David Marshall, SalesGRID CEO and Co-Founder, sat down with Priya Sachdev, Chief Customer Officer at Vengresso, to discuss Sales Process. Having spent 12 years at Miller Heiman, Priya has become an authority on the topic.
Okay, welcome to today’s SalesGRID podcast. Pleased to welcome Priya from Vengreso, who we’re going to talk about the all-important topic of sales process and sales methodology. Welcome, Priya.
Thanks, David. A pleasure to be here and a pleasure to talk about sales methodology. So thanks for inviting me.
Alright, so I guess my first question would be: what’s the difference between say sales process and sales methodology?
Yeah, well, I can tell you that I’ve got a career of B2B sales for almost two years. And of this the past 20 years been specifically working on sales methodology. So I have it clear in my mind, in terms of what’s the difference between the sales process and the sales methodology. So sales process is what you do. And sales methodology is how you do it.
So I think that’s the simplest way to explain that to everybody. And I can talk more about that as we go along.
Cool, so I guess, when we talk about sales processes, what do you do? So what does it mean to you as a sales effectiveness tool, what is the real purpose of having a well-defined sales process?
Yeah, so in my mind, having a sales process is like becoming a hygiene factor today, right? You cannot be selling be it B2B, B2C, D2C channel, whatever form of sales you follow, you cannot really succeed in sales without having a well-defined sales process. Because what is a sales process? Right? It’s breaking what you need to do, from a sales perspective to manage your customer through their buying journey.
And you break it down into sub-steps, right? So step one, step two, step three. Usually, it’s linear, but not always, because sometimes I go to Step four, and the customer brings me back to step two. Yeah. And then my process needs to have the flexibility to be able to do that. So to me, the sales process is like building blocks. And those blocks are really centred around, how do I work with my customer in helping them navigate their buying journey? Really? Right. So to be effective, you need to have the process. But having a process doesn’t always make you effective. You need to follow the process as well.
Yeah. I mean if you’re managing a sales team, then you really need to be prescriptive, you need all 10 of them to be following that process in a very prescriptive fashion. So, you mentioned flexibility before, but do you see scope for people diverging from the process?
Yeah, I don’t know if a process can be flexible because that would just lose the power of the word called process, right? The process means that we are consistently following that. I think where the flexibility lies is in the elements that allow you to augment the process. So for example, every seller has their own personal style. You’ve been in sales, I’ve been in sales, you would sell differently because that’s who you are, you have your strengths. And you’d like to bring your strengths to the table, I would have a different style of selling, but we could still follow the same process, right? And the process would mean that in your first conversation with the client, have you understood what is their current situation like?
Have you made a conversation and attempted to understand Who are the other stakeholders? Who would get involved in the buying decision? What’s the process? How did you have that conversation completely understand flexibility? You could ask a direct question, because you may be good at that. I may not be good at asking a direct question. And I may actually blame it on the process that I need to know who are the other people because I need to fill it into my CRM. So what I’m trying to say is the process cannot have flexibility. But again, going back to the methodology, the methodology allows you to leverage your strengths. And that’s where you bring flexibility into the process. Right? And that should augment the conversation, not straitjacketed. So a lot of times sellers are scared of a sales process. Because they feel the process is a constraint. It’s going to straight jacket, me, all of us are going to be robotic about it. No sales process. Allah wants you to be robotic right? They want you to be human. But there still will be templates. Because their guidelines are right, here are three things you say? Yeah, how you say it is completely up to you.
Right. And then going back to sales methodology in relation to your sales process, it’s a bit oversimplified, but you know, do an introduction call, run a needs analysis meeting, present a proposal, close. The methodology is about how you go about that. So for Miller Heiman, it might be what you need to manage, the blue sheet or whatever, throughout the process, do you want to just elaborate on just some of that “how to” stuff.
Honestly, if you ask me, every seller has a sales methodology, it’s just something that they’ve created as their own winning formula. What a lot of us, as sales consultants have done is to crowdsource the sales methodology, and find the commonalities around it. And as Bob Miller would say, we’ve idiot proofed the way you would do this. Because if there are loads of people doing it the same way, and they’ve succeeded in doing it, you call it best practice or you call it a methodology, it’s the same stuff, right?
So all of us have a methodology, I haven’t seen a salesperson succeed in sales without following a methodology. It could be their personal style, or as an organisation, I may say, alright, this is how we do it. This is how the sales culture in our organisation works. I think the methodology becomes important because it creates a common language if you and I can have a common language in sales. And every time I say, Hey, I’m meeting with the economic buyer persona today. And I have had a conversation with the technical buyer, and I have a great quote there, and you understand exactly what I’m saying. It just makes us more efficient in our communications. And that’s more internally, right, I need to have that language because sales is a team sport. I can’t sell alone.
So quickly, in B2B, I need a team to win a deal. And the methodology ensures that we talk the same language. So I think it’s important to have a sales process and have a sales methodology within an organisation. And the larger the organisation, the more critical these elements become. Because you know, when you have a small team, and you have only five people, I could enable the process and the methodology on the go. And I think this is a challenge we are seeing in the digital world today, right earlier, I could, as a sales leader, or a sales manager go out with my sellers in the field, and I would train them on the field, right? Hey, why don’t you do this? Why can’t you follow this like this? What if you said this? Let me show you. Now we’re all sitting behind these zoom calls. And it’s becoming even more difficult to do that. So then, having a well-defined process, and having a methodology that we’ve enabled our sellers to follow. Just makes it that much easier and efficient for us to deliver on our results.
