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Robert B. Miller, Stephen E. Heiman, Tad Tuleja: The New Strategic Selling

But no idea or concept is worth anything unless it can be applied to situational reality.

The key principles: Win-Win, Four Buying Influences, Four Modes, Win – Results, Red Flags, Ideal Customer. These have all been concepts that distinguished Strategic Selling from the very beginning.

If you understand the principle, you understand what its place is in the selling process and you will get more sales and better sales.

A process is simply a systematic set of actions we take to achieve desired results. Having repeatable processes is what takes the trial and error and guesswork out of life.

Learn the principle to understand why something works, learn the process step to understand how to do it, and finally take a real-life situation upon which to plan and practice how to implement this to reality.

An individual order is never enough: True selling success rests on such “beyond the order” achievements as repeat business, solid referrals, and long-term relationships. The key to securing them, we insisted, is to manage every sales objective as a joint venture — a mutually beneficial transaction where both buyer and seller “Win.”

“Whatever got you where you are today is no longer sufficient to keep you there.”



Today, in the era of what we call the Complex Sale, every major piece of business entails multiple decisions, and those decisions are virtually never made by the same person.

To survive in selling today, you need strategy.

When you lose a done deal at the last minute, it’s always because you failed to bring to that sale what Greg brought to his computer deal: a clearly defined and reliable process for success that takes into account all the elements of the pending transaction, no matter how obscure or “trivial” they might appear.

A Complex Sale is one in which a number of people must give their approval or input before the buying decision can be made. The decisive factor in the Complex Sale is not product or price but structure.

It isn’t change itself that produces disorientation, but the uncertainty that is often associated with it.

  • Premise 1 of Strategic Selling: Whatever got you where you are today is no longer sufficient to keep you there.
  • Premise 2 of Strategic Selling: In the Complex Sale, a good tactical plan is only as good as the strategy that led up to it. While sales professionals unanimously agree that tactics are important, they routinely and disastrously neglect strategic preparation. Strategy, in fact, is the single most neglected element in selling today, not only among sales representatives, but even among the very managers and sales trainers who are supposed to be teaching them to cope with the Complex Sale.
  • Premise 3 of Strategic Selling: You can succeed in sales today only if you know what you’re doing and why.

They’re the people who have developed a conscious, planned system of selling steps that are visible, logical, and repeatable.

Sales training programs typically start with a squeaky-clean, highfalutin theory that they then attempt to impose on the facts. We don’t do that. Our program is generalizable all right.

Among the specific skills that you’ll learn from this book are:

  • How to position yourself with the real decision-makers and avoid those without approval power.
  • How to spot the two key customer attitudes that can make a sale, and the two that usually break it.
  • How to get not only the order but a satisfied customer, repeat sales, and enthusiastic referrals.
  • How to increase sales penetration in your current accounts.
  • How to minimize the uncertainties of a cold call.
  • How to free up a stuck order.
  • How to avoid selling business you don’t want.
  • How to identify and deal with the four different Buying Influences present in every sale.
  • How to prevent sales from being sabotaged by an antisponsor.
  • How to recognize signals that indicate when a sale is in jeopardy.
  • How to avoid dry months by allocating time wisely to four critical selling tasks.
  • How to track account progress and forecast future revenue


Both “strategy” and “tactics” are derived from ancient Greek. To the Greeks, taktikos meant “fit for arranging or maneuvering,” and it referred to the art of moving forces in battle. Strategos was the word for “general.” Originally, therefore, strategy was the “art of the general,” or the art of setting up forces before the battle.

The objective of a good sales strategy is to get yourself in the right place with the right people at the right time so that you can make the right tactical presentation.

One of the hardest decisions any sales professional has to make is the decision not to close a sale, even though it’s possible to do so.

Good strategic analysis reveals a logical sequence. The sequence that we have found effective has four steps:

  • Analyze your current position with regard to your account and with regard to your specific sales objective.
  • Think through possible Alternate Positions.
  • Determine which Alternate Position would best secure your objective and devise an Action Plan to achieve it.
  • Implement your Action Plan.

