How To Start & Grow Your Business

6 Popular Sales Methodologies Summarized

Emma Snider
Jan 16th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 6 min read
  • Hummy's

    1In SPIN selling, prospect solves own problem. 2Conceptual selling: get info, give info, get commitment. 3Customer Centric selling emphasizes asking questions.
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Note Pad and Sales Concept Photo Credit: Rawpixel Shutterstock

Goals are easy to set. Someday I’ll live in Hawaii, be a millionaire, and fly around in my own personal hot air balloon. Sounds great.

But what’s harder is the “how” part. How will I accomplish all these things? Um … let me get back to you on that.

This disconnect between the goal and the journey is particularly relevant to sales. Salespeople are very aware of their quotas, and the need to reach them. What they might be more confused about are the steps they should take to get there.

This is where sales methodologies come in. According to a Sales Benchmark Index article by John Kenney, “a sales methodology is the ‘how’ of selling as a skill set.”

Arm your salespeople with the mindset, questions, and approaches they need by adopting a sales methodology. If you’re confused about which (or how many) to ascribe to, we’ve summarized six popular ones below.

SPIN Selling

Neil Rackham popularized the SPIN selling methodology in a book by the same name. SPIN is an acronym for the four types of questions salespeople should ask their clients: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff.

  • Situation questions aim to understand a prospect’s current situation (although reps should still do research before a call or meeting).
  • Problem questions get to the heart of the prospect’s issue.
  • Implication questions probe the prospect to think about the consequences of not solving the problem.
  • Need-payoff questions prompt the prospect to consider how the situation would change if their problem was solved.

Here’s an example in the context of an executive recruitment services firm.

  1. How does your current hiring process work?
  2. Do you find that you have trouble filling your senior leadership positions with quality candidates?
  3. If a leadership position goes unfilled, how does that affect the organization?
  4. If you were able to get a list of quality executive candidates, how would that help the HR department and the entire organization?

Rather than telling prospects why purchasing a product or service is a good idea, and what the impact would be, the goal of the four SPIN questions is to guide prospects to come to these realizations on their own.

Conceptual Selling

Conceptual selling is founded on the idea that customers don’t buy a product or a service — they buy their concept of a solution that the offering represents. With that in mind, founders Robert Miller and Stephen Heimen urge salespeople not to lead with a pitch, but instead seek to uncover the prospect’s concept of their ware and understand their decision process.

The authors encourage salespeople to ask smart questions that fall into five categories:

  1. trailConfirmation questions reaffirm information.
  2. New information questions clarify the prospect’s concept of the product or service and explore what they’d like to achieve.
  3. Attitude questions seek to understand a prospect on a personal level, and discover their connection to the project.
  4. Commitment questions inquire after a prospect’s investment in the project.
  5. Basic issue questions raise potential problems.

The sales methodology places a heavy emphasis on listening, and divides the sales process into three stages: getting information, giving information, and getting commitment. All transactions should be win-win for both the prospect and the salesperson; if the salesperson feels this is not the case, they should walk away from the deal.

SNAP Selling

SNAP selling is a sales methodology that aims to bring salespeople to the prospect’s level. SNAP is an acronym that encompasses four directives for sellers: keep it Simple, be iNvaluable, always Align, and raise Priorities. With these principles in mind, salespeople can more effectively reach busy prospects with valuable knowledge, connect what they’re selling with what’s most important to the potential client, and make it easy for them to buy.

And while most salespeople only think there’s one decision involved in a deal — whether the prospect buys or not — author Jill Konrath actually identifies three critical decisions. First is allowing access, second is the choice to move away from the status quo, and the third is changing resources. With these mini decision milestones in mind, salespeople can more effectively keep deals on track.

Challenger Sale

Co-authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson started The Challenger Sale by asserting that practically every B2B salesperson fits into one of five personas: relationship builders, hard workers, lone wolves, reactive problem solvers, and challengers. According to Dixon and Adamson’s research, salespeople are almost evenly distributed among these profiles. However, the most successful by far were the challengers — this one group represented 40% of the top-performing reps in the authors’ study.

So what makes challengers so effective at selling? They follow a teach-tailor-take control process. First, they teach their prospects — not about the product or service in question, but about larger business problems, new ideas, and astute insights. Next, they tailor their communications to their prospect. Finally, they take control of the sale by not being afraid to push back on their customer, and focusing more on the end goal rather than being liked. The Challenger sales methodology strives to impart the wisdom of the challenger to the other four types.

Sandler Sales

The Sandler sales methodology flips the script of the traditional sales process to a certain extent. While sales has historically revolved around the idea that potential buyers should be pursued and convinced by sellers, the Sandler process states that both parties should be equally invested. Although this doesn’t completely reverse the two roles, it does level the scale.

Objections such as time or budget restraints often derail deals after a considerable amount of work has already been invested by both prospect and salesperson. But Sandler-trained reps strive to raise and assess the majority of obstacles in the qualification process. If the rep discovers that his offering won’t truly address the potential client’s concerns, he won’t waste time convincing them that it actually does — he’ll simply abandon the process. Rather than the seller convincing the buyer to buy, with this methodology, the buyer is almost convincing the seller to sell.

CustomerCentric Selling

The CustomerCentric sales methodology seeks to transform salespeople from product pushers to collaborative consultants. CustomerCentric behavior hinges on eight tenets:

  1. Converse situationally instead of making presentations
  2. Ask relevant questions instead of offering opinions
  3. Focus on the solution instead of the relationship
  4. Target decision makers instead of users
  5. Promote product usage to garner interest instead of the product alone
  6. Strive to be the best seller rather than the busiest
  7. Close on the buyer’s timeline rather than the seller’s
  8. Empower buyers to buy instead of convincing them

Every sales transaction should either enable a buyer to achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need. If the product or service won’t fulfill any of these three ends, the salesperson should walk away from the deal.

This article was written by Emma Snider and published on HubSpot blog.

Emma Snider is a staff writer for HubSpot’s Sales blog. She loves sales, tech, sales tech, and cats.

HubSpot is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.