect organization, the nature of your relationship with the prospect, and a medley of other factors.
There’s no single right sales methodology in every situation.
Haphazardly cobbling together a sales strategy almost always leads to lukewarm results.
Using tried and true sales methodologies, however, can help elevate your team and provide you with a crystal clear game plan that leads to massive results.
In summary, here’s how to determine with the “best” sales methodology.
Find out how Chili Piper can help you qualify, route, and schedule meetings with leads while they’re sizzling hot.