Understanding your position with regard to a given account is so central to setting good strategies that we often say “having a strategy” and “having a position” are two ways of expressing the same thing. The whole key to strategy is position. It tells you where you are now, and where you might have to move in the near or distant future to increase your chances of success with a given objective.


In account strategy, positioning is the name of the game. What “setting a strategy” really means is doing whatever you have to do to put yourself in the best position to accomplish a particular objective or set of objectives.

PERSONAL WORKSHOP POSITION This workshop is divided into five steps. In the first step, you identify the particular changes in your sales environment that may affect your handling of the account.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY RELEVANT CHANGES. Make a list, in no particular order, of all the changes that you feel are influencing the way you currently do business. Next to each one, as an extra check on your understanding of the change, note whether it is a sudden event, a longer process of subtle erosion, or an example of continuous growth.

STEP 2: RATE THESE CHANGES AS THREATS OR OPPORTUNITIES. Now go down your list of changes and put an O next to those you perceive mainly as opportunities and a T next to those you see mainly as threats.

STEP 3: DEFINE YOUR CURRENT SINGLE SALES OBJECTIVE. Now, on the facing right-hand page of your notebook, write down your current sales objective with regard to the account you’ve chosen.

You also have specific, short-term objectives that change from sales period to sales period, and very often even more quickly than that. Salespeople typically call these objectives “sales” or “orders” or “deals” or “pieces of business.” In Strategic Selling we call them Single Sales Objectives. Pick one Single Sales Objective that you’re pursuing in your chosen account right now. Define it briefly but precisely, and write it down.

Every Single Sales Objective always has the following characteristics:

  • It’s specific and measurable.
  • It’s tied to a timeline.
  • It focuses on a specific outcome that you’re trying to bring about in a specific account.
  • It’s single rather than multiple.

STEP 4: TEST YOUR CURRENT POSITION. The next step in clarifying the situation is to test your current position: to find out how you feel overall about your prospects in this account and about your specific chances for making this objective work out.

In fact, the person who’s euphoric and the one who’s in a panic are really much closer than they think, in terms of how they’re probably handling their accounts. We illustrate this in our programs by drawing the Euphoria – Panic Continuum not as a straight line, but as a nearly closed circle.

STEP 5: EXAMINE ALTERNATE POSITIONS. Once you know where you are, you next want to know where to go. Now you need to examine alternatives, to discover how you might reposition yourself to make the attainment of your Single Sales Objective more likely.


You’ve just done a Personal Workshop to make your position regarding your current sales objective more visible. You’ve identified areas of uncertainty and drawn up a list of Alternate Positions that you might take to broaden your strategic options.

There’s never only one correct strategy for a sales objective, but always a choice of options.

In our years of coaching sales leaders in a vast array of businesses, we’ve found that every good sales strategy always attends to six such elements.

These Six Key Elements of Strategic Selling are:

  • Buying Influences
  • Red Flags/Leverage from Strength
  • Response Modes
  • Win-Results
  • Ideal Customer Profile
  • Sales Funnel


We’ve defined a Complex Sale as one in which several people have to give their approval or input before the sale can go through. Identifying all those people accurately, and understanding the role that each of them plays in getting you to your sales objectives, are two of the major stumbling blocks for salespeople — even very good salespeople — in the Complex Sale.

In every Complex Sale, there are four critical buying roles. We call the people who play these roles Buying Influences, or, more simply, Buyers.

  • Economic Buying Influence. The role of the person who will act as Economic Buyer for your sales objective is to give final approval to buy.
  • User Buying Influences. The role of User Buyers is to make judgments about the potential impact of your product or service on their job performance.
  • Technical Buying Influences. The role of Technical Buyers is to screen out possible suppliers.
  • Coach. The unique and very special role of a Coach is to guide you to your particular sales objective by leading you to the other Buyers and by giving you information that you need to position yourself effectively with each one.


Our second Key Element of strategy helps you to identify your positioning difficulties with precision before they throw your business in the competition’s lap.

Every sound Alternate Position either leverages from a Strength, eliminates a Red Flag, or ( ideally ) does both at the same time.


In Strategic Selling, you determine that by identifying their current receptivity to change, specifically the change to their business that your proposal represents.

