Book Club: Andy Whyte on Navigating Complexity in Sales With MEDDICC
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Olivia Fuller: Hi, and welcome to Book Club, a Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m Olivia Fuller. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.
The world of sales is becoming increasingly complex with more stakeholders involved in buying decisions, intensifying competition, and rapidly changing expectations of the skills and knowledge that sellers need to be successful. In navigating this complexity, the MEDDICC methodology can help provide a common language for everyone in the sales organization to more efficiently and effectively qualify deals and generate a clear path to success. Andy Whyte’s book, “MEDDICC,” lays out strategies and best practices to successfully implement the MEDDICC methodology, and I’m so excited to have him on the podcast today to share some of the key insights from his book.
With that, Andy, could you please introduce yourself to our audience and then tell us a little bit more about your book.
Andy Whyte: Yeah. Hey Olivia, very good morning to you. Hello to the audience. Thank you very much for having me on the show. I’ve been listening to the back catalog, and I’ve been really enjoying the episodes so it’s great to be on the show, thank you for having me. As you said, my name is Andy Whyte. At heart, I’m a sales guy. That’s pretty much what I’ve always done since leaving school. Went into sales and started doing door to door sales selling home improvements, then worked in a cell phone store selling cell phones, and then got into SaaS and started climbing the ladder up of doing more senior roles and taking on larger propositions from selling to SMB’s to selling to enterprises and all different kinds of SaaS solutions. More recently, I went into sales leadership within the last five or six years with a couple of different startups.
The book came about really for a couple of reasons. One was I stumbled across MEDDICC myself as an individual contributor back in 2014 or 2015, and I just felt like it was something that as soon as I learned about it, I was like where’s this been all of my career? I don’t know anyone else who’s ever stumbled across some methodology or something, but it just made me feel, not happy because I’d found it, but sad because of all the time I’d wasted on deals before and deals that I’d lost and all this stuff. I could have saved myself the heartache if I had MEDDICC, so I embraced MEDDICC, loved it. It really helped me as an individual contributor, and then as a sales leader it helped me a lot as well in enterprising up the teams I was leading.
One of the strange things around MEDDICC is it’s 25 years old this year, but no one really had ever stopped to document it or put any kind of book together for it. I definitely saw that as an opportunity to put some of my ideas and thoughts around MEDDICC down on paper. What started as a first blog post iterated into where we are today with a book and a lot of great experiences that have come from that. That’s the background story of myself and MEDDICC.
OF: Fantastic. Well, again, I’m so excited to have you on the podcast today to dive a little deeper into your book, which I know I personally learned so much from. In the book, you note that MEDDICC is a qualification methodology, so I’m curious, how does that differ from a traditional sales methodology and what makes MEDDICC different and unique compared to some of the other qualification methodologies that are out there?
AW: Yeah, that’s a great and actually really important question because it’s funny, it is a methodology of course, MEDDICC you can call a framework as well. I tend to swap between both of them. It’s in sales, so by definition you’d say, well, isn’t it a sales methodology? I guess you could call it that. The only reason why I like to point out and not refer to it as a sales methodology is because generally, the definition of a sales methodology is how you talk to your customers, how you engage with your customers. MEDDICC is much more around qualifying where you are with those customers, should you be engaged with those customers. It doesn’t necessarily dictate how you should engage and what messaging to use and how to talk to the customers.
Likewise, the same with the sales process. Some people refer to it as a sales process, and it’s not. It’s a framework that sits underneath the methodology and the process, and the reason why it’s important just to differentiate the two is that you can really only have one sales process and one sales methodology. If you were to think of MEDDICC as being a sales methodology, you would assume that you can’t overlay it over the top of the framework methodology you already have. That’s why it’s important to differentiate the two.
Then when you think about MEDDICC as a qualification framework or methodology, it’s funny how when you get into the qualification framework world, it seems to be a world of acronyms. I can’t even remember most of them. The most famous ones are obviously MEDDICC and BANT. There’s a whole load of other ones. There’s one called CHAMP. There’s some with G’s and C’s and all this sort of stuff in there.
I think where MEDDICC really comes into its own is that it sees you all the way through the sales process and beyond into post-sales and actually pre-sales process. MEDDICC looks so broadly, not just at the qualifying actual moment in time, but it talks about who you’re going to be working with, the proposition that you’re taking to those people, and what would those people be interested in. It can really go pre-sale as well and start to help influence how you market your products and how you message the value of those products as well. And how, of course, all the people internally talk about the different stages of revenue.
That’s where I think MEDDICC really comes into its own. It’s not to say that the other qualification frameworks aren’t good, but it goes very broadly across the entire sales process.
