Recently, I wrote Which Sales Methodology, suggesting the 21 plus sales methodologies may not be sufficient as we look to the future. I’m not sure I’ll present a methodology for the future, but I will suggest design principles for a Next Gen Sales Methodology.
- The next gen methodology should be focus on helping the customer navigate their buying process more effectively. Most current sales methodologies focus on what we do to the customer. The new methodology must focus on how we work with the customer.
- Actually, customers already solved this issue, the leverage project management principles. So rather than inventing something new and layering sales jargon, why don’t we just build the sale methodology on project management principles. We would work with the customers to develop a project plan, with milestones to assess progress, work flows and tasks needed to reach the milestones, and metrics that enable us to measure progress and identify challenges.
- The advantage of using project management skills and tools as the foundation for the methodology, is that customers are already using this so we automatically align our work efforts with them.
- Each buying journey is different, even within the same organization. The problem with current sales methodologies is they don’t easily accommodate differences in buying journeys. Project management tools are easily adaptable to any buying process or approach.
- A project management oriented methodology, in addition to being aligned with how our customers work, is agnostic to the different ways we may want to create value, whether Challenger, Consultative, Solution, Customer Focused. We can easily incorporate the best principles/tools of any of these into our project management tools.
- We can leverage this project management methodology to help our customers in developing their own project plans. Since we work with thousands of customers undertaking similar “buying projects,” we can develop project templates that our customers can adapt to more effectively manage their project and buying journey.
- The work of these projects is actually problem solving, so our methodology must incorporate problem solving frameworks that enable us to do the work.
- There are different problem solving approaches in looking at complexity. For “simple” environments, where we have known knowns, the problem solving approach is very straightforward–both to the customer and us. We can define a very specific methodology to efficiently and effectively work with the customer in this environment. The “complicated” environment requires different problem solving approaches. But, but we can define a methodology and project management approach that enables customers to manage in this environment. The complex and chaotic environments require very different approaches. Since the represent unknown unknowns, they represent situations the customer (and we) have never experienced Though we don’t know what the answers are, there are some pretty standard methods to experiment and figure these things out. So our methodology would focus on leveraging these approaches in working with the customer.
- You might be thinking, “Do we have to be able to do all of these?” The answer is, “Probably Not.” The reality is the problems we solve may fall into one or two categories. For example, those products or solutions that are bought frequently by buyers, in which they have great experience in the buying process will probably fall into the simple category. If our solutions fall into that category, we can focus on the problem solving approaches in that space. Likewise, a large number of our solutions help customers in the complicated space. So we only have to develop problem solving methods/approaches for that space. It’s probably unlikely that we address the simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic domains with our solutions. But if we do, we may want to develop specialists in each segment.
- We want our project management and problem solving approaches to be agile, so we will want to incorporate agile/lean processes and tools into our methodology. Again, there are a rich array of agile/lean tools customers and our own organizations are already using. We just have to incorporate them into our own customer engagement methodologies and approaches.
Let me pause for a moment to summarize. The next gen sales methodology, is really a methodology that is indistinguishable from our customers’ methodologies. It is an agile project management approach focused leveraging problem solving methods/tools.
As in any complex projects, we need to have an array of skills, capabilities, and tools to enable us to do the work of the project. In today’s selling methodologies, we tend to focus on sales specific skills and capabilities, we talk about prospecting skills, qualifying, objection handling, negotiation, closing and other skills.
Many of those skills are agnostic or independent of the current methodologies. So likewise, we can adapt those skills to our project focused methodology.
But we are going to have to develop new skills to effectively implement our new methodology. Some of these include:
- Project management skills—well duggghhh. We have to learn how to put together a project plan and manage the execution of the project. We are going to have to learn how to diagnose and address problems that occur in the execution of the project plan.
- Collaboration, facilitation, orchestration. Since it is no longer our methodology that we inflict on our customers, but a collaborative project plan we develop and execute with our customers, we will have to develop these skills. We are going to have to learn how to collaborate effectively. Since we are going to demonstrate our leadership in helping our customers develop and execute the project plan, skills in facilitation and orchestration will be critical.
- Critical thinking, problem solving are critical in actually doing the work of the project. We have to develop skills and competencies in doing these things–but the emphasis is on the types of problems we solve and the types of customers we help in solving those problems. How do we become the experts in helping our customers identify and address certain categories of problems.
- Decision-making. Great project leaders understand the importance of disciplined decision making processes. So if we are to be leaders in helping our customers develop and execute their project plans, we will have to learn how to manage the group decision-making processes.
- Curiosity. This is a fundamental skill that cuts across everything we do. How do we help the customer to find problems they should solve or opportunities they should address? How do we refine our project plans to address the challenges we face in executing the projects, or to improve? How do we address complex and rapidly changing situations–even within the projects? How do we accomplish more, faster?
- Data and analytics. The ‘stuff’ of many projects is determining what data we need and how we look at and analyze the data. Increasingly, strong data and analytics skills are critical in effective project management and execution.
- And, just like our customers have to know something about business, their markets, and industries, to develop and execute their project plans, we need to have similar knowledge and skills to collaborate with our customers on these projects.
- And there may be a number of other specific skills needed on the project.
By now you might have an uncomfortable churning in your gut, “Dave, this means we have to reinvent everything……How do we possibly do this?”
The great news is none of this is new—in fact, this is how our customers organize their buying today. They leverage project management and problem solving approaches. They develop skills in managing and facilitating these processes.
These method, processes, skills, and tools are all well known. There is a rich array of training, literature and expertise we can leverage in incorporating these into our next gen selling methodology.
So what’s stopping you?