There are always four possible reactions to change that a Buyer can have in a given selling situation. We call these reactions Response Modes. They’re determined by:

  • The Buyer’s perception of the immediate business situation.
  • The Buyer’s perception of how your proposal is likely to change that situation.
  • The Buyer’s perception of whether or not that change will close a gap, or discrepancy, between what’s seen as the current reality and the results needed.

Response modes:

  • In the first Response Mode, Growth, the Buyer does perceive this essential discrepancy, and feels that the gap between current reality and the desired results can be closed only if quantity can be increased, quality improved, or both.
  • The second Response Mode is called Trouble. A Buyer in Trouble Mode also sees a reality-results discrepancy, but it’s a discrepancy on the down side.
  • The third Response Mode is called Even Keel. A Buyer in Even Keel perceives no discrepancy between current reality and the hoped-for results, and is therefore perfectly satisfied with the status quo.
  • “No discrepancy, no sale.” The same thing is true, only more so, for the Buyer in the fourth Response Mode, Overconfident. A Buyer who is in Overconfident Mode perceives reality as being far better than the hoped – for results.


In Strategic Selling we look beyond the individual order. We concentrate on the account, and we help you to develop ever widening networks of quality sales and new prospects.

There are only four possible outcomes to every buy/sell encounter:

  • In the first, or Win-Win, scenario, both you and the Buyer “Win.”
  • In the second, or Win-Lose, scenario, you Win at the Buyer’s expense.
  • In the third, or Lose-Win, scenario, you allow the Buyer to Win at your expense by “buying the business.”
  • In the final, or Lose-Lose, scenario, both you and the Buyer Lose.

Of course you need sound product knowledge, but to a sales professional that’s not enough, because the reason that people really buy is only indirectly related to product or service performance.

Use your product knowledge to hook up to your Buying Influences’ personal reasons for buying. You can’t just meet their business needs. You have to serve their individual, subjective needs as well. You do that by giving them what we call Win-Results.

  • A Result – is the impact that your product or service can have on the Buyer’s business processes.
  • A Win – is a personal gain that satisfies an individual Buyer’s perceived self-interest.

A Win-Result, finally, is a Result that gives one of your individual Buying Influences a Win.


Every sales representative you know, no matter how successful, has up to 35 percent poor prospects.

Selling to everyone indiscriminately is bound to create bad matches and bad orders. Judging your actual customers against an Ideal Customer Profile will keep those bad orders to a minimum, and ensure that the bulk of your sales have a Win-Win outcome.


The Sales Funnel enables you to use your most precious commodity, your selling time, in the wisest and most efficient manner possible.



Your strategy can begin only when you know who the players are. Therefore, the first Key Element of the strategy you’re going to start developing now is to identify all the relevant players for your sales objective.

Because most sales training programs emphasize tactical rather than strategic skills, even very good salespeople sometimes find themselves cut out of a sale at the last minute because they failed to locate or cover all the real decision-makers for that specific sale.

If left to find the key players on their own, many sales representatives simply end up talking to the people with whom they feel most comfortable, who have approved their orders in the past, or who have the “right” titles on their doors.

Every sales objective is unique. No matter how well you know the players in a given account, you still need a systematic method for locating the correct ones for the Single Sales Objective you’re currently working on.

Most of the people who will act as Buyers in your sales won’t have anything to do with “purchasing” or “buying” per se.

In order to sort through the tangles of authority that inevitably result from situations like this, the first thing you have to do in setting an effective sales strategy is to position yourself effectively with all of the people playing each of the four roles. This involves three steps:

  • Understanding the four Buying Influence roles that are common to every Complex Sale.
  • Identifying all the key players in each of these four roles for your specific sales objective.
  • Ensuring that all of these players are “covered” — that is, that you fully understand and have dealt with their attitudes toward your proposal.

The role of Economic Buyer may be played by a board, a selection committee, or another decision-making body acting as a single entity. But even when such a group is involved, there’s usually one person within the group who is first among equals and whose “final final” approval is essential.

The Economic Buyer role, like all buying roles, can shift from sale to sale, and the organizational position of the person playing it depends on several variables. Five critical ones are the dollar amount of the sale, business conditions, the buying firm’s experience with you and your company, the buying firm’s experience with your product, and the expected organizational impact.