OF: Definitely. As you mentioned, MEDDICC is an acronym and in the book, you walk through each of the different stages of the MEDDICC methodology and also some additions that companies are beginning to use.
At a high level, I’d love if you could just dive into what those stages are, and also when it might be appropriate to supplement them with some of those additional steps.
AW: Yeah, no great question. As I said a moment ago, MEDDICC is 25 years old this year and it was born inside of a company called PTC. Really where it came from was a guy called Dick Dunkel who invented it. He worked in sales enablement, probably one of the firsts, PTC was probably the very first people to do sales enablement, and he’d come out from the field with the task of helping PTC to level up all the new salespeople they were hiring. One of the exercises they did was to look at why PTC were winning deals, why they were losing deals, and why deals were slipping. What he found wherever he went, whatever sales team inside of PTC he went to, was that there was a continuity in the answers to those questions. These actually rolled up to being the elements of MEDDICC, which was at the time six elements, which is MEDDIC with just one C on the end and two D’s.
That obviously served us very well. It’s proliferated almost like no other methodology since that time, but what’s actually happened as technology landscapes have evolved, there’s been two particular elements that have come into be popularized inside of MEDDICC. That’s why a lot of people will know MEDDICC as MEDDPICC because it has an extra P in there.
As I said, one of those letters is the “P,” which generally stands for paper process. What this is, it goes without saying, but it’s the process that occurs when you start to talk about contracts. SLSA’s, DPA’s, there’s all of these three-letter acronyms that exist now that weren’t around when MEDDICC was created because generally it was on premise software, you owned the licenses and data privacy wasn’t such a big thing. The paper process has become much more complicated. It’s also the big reason why deals slip, because of the paper process. What a lot of organizations will do is they’ll call the extra P out and that’s why the extra P stands for paper process.
The extra C is for competition, which again is a similar situation as time has evolved. Now, I think there’s something like a hundred new SAS companies a day. Competition is not just your rival solutions, there are other initiatives that exist that could be taking the same budget or resources that you’re going for. It’s not just about money, it could be that the teams are helping to implement whatever solution you’re talking about. Inertia is a competitor as well, the customer just staying with what they’ve done or what they’ve already got. Then of course they can build it and sell so easily now with cloud structure and that sort of thing. Competition becomes much more of a thing today than it used to be all those years ago.
That’s why you had the two letters in. For anyone that’s listening that doesn’t know anything about MEDDICC or know what the other letters are, very super high level, you’ve got the “M,” which is for the metrics. These are the quantifiable measures of value, so this is the KPIs if you like. The economic buyer, this is the overall authority, the best way of finding this person is the person to say no and others say yes, and they say yes while others say no. Then you have the two “D’s,” which stand for decision criteria, decision process. It’s the what and the how the customer is going to make a decision-type process I talked about. The “I” stands for identify the pain or implicate the pain, which speaks for itself. Then you’ve got the champion, which is for me, the most important part of MEDDICC. It’s the one person who’s going to be your person inside of the customer who’s giving you information, helping you to navigate towards a successful outcome. Then as I said the next one after that is the second “C” for competition, which I talked about.
OF: That’s great. One of the key points that stood out to me is you also highlight the importance of discovery, but specifically how it should be thought of as a mindset rather than a stage. I’d love if you could explain that a little bit further. Why is that mindset of discovery impactful in enterprise sales?
AW: Yeah, great question. I might be a bit controversial here, but I’m going to go as far as saying, if you’re a salesperson and you’re not doing discovery, then you’re not being a salesperson. You’re being an order taker because if you can’t learn from the customer and adapt to suit the challenges and goals that they’re trying to aspire to or solve then you really are just going to be talking about your own product. Hopefully, if it works out for you, if you’ve got a good product and it’s well suited, then you’ll be taking the order. That’s the first thing I’ll say is proper selling cannot be done without discovery.
Why I say it’s a mindset is because it’s not really about going in with a bank of questions that you need to try and find the answers to. Quite often when people have that mindset of, I just need to do this stage of discovery, it’s not a great experience for the customer. On the other end, it feels a bit like an interrogation. The mindset of discovery is to be genuinely curious because inside of you, you know that to really have the best chance of finding a good fit for your solution, you need to really genuinely understand the customer’s business. You need to understand their goals, you need to understand their challenges, you need to understand where they want to get to and what could be hurdles in the way for them there. Then see, and this is a really important thing, see whether your solution is a good one. Not always will it be a good fit. It may be that the customer does not have enough interest. It may be that your solution is not the right solution for them. I think that we really need to popularize qualifying out in sales.
