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Sales techniques and methodologies- the fundamental guide

  • Sep 12, 2023
  • 10 minutes

What is a sales methodology?

Sales methodologies provide a framework for a specific section of the sales journey - lead qualification or conversion, for example. They have been about for decades to provide structure for sales teams along with a host of benefits for sellers and prospects. Some methodologies give step-by-step guides on how to do something, while others are more conceptual.

Methodologies are often broken down into acronyms to help reps remember the relevant steps and to ensure the methodology is followed in its entirety, so as to achieve the best results. 

Every sales team is different so choosing the right sales method to match your team and your product takes time, and may well evolve as you go. 

 

Benefits of using sales methodologies

Methodologies have been proven to achieve positive outcomes in highly competitive sales environments, for a number of reasons.

  • They prioritize prospect demand and suitability

Keeping these front of mind through the sales cycle means your subsequent client base will be more suited to your product, have fewer unexpected or unanticipated issues and will see better results from using your product.

  • They create a ‘how to’

This is useful for both new team members - as their onboarding has clear instructions and expectations - and experienced salespeople - as it creates flow and seamlessness in their pitch and process.

  • They’re tried, tested and trusted 

Many sales methodologies are founded on psychological principles around persuasion and studies of human nature. Underpinned by sales philosophies and theories, you’re saving yourself the time of having to try out lots of methods to see which work reliably.  

  • They bridge each stage of the sales cycle 

Methodologies create a clear line through the cycle while allowing for the differences and nuances between reps that make them unique. Ultimately, everyone is aligned, which is particularly helpful for hybrid and remote sales teams. 

  • Their uniformity aids benchmarking 

Methodologies create uniform templates for benchmarking what good looks like to your team. This supports measuring improvement in performance so managers can better track how each rep is doing.

  • They support CRM documentation 

Sales methodologies give reps a format for their notes on prospect records. This means that when a manager or anyone else needs to refer back to prospect notes they can easily do so with comprehensive and comparable documentation.

  • They create predictability

When you map out a methodology, you can plan for all the eventualities that may occur in that sales conversation. Any objections or angles thrown at you from the prospect are expected and better prepared for, so if they happen, reps are well-equipped to tackle them. 

  • They promote better targeting and forecasting

With predictability comes certainty. While sales methodologies don’t guarantee every prospect converts, they do support your ability to create realistic and achievable targets and sales forecasts with a longer-term view. 

 

Top sales methodologies 

There are a whole host of tried and tested sales methodologies - we’ve broken down some of the most popular below.

BANT 

MEDDICC or MEDDPICC

The Challenger sales methodology

The Sandler sales technique

The SNAP methodology

The Miller Heiman sales methodology

Gap selling

 

BANT

BANT is a prospect qualification framework that allows reps to decide whether the prospect will make a viable customer for your specific product or service. It was first created for use at IBM in the 1950s, as a way to get reps up and running quickly.

Using BANT, reps pose questions through various stages which can be tailored or tweaked, depending on the nuances of your businesses and the tone you prefer your team to take. Ultimately, each step aims to confirm prospect suitability in one of four key areas. 

 

BANT explained

  • B = Budget. Does the prospect have the budget for your product or service?
  • A = Authority. Does the prospect have the authority to make the buying decision? Or are there other decision-makers involved?
  • N = Need. What are the needs of the prospect and does your product or service meet those needs sufficiently and suitably?
  • T = Timing. What is the prospect’s ideal timeline for making a purchase? How long is it likely to take the decision-making team to come to an agreement?

 

BANT - the pros

  • BANT is well-known and works across industries, which makes it easy for new hires to apply, shortening their ramp-up time.
  • It is flexible and can be easily modified to suit your sales process or industry while maintaining its core tenets.

 

BANT - the cons

  • Some consider it outdated, particularly for more complex tech products or industries with larger decision-making groups. 
  • It is seller-centric, with little emphasis on the prospect and relationship-building. 

 

MEDDICC 

MEDDICC is another very popular prospect qualification and selling methodology. What you’ll notice is that many elements are similar to BANT, but that other elements (including a P often turning MEDDICC into MEDDPICC) are included to add depth and context. MEDDICC was first created by Dick Dunkel of Parametric Technology Corporation and later championed by John McMahon for B2B sales.

 

MEDDICC explained

  • M = Metrics. What are the key metrics that your solution will impact for your prospect’s business?
  • E = Economic buyer. Who holds the budget in relation to the buying decision being made?
  • D = Decision criteria. What criteria will your prospect base their decision on in terms of functional or technical requirements, cost and return on investment, and their needs from you as a supplier or partner?
  • D = Decision process. What steps will the decision-making team go through to seek, evaluate and decide on a solution? 
  • P = Paper process. What actions or steps need to happen directly before your contract is signed? This step has been added because of how crucial this is and how easy it is for this phase to slip and delay a deal. 
  • I = Identify or implicate the pain. What is the pain the prospect wants to solve? How far or deep does it run and why is it so important to solve now?
  • C = Champion. Who within the prospect's business is championing your product or service and will support your efforts to get the deal over the line? 
  • C = Competition. What competitors, initiatives or individuals are competing for the same share of budget as you?