  • Dollar Amount. The greater the dollar amount of your sale, the higher up in the buying organization you need to look for the Economic Buyer.
  • Business Conditions. In hard times management starts counting paper clips. Therefore, the less stable the overall business environment, the more likely it is that your Economic Buyer will be found higher up in the organization.
  • Experience with You and Your Firm. It always takes time, even for the most reliable salespeople, to build customer confidence in their firm’s capabilities.
  • Experience with Your Product or Service. Even if a buying organization has had a solid history with your company, its Buyers may still be unfamiliar with the specific product or service involved in your current proposal.
  • Potential Organizational Impact. Since the Economic Buyer’s business focus is on long-term stability and growth, buying decisions that radically affect those areas will involve a higher-placed person playing that role.

User Buyers are concerned primarily with how a sale is going to affect everyday operations in their own areas or departments; their focus is therefore narrower than that of Economic Buyers.

Technical Buyers don’t say no because they’re ornery. They throw blocks in your way because that’s their job. The Technical Buyer’s role is to screen out. They’re gatekeepers. Among the people who most often serve as Technical Buyers are purchasing agents. In identifying these gatekeeping Buyers before they shoot you down, you have to know that their principal focus — the reason they’ll recommend you or show you to the door — is the product itself.

A Coach can help you clarify the validity of your Single Sales Objective, identify and meet the people who are filling the other Buying Influence roles for that objective, and assess the buying situation so that you’re most effectively positioned with each one. To close any Complex Sale, you should develop at least one Coach.

In searching for someone to develop into a Coach, you judge by three criteria:

  • You have credibility with that person.
  • The Coach has credibility with the Buying Influences for your Single Sales Objective.
  • The Coach wants your solution. In other words, he or she wants you to succeed — although not necessarily in your career in general.

Asking for Coaching, however, isn’t the same thing as asking for a referral or for assistance in making the sale. You don’t want your Coach to do your selling for you, and you shouldn’t give that impression

If you find a situation in which only one Buying Influence seems to be involved, be careful. We’ve acknowledged that key players can play double or multiple roles, but if you can find only one key player in a major account sale, you’re almost certainly misreading the situation.

Like everything else in sales, Degree of Influence is a mobile, energetic phenomenon. A good strategist takes frequent fixes on its force and direction.

Protection of turf is an example of internal politics, and those politics are probably the single most common — and often the single most irritating — factor involved in the ebb and flow of Degree of Influence.

There are two ways of identifying your Buyers, the right way and the wrong way. The wrong way is simply to list the people you’re currently calling on and fit them into the four slots you’ve just drawn. This labeling, or pigeonholing, approach is a tempting but unproductive shortcut.

The right way to identify your Buyers — the way that will clarify for you how the buying decisions are going to be made for your specific proposal — is to search for the people who are playing the four roles for your current objective.


Whenever you have an unanswered question about the sales scenario, then it’s time to reassess your position.

Whenever you’re “pretty sure” or “almost certain” or “90 percent convinced” that you understand a piece of information that you need to close a sale, look again. And reach for those red stickers.

Arranging for all the people in each of the four Buying Influence roles to be contacted by someone is a principal element of your responsibility as a “strategic orchestrator,” that is, as the manager of your Complex Sale.

The successful arrangements, however, all share one element: They cover all the Buyers for each objective.

Every sales objective can be blocked in countless ways. Therefore, sales success is always a direct result of constant vigilance. The Red Flag technique for locating those hazards works only when it’s so fully incorporated into your strategy that you use it again and again without hesitation — in other words, when it has become second nature.

Sales hazards, like road hazards, are most dangerous when they’re unflagged and hidden. That’s why people who are afraid or embarrassed to identify what’s wrong with their positions always get run off the road.

When you know a Red Flag is there, you then can work to eliminate the problem that it identifies. You do that by using a principle we call Leverage from Strength. Leverage from Strength can be considered the “better half” of the Red Flag technique. It’s what enables you to turn the weaknesses uncovered by your Red Flags into opportunities for strategic improvement.