As much as you should be curious to try and find opportunity and strengths for your solution, you should also be thinking, well, do I really want to have to invest the amount of time the deal needs if it’s not going to work out for me, if it’s not going to be a right opportunity for me. Having that very open-minded genuine curiosity is going to lean you into finding real value that you can uncover.
Then where MEDDICC comes into that, I always look at it like this. Generally, in discovery you’re trying to understand a few things. You understand the lay of the land you’re trying to qualify, but you’re really trying to find some pain. I quite liken it to a bit like mining for gems is the discovery, and finding the pain is like finding a gemstone, maybe they call it a diamond. Where MEDDICC comes in is it’s going to help you turn what is still a valuable gemstone, it’s going to help you turn that into a diamond ring by putting metrics against what the value of solving that pain would be. That’s where the pain, the metrics, buddy up to.
The other point on this actually, which is important, why discovery is a process is because it’s something you do throughout the deal. In enterprise sales by nature, they’re generally complex, they’re generally long, there’s generally multiple stakeholders involved. Every single stakeholder, every different part of the deal, have new things to learn and will adapt and shift. If you’re up against a good competitor, they’ll be trying to adapt and shift it towards their strengths and towards your weaknesses. You have to be in your toes to make sure you bring it back towards yourself. Discovery is something you should be doing right up until the ink on the signature for the contract is drying That’s in my mind how I see it.
OF: Great. You touched on some of the skills that make salespeople successful just now but explore that a little bit more in the context of today. As the world of work has evolved really rapidly in the past year, the skills that are required to be successful in sales have also now evolved as well. In the book, you talk about some of the characteristics of great sellers. I’m curious from your perspective, what are some of the key attributes of really elite salespeople in today’s environment?
AW: Yeah, I have one favorite for this and it’s definitely not something that I came up with, but it’s something I heard and it’s outside of sales and it really resonates with me. This is the idea of taking action over having the intention to take action and actually being able to take action. I think that’s something that in sales is critically important. That’s really the difference for me between the elite salespeople and those that could be elite who have all the skills, have all the knowledge, have all the experience, but just never quite make that step up to being what we know as elite.
The best example that I think will resonate with the audience on this is we’ve all been in those team deal reviews, where somebody is presenting a deal and as a team, it’s a great thing. One of the things I love about sales is how we can come together as different professionals who have different roles in sales and hear someone talk about their deal and brainstorm how we can help them make progress.
Wherever I worked, there’s always been a salesperson who is not elite, but they know all the answers. They’ve got the answer for everybody’s problem in their deal, and they’ll tell you it as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. That is having intention for me, they know what the right things to do are, but when it’s really, really important, they don’t do it.
In a MEDDICC sense, they’ll know how important it is to access the economic buyer. They’ll talk about it to everybody, but they won’t do it themselves. They’ll say, well, it’s hard to get there and all this stuff, which it is of course, but that’s kind of the beauty of it.
For me to answer your question, it’s really about taking that next step to taking action. In reference to this world we’re in right now where most of our meetings are remote, we’re missing out on that beautiful time that we never really valued before, which is the time where you’d meet the customer in their reception area, and they’d walk you to the office room and then you get to the meeting room and then you’d get the walk back. That might only be 10 minutes, but in that 10 minutes you would build rapport, you would build relations, you could ask for debriefs, you can ask for an insight ahead of the meeting, all that kind of stuff. We don’t get that anymore, but we can.
That’s the difference between action and intent. You can most definitely put some time in with that potential champion let’s say before the meeting. You can put some time in after the meeting. In fact, you could top and tail any meeting you have with anyone else by doing that. That’s what the elite sellers will do. Those that are a little bit below elite will know that that’s a good thing to do, they know that’s within their grasp, but they won’t take that step. That’s probably an example of the difference between elite in today’s world.
OF: I love that. Another thing that it really stood out to me in your book is you write that the most significant factor to the success of your MEDDICC implementation lies in your frontline sales managers’ hands and enablement often works very closely with frontline sales managers. I’m curious if you have any advice for how enablement can give frontline managers the support that they need to properly execute the implementation and really engage them as champions of the process?
AW: Yeah, that is a fantastic question. I think being a frontline sales manager is one of the loneliest jobs in sales because you’re in this accountability sandwich where above you, self-leadership, we’re always asking you for numbers, for the reports, all this stuff. Below, your sales team is looking to you to protect them from the noise above, but also help empower them. You don’t really have, except for your peers themselves, but they’re also in a funny way because it’s a competitive industry they’re almost your competitors and you have sales managers on the same level as you, you don’t really have anyone who’s your buddy, except for sales enablement. Sales enablement are the people, especially in a MEDDICC implementation, who are like your secret weapon for success because what you need for successful implementation of MEDDICC above anything else is momentum.