 

MEDDICC - the pros

  • The addition of the P for paper process has supported sales teams in the run-up to contracts signed - a notoriously tricky and important time.
  • It is known to help reps drive urgency and increase the speed of viable deals as the prospect is qualified on an ongoing basis through the sale.

 

MEDDICC - the cons

  • This methodology has also been considered seller-centric and with the number of questions asked, can come across as a long process to the buyer without them feeling any value. 
  • Compared to buyer-centric methodologies, it makes it hard for buyers to compare you to the competition in a tangible way. 

 

The Challenger sales methodology

The Challenger methodology is an approach to a pitch, created by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson in their book “The Challenger Sale”.

As its name suggests, a challenger rep will take a more offensive, as opposed to defensive, process. Key tenets to this methodology are opening the prospect's mind to possibilities, defining what value means to them, tackling difficult topics competitors might shy away from - like money and more alternative options - and then guiding them to your solution. The challenger methodology does not focus on the relationship build, as many others do, and tailors the sale very acutely to each individual prospect. 

 

The Challenger explained

While the Challenger methodology doesn’t have an acronym to follow, it does suggest sticking to three T’s.

#1 Teach

Teach the prospect about the options available to them, challenge their perceptions and broaden their mind.

#2 Tailor

Tailor the pitch specifically to your prospect, following deep listening and understanding of them, their wants and needs.

#3 Take control

Position yourself as the guide, to lead the prospect through the decision-making process. 

 

The Challenger - pros

  • This methodology offers the prospect a unique and memorable buying experience, as it is highly tailored and likely more impactful than your competitor’s approach. 
  • It encourages early and open conversation about budget, which both financially qualifies the prospect and builds rapport through trust and honesty. 

 

The Challenger - cons

  • This methodology is quite advanced and not so easy for inexperienced reps to adhere to or perform well.
  • Due to the need to flex and tailor the approach with each prospect, it can be harder to measure and compare reps’ performance. 

 

The Sandler sales technique

Developed by David Sandler in the 1970s, the Sandler methodology takes reps and prospects through seven steps. A consultative and collaborative approach, it prioritizes a low-pressure sales environment, building strong rapport and underpinning the process with mutual trust. 

The methodology has three main phases; relationship build, qualification and the close.

 

The Sandler technique explained

Relationship build

  • First establish bond and rapport. Make sure you and your prospect have a respectful and open relationship, ready for productive conversation.
  • Then be upfront about contracts. Defining the roles of everyone involved, expectations, and any ground rules that should be followed. 

 

Qualification

  • Identify pain. Similar to other methodologies mentioned, get clear on the prospect’s pain points that you are looking to solve and how they impact the prospect and wider stakeholders. 
  • Qualify budget. Again, no surprises - this step financially qualifies the prospect. Is the budget available and would the prospect be willing to spend it on your solution?
  • Decision-making process. Another crucial part of the qualification. Find out what the prospect’s ideal decision-making process looks like, who is involved and how long it might take. 

 

The close

  • Fulfillment. You present your solution, in line with all the pre-agreed requirements and expectations from the relationship build and qualification phases. 
  • Post-sell actions. Close the deal, explain next steps and lay a strong foundation for future or repeat purchases, to safeguard the prospect switching over to a competitor.

 

The Sandler technique - the pros

  • This methodology is praised for its comprehensiveness, without being overbearing. It covers relationship build, qualification, close, and elements beyond the sale, which other methodologies do not.
  • The upfront contracts element in particular lays strong foundations for long-lasting future sales relationships.

 

The Sandler technique - the cons

  • Reps need to be strong closers for the methodology to succeed, as the main focus is on relationship and qualification and the close requires the rep to stand on their own two feet.

 

The SNAP methodology

Created by Jill Konrath in her book ‘SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business With Today’s Frazzled Customers’ - the clue is in the name. The methodology seeks to increase win rates in today’s selling environment, where wearied buyers are information-rich with the internet at their fingertips but time-poor to do the research. 

The process has two parts - the basics (SNAP) and the three decisions.

 

SNAP explained

S = Simple. 

Remember the prospect is highly pressured by their buying environment so keep meetings, options, and discussion crystal clear.

N = I(N)valuable. 

Position yourself as central to the prospect’s success, guiding them through the process with expertise, information, and trust.

A = Align. 

Identify very clearly the prospect's goals, pains, concerns and those of any other decision-makers, then align everything you do with these points. 

P = Priorities. 

Ensure their priorities are front of mind and reiterate your value proposition with regard to these priorities. Highlight how your solution meets their need better than no decision. 

