q Sales Training: Should You Build or Should You Buy?  - Modern Sales Foundations

Sales Training: Should You Build or Should You Buy? 

“If I buy, there will be trouble,
And if I build, it will be double.
So come on now, don’t leave me dry,
Should I build or should I buy?”

~ Adapted from “Should I Stay or Should I Go” with apologies to Mick Jones and The Clash

Humor aside, one of the major decisions companies face when it comes to sales training is whether to develop their own sales methodology and training program or to purchase an existing one.  

This decision can significantly impact the effectiveness of a company’s sales team and ultimately its bottom line. Both options have their pros and cons, making it a tough call for many organizational leaders.  

In this article, I’ll delve into this topic, exploring the factors to consider when making this “Build or Buy” decision and why leaning toward purchasing a great program that fits the business might be the smarter move. 

The Pros and Cons of Building Your Own Sales Methodology

Creating a sales methodology from scratch can be enticing for several reasons. One of the most significant advantages is the ability to craft a methodology that perfectly aligns with your organization’s unique needs and challenges. By developing it in-house, you ensure seamless integration with your buyers, sales process, culture, and overall business objectives.  

Building your own methodology also offers the opportunity for innovation and differentiation. By developing something entirely new, you have the potential to differentiate your sales approach from competitors and potentially gain a competitive edge in the market. This can be particularly valuable in red-ocean industries, where standing out is critical for success. 

However, it’s important to acknowledge that building a sales methodology from scratch is no easy task. It requires a significant investment of time, expertise, effort, and resources. To ensure success, a custom methodology is best developed by conducting a Top Performer Analysis, where top, middle, and bottom performers are analyzed to identify the true differentiators. Given the complexity of data collection, statistical analysis, and translating the results into a practical, learnable methodology (with frameworks, models, and skill steps), the average sales enablement or learning and development professional typically lacks this expertise.  

There’s also no guarantee that a homemade methodology will be as effective as an established one. Developing a methodology that is professional, applicable in the real world, easy to learn and use, and follows instructional design principles requires a deep understanding of not just sales best practices, but also methodology and instructional design.  

Over the years, I’ve often seen haphazard methodology development lead to a mash-up of well-known methodologies that borderlines on copyright infringement, which is another risk worth avoiding.

The Case for Buying a Sales Methodology

Given the challenges and uncertainties associated with building a sales methodology, many companies opt to purchase existing methodologies instead. This approach has several advantages, including the ability to leverage the expertise and experience of others. 

By buying a sales methodology, companies can tap into the knowledge and best practices of industry experts who have developed and refined their methodologies over time. This can save companies a significant amount of time and effort, avoiding the trial-and-error process of developing their own methodology. 

Additionally, purchasing a sales methodology grants companies access to resources and support that would be hard to replicate internally. Many sales methodology providers offer training programs, coaching services, and other valuable resources to help companies effectively implement the methodology and achieve better results. 

The Over-Emphasis on Customization

One common argument for building a sales methodology revolves around the idea of customization. Proponents of this approach argue that a customized methodology is essential for addressing the specific needs and challenges of a particular organization. However, this argument may be over-emphasized and often unnecessary.  

For further reading on this topic, you may find the article “Is Sales Training Customization Really Necessary?” to be helpful, as it discusses the potential pitfalls of overemphasizing customization in sales training programs. It’s certainly counterintuitive and worth exploring.  

In some cases, off-the-shelf sales methodologies can be customized to fit the unique needs of a business. Many sales methodology providers offer flexibility and customization options, allowing companies to tailor the methodology to their specific requirements. This approach satisfies the buyers’ requirement for customization, enabling companies to leverage the expertise of established methodologies while still addressing their unique needs.  

In my experience, however, I’ve found that: 

  • Customization is often unnecessary. 
  • It can complicate the learning of new skills. 
  • It may encourage the use of established bad habits. 
  • Sales methodologies that require customization may unintentionally hinder a seller’s ability to think critically by being overly rigid and prescriptive 

Implementation Methods Trump Customization

From my experience, it’s more valuable to teach the learners and their front-line sales managers how to apply training in their daily work than to customize the training materials themselves. The effectiveness of your implementation is often more important than whether the learning content is customized. 

For example, in Modern Sales Foundations: 

  • We provide learners with application worksheets designed to integrate concepts learned in the program into realworld scenarios 
  • They take the concepts learned from episodic videos and begin applying them to their unique sales situations by completing the supportive worksheets.  
  • Then, we provide managers with a guide to facilitate meetings that reinforce the training. During these sessions, the worksheets serve as focal points for review, coaching, knowledge checks, discussions, exercises, role plays, and debriefs with feedback.  

It’s through the use of these worksheets, ensuing discussions, and practice exercises that the most meaningful “customization” occurs. 

This especially works well with methods that are communication-based, focusing on models and skill steps, versus teaching prescriptive things to say. It also better prepares the sellers for real interactions with modern buyers.  

“Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.  
Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” 
~ Ancient Proverb 

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, the decision whether to build or buy a sales methodology is a complex one that depends on a variety of factors, including the organization’s size, resources, internal expertise, and goals. While building a sales methodology offers the potential for customization and innovation, it also comes with significant challenges and risks that may outweigh potential benefits.  

On the other hand, buying a sales methodology can provide companies with access to expertise, established best practices, resources, and both instructional and implementation expertise that would be hard to replicate in-house. Given these advantages, and considering the risks of over-emphasis on customization, companies may find that investing in a well-suited program that fits the business is more practical and effective in the long run. 

Image Credit: Adobe Stock | Johnstocker
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