In Strategic Selling, and in all Miller Heiman processes, a true strategic Strength meets the following criteria:


The User Buyer is clearly on your side; he’s ready to put in your order. But the Economic Buyer won’t sign. Moreover, you can’t even get close; like many Economic Buyers, this one is insulated from salespeople and won’t even return your calls. Consider three approaches you could take.

  • SCENARIO 1: HAMMERING AWAY In this common scenario, you assume that the reason you’ve been unable to see the vice president is that you haven’t tried hard enough.
  • SCENARIO 2: IGNORING THE ROADBLOCK In this scenario you forget about the Economic Buying Influence entirely. You accept the fact that you can’t get in and focus your presentation on the User Buyer, who’s already favorable to your proposal.
  • SCENARIO 3: LEVERAGE FROM STRENGTH A strategy that would most likely succeed in this sales situation would use Leverage from Strength. Using this principle, you would go to the User Buyer for assistance in getting the Economic Buyer covered.

Summarizing our second Key Element, we can say that the dual principle of Red Flags/Leverage from Strength involves three sequential techniques:

  • Locating areas of weakness (Red Flags)
  • Locating areas of Strength
  • Using those Strengths to remove or reduce the impact of the Red Flags

Take out your Red Flags and use them to identify uncertainties. Place one in any box of the Buying Influences Chart for which you have not identified at least one player.

Put a Red Flag next to the name of any of the following players:

  • Anyone about whom you have insufficient data — about whom you have a question you can’t answer
  • Anyone about whom the information you have is unclear or uncertain
  • Any uncovered base — any Buying Influence that nobody has yet spoken to 
  • Any new player
  • Any player involved in a recent or current corporate reorganization

On your Buying Influences Chart, place a Strength marker at any place that you think your position is particularly solid. Then test each of those positions by asking the following questions:

  • Does this Strength clearly differentiate us from the competition in a way that matters to the customer?
  • Does this Strength relate directly to my current Single Sales Objective?
  • Will leveraging from this Strength improve my position regarding that objective?

To close a quality sale, you have to cover all the key players filling all four of the Buying Influence roles. Finally, test each Alternate Position.

Every Alternate Position you list should do one of two things:

  • Capitalize on an area of Strength.
  • Eliminate a Red Flag — or at least reduce its impact Of course, the best Alternate Positions do both these things.


We’ve said that after you determine who all those individuals are, the next thing you have to do is to find out how each of them feels about what you’re trying to accomplish in his or her account. The third Key Element of strategy — Response Modes — is designed to help you do that more effectively, by zeroing in on their levels of buying receptivity.

The strategic sales professional understands that any time you ask someone to buy something, you’re asking that person to make a change.

A Buying Influence can bring four different reactions, or Response Modes, to a sales situation. Each of these four-modes derives from a different perception of the immediate business reality. And each one leads to a different level of receptivity to incoming sales proposals. Because each of the four perceptions of reality leads to a different Response Mode, and because each mode leads to a different level of receptivity, the strategic sales professional has to develop a different sales approach for each of the four perceptions.

You can speak of a given individual being in a certain mode with regard to a given business situation. It makes no sense to say that someone is always in that mode.

Predicting the best time to call on a Buying Influence is one of the great unknowns in the world of selling.

People buy when, and only when, they perceive a discrepancy between reality and their desired results.



A Buyer in Growth Mode is always ready to say yes to somebody’s proposal — though not necessarily to yours. This person perceives the essential discrepancy and, being in this Response Mode, believes that it can be eliminated only by more or better results.

Whatever the individual’s reason for wanting to do more and/or better, you have a good probability of getting a commitment — provided that your proposal is seen as the change that will reduce or eliminate the discrepancy.

This mode is usually the easiest of the four to sell to.

But there’ a danger here in confusing corporate growth with the very personal Growth Mode of an individual. When we speak of Response Modes, we mean the personal, individual reactions of the people acting as Buying Influences for your sales proposal, not the “growth profiles” of their firms.

In Strategic Selling there’ no such thing as a company’s perception of reality. Only individuals can have perceptions. And all of them must be taken into account for a quality sale.

THE SECOND RESPONSE MODE: TROUBLE The probability of action being taken is also high when a Buying Influence is in Trouble.

