The Difference Between a Sales Process and a Methodology

A recipe is a process. It tells you, step-by-step, what you need to do to get a certain outcome. If you are baking a cake, a recipe takes you from start to finish, covering all the steps in between.

A sales process takes you from target to close, covering all of the steps along the way. It tells you how to target the right prospects. It gives you directions on how best to qualify your prospects. It provides you with the steps you need to take to uncover your client’s needs and requirements. It gives you guidance on how to present your solution and give evidence. It gives you the steps to acquire the account, to negotiate, and to close the business. A sales process is end to end.

A sales methodology is different. It’s a recipe, too, but it’s a different kind of recipe. It’s more like a recipe for icing, not a cake. A recipe for icing can bolt right onto your recipe for cake, just like a sales methodology bolts onto a sales process.

A sales methodology gives you the steps for some part of a sales process. The best way to demonstrate this is with an example. Let’s use Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. Rackham’s methodology is a system for asking questions. It’s still pound-for-pound the best methodology for asking questions in sales. But it isn’t a sales process. It can be used within any sales process.

My friend Jill Konrath wrote a tremendous book called SNAP Selling. It doesn’t really matter what sales process you use, Jill’s methodology is about getting in, being relevant, being invaluable, and aligning what you do with your client’s priorities. You can read her book and get help with these sales challenges regardless of your company’s sales process.

Too Much Icing, Too Little Cake

It’s possible to eat only icing. But it’s really not supposed to be eaten alone. It’s not a substitute for the cake. It’s supposed to help make the cake better.

It’s important not to confuse sales processes and methodologies. You need a sales process. You can enhance them by adding some methodologies. But you can’t substitute a methodology for a sales process; it leaves too much out.


Do you have a sale process, or do you really use only a methodology?

What are the benefits of having an end-to-end process to guide you from target to close?

If you subscribe to some methodology, what parts of the common sales process does it cover? What parts is your methodology missing?

If you have a sales process, what methodologies have you bolted on to give you a philosophy or a system for some parts of that process?

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Filed under: Sales

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