Sales Process vs Sales Techniques

“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

~ Lao Tzu

What does this rather overused Chinese proverb have to do with sales process or sales techniques?  Let me explain:

By providing your team with sales process training, you’re teaching them a methodology which – if the sales process is proven and taught correctly – they can fall back on time and time again regardless of the selling situation in which they find themselves.  They will become more self-sufficient and will be much better prepared for the ever-changing realities in today’s marketplace.

Presuming, of course, that your company chooses the right sales process for your sales environment (inside sales vs. outside sales, direct sales vs. channel sales, etc.), teaching a linked, sequential sales process will allow your salespeople to follow a set of flexible principles they can tap into as they work with prospects and customers, regardless of whether the prospect or customer is ready to commit at that moment or if he or she is just in the early research stage of the buying process.

In other words, you will have taught them to “fish.”

The IMPACT Selling® System, for instance, has 6 steps, 3 rules and 5 characteristics that need to be internalized.  Once a salesperson takes ownership of IMPACT, that salesperson can then apply the process across all selling situations and be able to know exactly what step they’re in and what needs to happen next.  They’re not held captive by knowledge of just a few (or many) memorized, “canned” sales techniques.

How Does Sales Process Compare To Sales Techniques?

First of all – and this is a personal opinion not necessarily based in fact – sales techniques, to me, sound possibly manipulative and seem like something you do to a person as opposed to something you do collaboratively with a person.  They seem memorized, scripted and quite rigid, something to be repeated over and over.

Only providing your team with sales techniques training is much like giving them a “fish” to eat.  In the absence of anything other than sales techniques training, you will have given them particular skillsets that are useful only when certain circumstances present themselves…the equivalent of giving them access to the occasional “meal.”

A great example of what I’m talking about might be closing skills.  Let’s imagine for a moment that one of your salespeople has made contact with a prospect who is involved as a committee member in the buying decision but who doesn’t control the budget.  This person is only in the early stage of the buying process.

How in the world are closing skills going to help your salesperson in this situation?  They simply won’t. In fact, they’ll get in the way.

With that said, sales techniques can be quite useful when applied as a tool to be used within the sales process.

Here’s how that might work.

Questioning techniques are a great example of how sales techniques can fold into sales process.  When the salesperson enters the “interview” phase of the sales process with the prospect (the time at which it is appropriate to drill down and understand the buying motivations in the prospect’s own words), questioning techniques can be useful.

Closed-ended questions, open-ended questions, and 3-deep questioning skills are valuable sales techniques that come to mind here.

So, as you weigh the benefits of both sales process training and sales techniques training for your team, I urge you to consider the value of providing a flexible, principles-based sales process for your team to use while at the same time training your team on the appropriate sales techniques to be used within the framework of that process.

- @WilliamPGBrooks

Will Brooks

About Will Brooks

Will Brooks is Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing at The Brooks Group.  He's is an avid student of the interactions between buyers and sellers and is a recognized authority on sales process, the science of hiring and retaining top sales performers and overall sales organization excellence.  Will has been a sales and marketing guy his entire career and couldn't imagine doing anything else.