Build Or Buy A Sales Methodology? What You Need To Know Before You Decide
When confronted with the price tag for implementing a commercial sales methodology, many B2B sales and sales enablement leaders consider the option of building one in-house. The reasoning being: We are completely unique, and no off-the-shelf methodology would work here; plus we know our customers, we know our sales process, and we have sales learning and development resources, so we can do this ourselves for “free.” It makes sense on the surface, and it’s certainly appealing from a budget perspective. There are, however, serious dangers lurking just below that deceptively smooth surface.
The most common mistake sales leaders make is underestimating both the amount and specialized nature of work required to build, deliver, and sustain a sales methodology. The first step in the process — interviewing clients, sellers, and sales managers to understand the optimal, high-performing rep behaviors in each selling motion — is itself a major undertaking. How do the best sellers handle each phase of the sales process, and how do buyers respond to that? How do these motions change with different buyer personas, geographies, industries, and when other deal attributes are adjusted? These interviews require time to prepare, schedule, and execute, and it takes skill — not to mention a level of objectivity often missing inside organizations — to understand and interpret the feedback.
Once the enablement team develops a clear picture of what “great” looks like for sellers, it must be synthesized and refined to create learning pathways, which is another highly specialized skill. Learning experiences must be created to transfer knowledge, allow opportunities for sellers to practice and demonstrate mastery, and then finally to certify sellers. Depending on the commercial offering, many methodology providers will survey sellers on your behalf and have the expertise to translate what they hear into methodology learning elements.
The launch and delivery of a new sales methodology is also a heavy lift. This is primarily a logistical challenge, and the larger the sales team and the greater the geographic scope, the more certified training resources are required for an efficient launch. Whether a live, in-person event or a virtual training session is leveraged, a commercial partner may be able to bring more expertise to the program and train more sellers quickly.
Ongoing resource commitment is also a consideration. Sales methodology is not an event; it’s a long-term commitment to change — think marriage, not a wedding. We know that buyer expectations continue to change and that change is accelerating. Any methodology delivered to the field today must be monitored for effectiveness over time and for buyer resonance. Presumably, commercial methodologies are informed by data, which means that providers have their fingers on the pulse of the buyer and recognize important trends and shifts before an individual B2B sales team can react. These providers have the advantage of receiving feedback from (potentially) hundreds of clients.
There is also an opportunity cost associated with the long-term commitment to a methodology. Those learning and development resources that were stretched in the development and delivery of the methodology are now committed to sustaining the change on an ongoing basis. Newly hired sellers require training, and the methodology must be reinforced with tenured sellers to drive continued adoption. Assuming the learning and development team had a full workload prior to the methodology program, something will have to give. The enablement team must add resources, or some other sales talent development priority will suffer. Working with a partner may provide the option to rent their expertise as needed to maintain the change management momentum established at launch.
Does this mean that B2B sales teams should never consider building their own sales methodology? There are situations where it might make sense to build, but at a minimum, the following conditions should be present:
- There must be a strong, open relationship between enablement and buyers and an open channel for collecting insights from them as to what is working and what is not. The methodology must be grounded in buyer expectations (see the blog post: Sales Enablement Leaders: Name The Last Time You Spoke With A Buyer).
- There must be a cadre of exceptional, consistently high-performing sellers who are clearly differentiated from the middle performers in terms of their actions, activities, or interactions. The collective behaviors of this group across all selling motions will inform a new methodology.
- There must be a strong sales talent management team possessing the following competencies at a minimum: instructional design, curriculum design, facilitation, knowledge of buyer expectations, knowledge of the selling process, knowledge of the interactions that make up each selling motion, program management, and process design. (Hint: This is exceedingly rare.)
- There must be clearly defined expectations and impacts. The program must include metrics around activity, quality, adoption, and impact, and they must be tracked and managed closely.
- There must be leadership commitment to the methodology over time and a commitment to dedicating resources and time to sustaining and updating it, recognizing that the enablement team (including sales talent management resources) cannot absorb it without sacrificing other initiatives or adding resources.
Any business case developed to compare the build versus buy methodology scenarios must include the costs of making all of the above conditions true for the “build” scenario.