The Buyer in Growth Mode welcomes incremental change as a way of improving an already good situation; the Buyer in Trouble Mode is begging for immediate change as a way of reversing or preventing a defeat.

This means that a Buying Influence in Trouble Mode is ready, indeed eager, to buy — but not necessarily from you. The proposal that will be approved is not going to be the most beautifully presented one, or the cheapest bid, or the most technically advanced solution. It’s going to be the one that will most quickly remove the cause of the Buyer’s perceived problem.

When people are in Trouble Mode, you don’t talk about how your product will improve their lifestyle. You sell survival. Period.

You frequently have to sell to individuals who are in the process of moving from one Response Mode to another.

THE THIRD RESPONSE MODE: EVEN KEEL The first two Response Modes provide relatively easy selling situations. The next two do not.

The probability of a Buyer in Even Keel taking any action is low; that’s why we identify this scenario as a Red Flag.

Buyers in Even Keel consistently demonstrate the truth of the maxim “No discrepancy, no sale.”

Since results and reality already coincide, this person can perceive the change you’re offering only as a potential undoing of that coincidence. The Buyer in Even Keel is by definition wary of any change.

When a Buyer is firmly entrenched in Even Keel, only three things can raise the probability of your making a sale. The Buyer can see Growth or Trouble coming, he can be pressured by another Buyer who is already in Growth or Trouble, or you can demonstrate a discrepancy that the Buyer doesn’t see.

The general rule here would be to try to move the Buyer in Even Keel toward Growth.

One useful strategy is to sell Growth or Trouble avoidance to the Economic Buying Influence and then get that person to convert the Buyer in Even Keel Mode.

THE FOURTH RESPONSE MODE: OVERCONFIDENT The same principle applies to Buyers in Overconfident Mode. This is the most difficult of the four Response Modes to sell to.

An Overconfident Buyer perceives reality as outstripping the desired results. Because this person is already doing much better than anticipated, he or she feels no incentive to change.

What Buyers in Overconfident Mode don’t realize is that things are too good to be true. Their perception of reality is distorted, usually for one of two reasons: They are misunderstanding the situation, out of ignorance or wishful thinking. Their goals are set so low that the poor performance they’re achieving actually looks good.

When you try to “convert” an Overconfident Buying Influence to reality, you always run the risk of being seen not as helpful but as intrusive.

Because it’s so difficult to dislodge people in Overconfident Mode from their misperceptions, our general advice is not to try.

The basic principles of Response Modes:

  • The starting point for approaching each individual is to understand his or her current perception of the business situation and his or her perceived discrepancy between reality and results.
  • Each base must be covered by a person who accepts this as the starting point, and who is best qualified to approach that individual Buyer.
  • When working with a mixed field of responses, always use Leverage from Strength to bring about a match of modes.

Remember that the four Response Modes aren’t categories or types of people; they’re situation perceptions. You’re not trying to find out how the Buyers feel about you as a person, or about your company, but how they feel about your current sales objective.

It’s only theoretically possible for a Buying Influence to be neutral to your proposal. You see that we have no zero on our rating scale. The reason is that, in our experience, Buyers are always at least slightly positive or slightly negative about sales proposals.

Every selling strategy is only as good as its most recent reassessment. Our point in asking you to test all the items on your Alternate Positions list in this way is to ensure that this list — which will be so vital to your Action Plan — continues to be up to date and realistic.


We’re betting that you’re not content with closing individual orders and pocketing immediate commissions. Like our most successful clients, you understand that getting the order, while it’s essential, is never enough. Like our clients you also want:

  • Satisfied customers
  • Long-term relationships
  • Repeat business
  • Strong referrals

If you suppose that you Win every time you close a deal (as in the misnomer “We won the order”), then you’re the victim of another common misinterpretation.

You Win in a buy/sell encounter when you come out of it feeling positive. The reason you feel positive is that you perceive that encounter as having served your personal self-interest. Self-interest is misunderstood and unfairly criticized by many well-meaning people. Many sales professionals, even though they strive energetically to Win, are still reluctant to admit the importance of Winning in their lives, and some of them actually feel guilty about wanting to Win. The common result is an internal tension that psychologists call cognitive dissonance, which comes from confusing self-interest with self-centeredness or simply selfishness.

