Strategic selling is about collaboratively finding ways to solve others’ problems. This is materially different than convincing prospects to buy what you’re selling. Successful closes of those sales happen when prospects say ‘Yes’ to what you’re selling. Successful closes of strategic sales happen when others say “Thank you” for your help in solving their problems – whether it’s your solution or someone else’s.
Let’s back up to Bryan Smith’s persuasion framework from The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook:
Selling is reasonably straightforward. You’re right. Your prospect is persuaded and is happy to be persuaded. There is nothing wrong with normal selling. It is a perfectly acceptable and valuable method of persuasion.
Strategic selling is different. Done right, it’s a combination of co-creation, consulting, testing and selling. It requires you to:
- Think and act like a co-creating partner – in it together to solve the other’s problem. One of the inherent assumptions here is that the other has a problem that needs to be solved or an opportunity they need help taking advantage of. Partners help each other in need. They don’t sell unneeded things.
- Be open to any possible solution from any possible source. If you really care about the people you’re pretending to serve, you have to put their needs ahead of your own. Remember Macy’s Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street sending Macy’s customers across the street to Gimbals for better deals. Partners are open to any solution. They don’t just sell their own products or services.
- Utilize two-way conversations, not presentations. Partners are interested in their partners’ circumstances, hopes, needs, and ideas.
People say “Yes” when they are persuaded. People say “Thank You” when they feel encouraged and valued.
Let’s relook at the basic steps of strategic selling with that in mind, adapted from some of the ideas in Miller and Heiman’s book, “The New Strategic Selling”
1. Set the single strategic selling objective
Start with one single, specific, measurable, time-lined, outcome-focused objective. In strategic selling, this should be other-focused, leading with the problem you’re trying to help them solve or the opportunity they can take advantage of.
2. Identify the decision-making influences involved
- Economic decision-makers give final approval.
- Users use the product or service and their success is tied to it so they focus on impact.
- Technical decision-makers screen out options.
- Coaches help navigate the organization and identify other decision-making influences.
Note while some can say “Yes” or “No,” all can say “Thank you.” Further, those whose mindset is:
- “Growth,” want to make things even better.
- “Trouble,” see problems that must be solved to survive.
- “Even keel” think things are fine as is (and are hard to influence.)
- “Overconfident” think things are fine (and are hard to influence now.)
Generally, they all seek business results (good for the organization) and personal wins (good for them personally.) But, watch out for missing pieces of information, uncertainty about information, any uncontacted influencer, influencers new to the job, reorganizations.
3. Develop a strategic selling strategy
This is about getting the right people in front of the right influencers and decision-makers with the right message and information at the right places at the right time over time. The key to this is spending time and resources with people you can best help and not with those others can help better than you can.
4. Outline the proposition
Lay out the positioning, communication and the framework for your solution.
5. Discuss the proposition
Test and consult with influencers and decision-makers to improve the proposition together.
6. Propose the solution
Marry your collective final proposition with decision-makers’ specific needs and mindset.
7. Close and follow up
The key tactical difference between selling and strategic selling is in steps 4-7. Where selling is about getting to “Yes.” This variation of strategic selling is about listening carefully to come up with your current best thinking as the proposition in step 4 and then iterating together to build momentum leading to the best solution for them, resulting in a “Thank you” for your help, no matter which product or solution ends up being best.