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Your Sales Process or Methodology Is Broken

Every week I get email from readers asking me what I believe to be “the right sales process or methodology.” I have written and developed my own sales processes and methodologies, and I have helped to develop both for some of my clients.

Here is what I know to be true:

Nothing is 100% correct or incorrect. There is no sales process or methodology that offers you a 100% complete and actual map of what is right and what is effective. How could there be? Human beings are biological, psychological, sociological creatures. We are complex, and we are constantly overcoming challenges only to create new ones. Every sales process or methodology is incomplete and ignorant (I don’t use that word to connote something negative, I use it to mean that it doesn’t know what it doesn’t know).

That doesn’t mean that any process or methodology has no value. They are maps, and maps are useful tools, even though they are necessarily incomplete.

No new shiny object obliterates the past. Right now insight-based selling is all the rage, led by my friends at Corporate Executive Board. They’ve written about the death of relationship selling and the end of solutions selling (mostly, I believe, to draw attention to their research). But every new idea of value transcends and includes what came before it. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Long gone are the days of the “hard sell,” but not the need to gain commitments. The SPIN model that Rackham developed is still useful, even if some situation questions can and should be answered by reading your prospect’s website. Implications still make your offering compelling. Solutions selling is alive and well, even if the need to develop latent dissatisfaction that insight addresses is effective right now. And relationships still win, even if right now the word relationship requires a greater emphasis on your ability to create value than your ability to be known, liked, and trusted (all still critical).

Effectiveness is integration, not elimination. If you want to succeed in sales (or business), you are better off discovering what is true and how and when it is useful. You increase and improve your abilities when you integrate the “truth” in a methodology or a process instead of discarding everything that came before it. Because selling is a complex human endeavor, you need choices. You need a range of available actions. But you can’t integrate what is new if you have to discard everything that came before it. That’s like a ladder with only a single rung at the very top; it’s useless without all of the other rungs.

What process is right for you? The one that you will execute faithfully and inform with everything else you pick up from your reading, your experience, and your observation.

The argument I am making here isn’t so easy to make actionable. What I hoped to give you today was a mindset shift. Just because something is new and proves to be worthwhile doesn’t mean that everything before it is useless. What I wanted to share with you was the idea that you should be integrating, not eliminating (unless something no longer serves you or your clients).


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