Selecting, launching, and sustaining a new B2B sales methodology can be an overwhelming project for sales enablement teams. Sales leaders frequently underestimate the commitment required to realize the expected business impact of a methodology deployment, resulting in an endless cycle of starts, slow-motion failures, and restarts … rinse and repeat. The most common explanation offered for the failure is that sellers “just aren’t using the methodology.” According to Forrester data, 89% of B2B sales enablement teams plan to launch a new sales methodology in the coming year — and they tell us this year after year!
Methodologies may fail because they were never likely to be a good fit for your sales team (see bonus requirement below), but even the most perfectly matched methodology will fail due to lack of care and feeding, such as leadership or enablement getting distracted by other projects, poorly communicated rollouts, lack of reinforcement and coaching, and other failures to sustain or even properly and fully launch them.
Consider the following three must-have, table-stakes requirements that Forrester recommends when implementing a new sales methodology.
Sales Leadership Advocacy
The first and most important ingredient to ensure sales methodology adoption and long-term success is a top sales leader (preferably the CSO, but a successful, respected sales VP can work just as well) who believes in the methodology and will evangelize it at every opportunity. This is true of any sales enablement program, but it is an acute requirement when it comes to methodology, because fundamental changes in “how” reps are selling are usually involved, requiring leadership to proactively communicate the “why.” Leaders must embrace the change and must model the language and behavior of the new methodology. They should continually extol the benefits and highlight success stories — not just at launch, but indefinitely — assuming that there are proof points that enablement can gather that validate the change.
Frontline Sales Management Buy-In
While sales leaders win hearts and inspire possibilities, sales managers ensure that the work on the ground gets done and that the mechanics of the methodology cannot be ignored or overlooked. Account, funnel, and opportunity reviews are rebuilt and conducted in the language of the methodology, and sales managers are taught how to coach to the methodology. Above all, sales managers must be equipped to drive the change, which means that they have bought in and are prepared to coach prior to methodology launch to the broader sales team. As with sales leaders, sales managers will need a consistent stream of proof points, success stories, and reminders of the value in the change; they need new and refreshed insights to share with their teams. Sales managers must believe that they are not promoting adoption and change for the purpose of checking a box but that the change will truly contribute to buyer and seller success.
Corporate Interlocks Are Locked In
There are several key constituencies outside sales and sales enablement that must be included in the selection, launch, and nurturing of a new sales methodology. For example, for any customer interaction-type methodology (see: Is Your Sales Methodology An Innie Or An Outie?), marketing must be on board and committed; they are responsible for messaging and insights that link buyer needs with offerings, and proposed changes in how sellers are meant to communicate with buyers will not succeed without continuing marketing support. Imagine sellers attempting to sell on the value and ROI of a solution while their supporting messaging and assets are focused on features or … worse … competitors.
To keep the methodology front and center for sellers, it must be in sellers’ workflow, which means sales operations and IT must make changes to systems and processes so that methodology becomes part of sellers’ daily routine. As an example, the language used to qualify and discuss opportunities within systems (think CRM) must mirror the language of the new sales methodology. Sales operations is uniquely positioned to provide reporting on early, leading indicators of sales methodology success, which might include pipeline growth, opportunity velocity, and, ultimately, close rate, depending upon the intent of the methodology.
Bonus Requirement: Methodology Looks Like The Cool Kids
Selecting a sales methodology that is a good fit for your buyers and sellers is crucial to ensuring seller adoption and long-term success. When considering a sales methodology that defines how sellers should interact with buyers (e.g., consultative selling or selling on value), the surest indicator of success, the surest way to assure “fit,” is to assess the behaviors of habitual top sellers and President’s Club attendees to understand what they do differently from their core performing peers. Observing and documenting the things that high performers know, show, do, and say when they interact with customers is a blueprint for methodology success; measure any potential solution against this proven blueprint.
There are hundreds of details that must be addressed in considering, selecting, launching, and caring for a sales methodology, but these three (plus one) requirements are foundational and cannot be overlooked.