You need to have some forward momentum and wins with it. What I mean by that is, you’ll know this much better than I and your audience will know this a million times better than I do, there’s this thing that happens in all good sales organizations that are trying to evolve and develop and move themselves forward where one minute or one month it will be a new sales tool that comes in. It’s a new analytics tool. It’s going to help you figure out something that you didn’t know about your deals. The next minute it’s a new sales methodology. What tends to happen is you get this flavor of the month scenario happen and underneath it, the sales team, the individual contributors are like okay, what is it this month. MEDDICC, okay, we’ll be hearing about MEDDICC for the next month I guess and then it’ll be something else.
What you need to really turn the tide with that kind of mentality is you need to be able to show the value to the salespeople. The great thing about MEDDICC is aside from managers, as an individual contributor, it can really help you to figure out what you need to do with your deals regardless of anyone else around you.
To get the salespeople to have that mentality, they need to see some wins. Sales enablement is like the best friend for sales managers there because they can help keep the managers on their toes, help share best practice with them, remind them because as you know, sales managers have a lot of things on their mind. Reminding them of certain elements of MEDDICC that could help in certain scenarios and share successes. I think just that as a partnership really, really helps.
Then there’ll be a lot of things in the sales enablement locker, a lot of documentation, a lot of collateral that relates very closely to MEDDICC. I think that bringing those into decision criteria is a great example. Decision criteria are really around, especially technical decision criteria, it’ll be around what are the criteria for which the customers base that decision? Well, most good sales organizers I know have a document that suits that. It’s about sales enablement empowering people to get that document across.
The last thing I’ll say on this point is that where MEDDICC really comes into its own is as a common language for the revenue teams to use. It means everyone is talking about the same thing the same way. An example of this, champion is probably the most used phrase in sales. Outside of MEDDICC, if you meet two different salespeople, they’ll have completely different definitions of what a champion is.
What MEDDICC does helps you define what is a champion? What is this part of it? What are the metrics? It’s really going to help sales enablement and sales managers to increase the efficiency of their conversations and really make sure they’re talking about the right things. When they are talking about the same thing, they’re defining it the same way as well.
OF: Absolutely. I just have one final question for you. We’ve talked a little bit about the complexity of sales today and I’m curious to learn, how can MEDDICC really help foster deep engagement with customers given this increasing complexity?
AW: Yeah, that is a good question. I think one of the things that’s adding complexity to sales today is the massive choice that customers have. As I mentioned earlier, when we think about competition, it’s not just solutions that are rivals of yours, you’ve got other initiatives and other things that the customer could be looking to do. It could be looking just to stay the same. Risk is dangerous, change is risky. Build it themselves is another thing.
Then there’s this whole other scenario, which is that whilst there are of course people listening to this that will have Germany working for an organization who has a solution and you may have two, three, maybe five other vendors that do a similar solution. There’s this whole Venn diagram now of solution providers that do the same thing and then something else, and then something else. As a customer, you can have 10 options to solve that one thing you want to do and some will do it very well, but some will do it not quite as well, but they’ll do all these other things as well. That creates a lot of complexity for customers.
The thing I think salespeople always forget is that our customers are not professional buyers. 99% of their day job is spent doing their job. They only spend 1% thinking about buying that bit of software to help them do their job. They’re not out there spending all day reading G2 Crowd and all this stuff. They’re not necessarily experts in buying, so what you really need to be able to do is to approach the customer with, again, that curious mindset to really understand what it is they’re trying to solve and genuinely talking about how your solution can help solve that problem, if it can.
Sometimes, like I said earlier, sometimes you may not be the best person to help them. One thing is for sure, if you went into an engagement with a customer and you were to genuinely take an interest in what they were trying to solve, what their problems were, and you turned around and said, hey look, thank you for your time today, but actually, I don’t think we’re the right fit for you, let me help you put you in the right direction of who is, I guarantee you a year, two years, five years down the line, when that person is an ideal prospect for you, that person will take your call and meet you 100%. You would have bought so much credibility and that person is probably likely to introduce you to other people that you can help. I think this is a long game. I think if you have a long game mindset in sales, it will help you out a lot.
The short answer to that question, other than that long version, would to be that trusted advisor to your customers and have that genuine curiosity to help them solve their problems. You’ll be surprised at just how much more information the customer provides you if that helps you do your job better.
OF: That’s great. Well, Andy, thank you so much again for making the time to join our podcast today. I certainly learned so much from you and I know our audience did too. Thanks again.
AW: Well, thank you for having me on and thanks everyone for listening.
OF: To our audience, thanks for listening for more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.