All living things either serve their self-interest or die. Human beings in all social situations serve their self-interest by attaining what they see as personal Wins.

The same thing is true of your Buying Influences. They enter the buy-sell encounter hoping to Win, too. And they leave the encounter satisfied when, and only when, they feel that it has served their personal self-interest.

For optimum sales results over time, you have to try to direct every sales objective into the same quadrant of that matrix — the Win-Win, or “joint-venture,” quadrant.


Our dictionary defines adventure as “an undertaking involving danger and unknown risks.”

The naive salesperson — not to mention the salesperson who is allergic to planning — often welcomes adventure. He sees the Buyer as an adversary, the order as a prize, and the selling cycle as a fascinating, unpredictable contest with the customer.

We tell our clients that, rather than seeking adventure, they should strive to develop joint ventures in which their Buying Influences are seen not as threats from the outside but as members of their own teams.


This is the quadrant into which the general public seems to believe that everyone in sales wants to manipulate prospects.

I LOSE-YOU WIN: DOING THE BUYER A “FAVOR” Every professional knows that playing I Win-You Lose is actually far less common than playing I Lose-You Win. Here the seller plays martyr, doing the buyer a “favor” at his or her expense. “I will deliberately Lose,” the salesperson says in effect, “so that you, Mr. Customer, can Win.”

When you play Lose-Win, you give the customer a false sense of reality, one that is represented falsely as the norm and that can be maintained only on a limited basis.

Ultimately the Lose-Win quadrant, just like the Win-Lose quadrant, is unstable.

We’re not saying that you should never play Lose-Win. In certain situations it can be a useful short-term strategy.

The most serious mistake you can make in playing Lose-Win is failing to tell your Buyers that they’re getting a special deal.


The Lose-Lose or default quadrant might also be called the “catchall” quadrant because, sometimes well after the final papers are signed, it catches all the sales that you haven’t consciously and actively managed into Win-Win outcomes.

You still need to remember that your current Win-Win position is only that — a current position. You need to maintain that position, so that you and your Buying Influences are still in the Win-Win quadrant at the end of the selling cycle, and beyond. One invaluable tool in helping you do that is our fourth Key Element of strategy, Win-Results.


The Win-Results concept rests on the following terms:

  • Selling: Selling is a professional, interactive process directed toward demonstrating to all your Buying Influences how your product or service serves their individual self-interest.
  • Product: A product is designed to improve or fix one or more of your customer’s business processes. In Strategic Selling, “product” is taken to mean either a product or a service — whatever you are selling.
  • Process: A process is an activity or series of activities that converts what exists right now into something else. Examples of business processes would be shipping, invoicing, production, research and development, and quality control.
  • Result: A Result is the measurable impact that a product has on one or more of your customer’s business processes. Results are objective and corporate — that is, they generally affect many people at the same time, although they don’t necessarily affect all of those people in the same way.
  • Win: A Win is the fulfillment of a subjective, personal promise made to oneself to serve one’s self – interest in some special way. Wins are always different for different people.
  • Win-Result: A Win-Result is an objective business Result that gives one or more of your Buying Influences a subjective, personal Win.

Same Result, different Wins. The lesson is clear. Although a given Result may have a single, clearly defined impact on a business process, it will always have different personal impacts on the Buying Influences involved in making decisions about that process.

Companies get Results, but only people Win.

Results must happen before any Buyer perceives a Win.


Your customers’ business processes are designed to convert one set of conditions into another.

You are important to your Buying Influences when, and only when, your product or service makes a positive and measurable impact on one or more of their business processes.

You can improve a process that is already functioning properly.

You can fix something that has gone, or might go, wrong.



They’re shared by various people in the buying organization.




It’s never enough to sell Results alone. To manage each Complex Sale into the Win-Win quadrant with each of your Buying Influences, you have to determine how each individual Wins. Even though each of your Buying Influences Wins in an individual way, categories of Buyers tend to look for similar Results for their organizations. Company cultures are still a valid standard against which to check your impressions of a given person’s Wins.