I love that. I thought a good point about the methodology is it’s a common language, particularly in bigger teams. So we all know what we’re talking about when we actually talk about the economic buyers, and so on and so on. I just have a question actually just riffing on that. So in a big organisation, you might have a bids team and then an Enterprise team, maybe there’s a mid-market team. Is it a fair classification to say that across the organisation, you have a common methodology, but you’ll have different sales processes for those different segments? Potentially? Because the bids process, You know, there’s many more steps? Am I oversimplifying that or?
No, I think it is as simple as that. And I always like to think about a sales process from a customer’s buying journey prospect. If you look at it from that perspective, yes. Different teams may interact with the customer across different stages of the buying process, right? Yeah. So my marketing team or inside sales may engage with the buyer when they are at the awareness stage. And they’re still figuring out what do they need? And who are the best people who can give that to them? Right? Maybe the bid teams get engaged when it’s time to do the response to the RFI and the RFPs. And my sales teams, getting in front of them creating that human to human connection, and actually working through the stakeholders understanding what’s important for them, their wins and their results, and ensuring that I look good, versus the competitors or the other alternative we have.
So thinking about it from that perspective. Yeah, maybe people are following different portions of the sales process. But the language needs to be the same. Because, yes, they need to be able to seamlessly hand over the customer from one group of people. Because they are still one team, right. But the inside sales teams is had the first conversation, when they hand it over, they should be able to say exactly where we left it so that nobody drops the ball. I think if you have a common language, there is more likelihood that you’re going to drop the ball. Yeah.
Cool. That’s really interesting. This distinction. I think I’m going to finish with a couple of questions, trying to search for a quick win here for the audience. You know, if you reflect on your decade-plus at Miller Heiman, and my relatively limited understanding of Miller Heiman, is there’s a huge amount of detail. Right? if you reflect back, what are the highest value activities that people should actually focus on out of that whole methodology?
Oh, well, everything’s important. But I think what I have personally found that have the highest value. And when I say the highest value, those activities, which kind of guarantee the success of the result, right, for me, are the ones where I had high customer proximity, or it was that activity that helped me create value for my customer. So when you look at a sales process, there are some things you should be able to divide between nice to do and need to do. Right. So I need to do I need to understand the decision-making unit I need to understand who are the people who would get involved? Because without knowing that I’m shooting in the dark. Now, should I have a meeting with all of them? It’s nice to do. If I don’t get a meeting with all of them, what’s the other plan I could have? I could have a plan B. I could develop a good coach who could actually help me navigate that decision-making unit without me getting in front of them.
So what I’m trying to say is that if you start looking at your sales process, you realise that some of those elements of the process are like non-negotiable, you have to have to do them. Right. But some have a plan B, a, Plan C, and Plan D. Those are it’s okay, if you didn’t get this, you do something else. It’s, you know, I always to my own sales team, I used to give them an example of saying, think about making a cup of coffee, right? You have to get the beans, you have to roast them, you have to brew them. Those steps are critical. Now, do you want milk or sugar? Well, it’s a personal choice, right? Somebody would prefer coffee, somebody would want it without sugar. So that’s where the personal flavour would come in. But there are some steps of the process, which if you didn’t, do you just have boiling water, there would be no coffee.
So I have a final question. And this is, you know, something I’ve seen software vendors, you know, promised things like, you know, “clone your salespeople”, and all this sort of nonsense, but because you can have process running, as you alluded to, you know, there’s a human element to this, and there’s an art to it.
But, you know, in any given sales team, right, you know, the top 10% are probably producing more than half your sales. In fact, sometimes, we’re seeing almost this skew now. Whereas like the top 10% are doing 60/70/80%. Is it possible for other reps within the team to then actually step up and replicate that, that level of performance by following the process rigorously and executing the methodology? Or is it just a fact of life that you’re gonna have this enormous skew in your performance population, your bell curve?
Well, human resources would tell you that when you have people, you’d always have a bell curve, right? You can’t not have a bell curve. So you will always have a bell curve. But having said that, at least in my experience of being in the sales enablement space for almost two decades, I can tell you, the top 10% are the people who adopt and adapt to the sales process and the methodology faster than anybody else. They are good at what they do, and they’re possibly already doing 70% of the stuff they should be doing. So for them, it’s very easy to pick up the rest and run with it. I think the only thing we have to ensure is that when you’re you know the culture of the organisation has a big play on the sales methodology. So just because this methodology works for me, doesn’t mean it would work exactly the same way for you if you didn’t create that adaptation in your organisation.
So I’m telling you, we used to sell the blue sheet and the blue sheet is the blue sheet. But we always used to say it’s like the skeleton right, the organisation needs to add the flesh and the blood to it, so that it becomes your blue sheet rather than being the Miller Heiman blue sheet. I still read here at Vengresso we have a PVC methodology that we speak to, which is a framework of personalization value and call to action. Simple framework, follow it in every customer messaging, right? You need to make it your own. You can’t follow Vengresso PVC it has to be the SalesGRID PVC and that your own mobile adapted you will bring in your language you will bring it your flavour. I think that’s important. For the 10% who succeed in your culture, I think you need to prioritise what’s making them succeed in your culture.
Yeah, now that’s definitely I remember, you know, picked up blue sheets and whatnot and go Gee, that doesn’t quite fit and I am gonna have to spend money on consulting services. But now that’s fantastic Priya. Thank you so much for today. And I think we’ve all learned something new. I actually got real clarity there particularly about the differences between methodology and process and the importance of both things, particularly in large organisations. But even for a team of five salespeople, I think it still has a lot of resonance so thanks again
Thank you cheers