 

These four basics are paired with Konrath's three decision-making criteria the prospect will ask themselves. Reps can then use these questions to assess their own pitch.

#1 Should I allow you access and hear what you have to say?

#2 Should I make a change and opt for this solution or stick with the status quo? 

#3 Why should I choose this solution over any other and have you given me compelling reasons to do so? 

 

SNAP - the pros

  • This methodology is highly tailored to the modern buyer, unlike many other methodologies and is particularly effective in B2B SaaS sales.
  • It can also make for a memorable buying experience, while competitors follow more traditional methodologies. 

 

SNAP - the cons

  • SNAP doesn't work as well for low-value, high-volume selling.
  • The methodology is more concept-based than step-based, which can make it harder for inexperienced reps to adhere to.

 

The Miller Heiman sales methodology

Created in the 1940s by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman, this three-phase methodology was created specifically for larger and more complex decision-making groups and higher-value deals. The two key focuses are on relationship building with each individual within the decision-making group and on achieving the close.  

 

Miller Heiman explained

Phase 1: Categorize. 

In these larger decision-making groups, you must categorize individuals to better tailor how you approach them. Broad categories to use here are your champions, end-users, ‘technical’ buyers who check the solution meets requirements, and budget holders.

 

Phase 2: Determine.

With your categorized list of individuals, work out which are most likely to be for or against your solution, with their various priorities and restraints in mind. You can then work out where and how you need to allocate time and effort while maintaining good relationships.

 

Phase 3: Influence

Now you can set about influencing the relevant individuals in customized ways, to achieve the outcome you want. Everyone in the decision-making group should feel valued, understood, and like their needs are being met as you close the deal. 

 

Miller Heiman - the pros

  • As mentioned, this methodology is great for large and complex decision-making groups, namely B2B, tech, and high-value transactions. 
  • Its theory recognizes that no ‘one methodology fits all’. It is flexible and nuanced to allow for the adjustments required in any given sale. 

 

Miller Heiman - the cons

  • Training in this methodology takes time and can be very costly.
  • It is not applicable to individual prospects or low-value, high-volume sales.

 

Gap selling

Gap selling was created by Keenan, in the book 'Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes' published in 2018. The concept focuses on the gap between the buyer's current state - how they feel now and the problems they are experiencing - and the buyer's desired state - where they would like to be in a given timeframe, how they would like to feel and what issues they would like to have resolved. 

 

Gap selling explained

#1 Current state

The first step is to clarify the buyer's current state, not just confirming their pains but deep diving into how wide-reaching the pains are, whether they are symptoms of other issues and the emotional implications. It's your standard discovery call taken to a whole new level. 

#2 Desired state

The same level of detail should be sough in understanding the desired state. Not just what problem is solved but what do things look like across the business? How does the prospect feel? What other positive consequences and impacts might your solution create?

#3 The gap

Exploring the gap is all about laying out the journey for the buyer. Although a bigger gap might seem like a harder sell, it's actually the opposite. The bigger the gap, the more worthy the problem is of the buyer's investment. In this step, you need to uncover everything that would need to be ticked off and resolved in order for your buyer to feel like they have achieved their desired outcome  - leave no stone unturned. 

 

Gap selling - the pros

  • It requires a problem-centric mentality, which tends to mean better outcomes for the buyer. 
  • Gap sellers encourages reps to create a conclusion together, leaving more of the selling process in the reps control.

Gap selling - the cons 

  • Gap selling is hard and takes time to master - Keenan admits it in the book! But that doesn't mean it can't be done. 

 

 

These are just a handful of the most successful sales techniques and methodologies. So with so many options, how do you choose one for your sales team?

 

The gamechanger - my take as a Sales leader

 

Try as we might to follow textbook examples, any sales methodology will never play out exactly as stated and quite frankly, it shouldn’t.

Sales is an evolving, human interaction and your team should approach it as such. Your sale should be a balance between tried and tested methodologies, which line up your aim to hit your target, and an awareness of the nuance in every conversation, which will drive success through genuine prospect connection.

 

Combine, review and report

 

Every sales team and product or service is different, so try, test or even combine methodologies that match the values and sales processes of your business. 

Review sales call recordings to understand not just how well your and yoru fellow reps are doing but how well-suited the methodologies are to your market. Then you can review which methodologies are best suited to your business. 

 

This will depend on a number of things including; the market you are selling into, the geographies you are selling into, your team and their experience, and the approach your competitors take. 

Be ready to change course to remain competitive and never be afraid to pave your own way.



Want to double down on discoveries? Here's everything you need to know.

 

Shelley Lavery is the COO and Co-Founder of Jiminny, the leading conversation intelligence and sales coaching platform that helps companies maximize their revenue. With over a decade of experience in coaching B2B sales teams, Shelley was previously Group SVP of Sales at Reward Gateway now leading the conversation intelligence discussion with expertise and insight.

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