Sales Methodology vs. Process: Why The Difference Matters
In the never-ending search for higher sales performance, many organizations invest in methodologies and process improvements, often without understanding the difference between the two.
It’s an understandable mistake—after all, many methodologies (SPIN and Sandler, for instance) include rudimentary process elements as part of their structure, while many processes require elements of methodology in order to function well.
However, the difference between methodology and process does matter. Lackluster sales effectiveness can often be traced back to a lack of methodology to support the process—and vice versa. A clear understanding of the difference, and how they support one another, allows sales teams to build systems that drive higher performance.
Here’s what your team needs to know.
Process and methodology defined
- Sales process is the consistent, step-by-step structure that defines the stages and milestones of a sales team’s activities, from prospecting to closing.
- Sales methodology defines the methods and tactics used by salespeople to move prospects through the sales process.
Why it matters:
Process – Methodology = Inferior results
Methodology – Process = Inconsisent results
Process + Methodology = Success
To illustrate the point, let’s look at the difference between process and methodology in another context: Building a house.
Process and methodology in building a house
When building a house, the “process” is the stages and steps a general contractor takes to get from plan to completed building, while the “methodology” is the skills and capabilities of the individuals responsible for getting the work done (subcontractors, tradespeople, and laborers).
If the builder has a process but the workers don’t have good skills, the building may get built, but it won’t be done well. The outcome will be an inferior result.
If the workers have great construction skills, but the contractor doesn’t have the stages and steps in the right order, some elements of the building may be wonderful, but the building itself may not get completed or, if it does, it will take longer and be far more expensive to construct than necessary. Chaos.
With both good process and effective methodology, the resulting building is more likely to be done on time, on budget, and to a good standard of quality.
Process and methodology in sales
Which brings us back around to the sales team. In sales, the process is the stages, milestones, and steps that the sales team follows to take a buyer from prospect to customer. In a strong organization, these steps are determined at a strategic level based on the customer’s decision journey and winning best practices.
Methodology, on the other hand, is the conversational and tactical methods and tactics of the salespeople and leaders who engage in the sales process.
As with building a house, a sales team with a process but no methodology may move in the right direction when they move, but they’ll have a harder time of it and the effectiveness of the performance will suffer. The result will be inferior.
On the other hand, a sales team with methodology but no process may move buyers, but without a clear direction they may not move them in the direction they want them. It becomes impossible to predict sales numbers, quantify the sales pipeline, or codif