The second way to uncover your Buyer’s Wins is simply to ask.

An objective question seeks to find out what the Buying Influence wants or needs. Attitudinal questions, on the other hand, seek to find out how the individual feels about the situation.

One way of avoiding guesswork — or at least of double-checking your speculations — is to utilize a network of reliable Coaches.

Examine Results first, by all means. You can’t deliver a Win without a Result. But it doesn’t follow that a good Result equals a Win. A Result is a precondition, not an equivalent.

Salespeople who make this miscalculation do so for a logical enough reason. They confuse their own self-interest with that of the Buying Influence by asking themselves, with all the empathy in the world, “How would I Win if I were Doris Green?”

Taking each Buying Influence in turn, identify how that person will Win if you successfully deliver the relevant Result. Then, for each person, write a brief statement spelling out the connection between Wins and Results.

Knowing something about your various Buying Influences’ Win-Results, you can now start managing your Single Sales Objective into the Win-Win quadrant of the matrix.

The Strategic Selling rule that every good Alternate Position eliminates a Red Flag, leverages from a Strength, or does both.

Since the concept of Win – Results is so central to an effective sales strategy, we urge you to look over all the items on your Alternate Positions list with it in mind.



The heart of Strategic Selling is managing every one of your sales objectives so that you end up in the Win-Win quadrant of the matrix with all your Buying Influences.

Economic Buying Influences are more difficult to identify than the other Buying Influences.  Economic Buying Influences are more difficult to reach both physically and psychologically, than those who play User and Technical Buying roles.

Complaints about getting to the Economic Buying Influence are always variations of three root problems: Problem 1: They can’t identify the Economic Buying Influence.

Problem 2: They’re blocked from getting to the person playing this role.

Problem 3: They’re uncomfortable about talking to him or her.

We call the Economic Buyer “sale-specific” because that person plays the Economic Buyer role for a specific sales objective, not for an account.

Because they have direct access to and discretionary use of the required funds, people playing the role of Economic Buyer are often highly placed in their organizations.

Since Economic Buying Influences are often senior-level managers, they’re typically highly paid.

The Complex Sale float factor. By “float factor” we mean the fact that the Economic Buying Influence role can shift, or float, up or down the corporate ladder, between one sale and the next, and sometimes even during a given sales cycle.

When another player attempts to block your access to the Economic Buying Influence, it is always because the blocker sees the proposal you’re offering as a personal Lose.

Once you’ve determined why a blocker feels that he or she is losing, there are three ways you can deal with the strategic impediment. You can:

  • Show the blocking Buyer how to Win in the sale by getting you to the Economic Buying Influence
  • Go around the blocker to get to the final authority
  • Go along with the block

The single most valuable contribution you can bring to any Economic Buyer is knowledge.

Whenever you make a sale in spite of a key player’s disapproval, that person perceives you as playing Win-Lose.

We advise our clients that they should employ this damn-the-torpedoes strategy only when they have little or nothing to lose.

Therefore, if you want to reduce your discomfort with an Economic Buyer, you have to make sure, every time you call on such a Buying Influence, that you have a valid business reason for doing so.

Economic Buyers almost always know less than you do about many areas of your industry. By nature, such people are generalists.

That in fact is exactly why they need you. You can provide the details they need to make that picture clearer.

Top – management Economic Buyers are paid for the clarity of their crystal balls. Knowledge that increases their ability to predict the future, and thus decreases their perceived risk and uncertainty, is held in the highest regard.

In the second program that we developed at Miller Heiman, Conceptual Selling, we emphasize the importance of the customer’s Concept as a critical factor in every decision to buy. As we use the term, the Concept is the customer’s mental image of what she wants to have happen as a result of a sale.

When dealing with these long-range forecasters, you’re better off presenting the end results and filling them in on how you’ll provide those results — that is, your product specifics — only if they ask.

Credibility is the bedrock of sales success.

Although it’s your responsibility as the orchestrator of your sales objectives to see that every Buying Influence base is adequately covered, you may not always be the best person to sell to each of these key individuals yourself. That’s why we encourage our clients to practice team selling, and to set up meetings between buyers and sellers like rank.

Your job is to be sure that each Buying Influence base is covered by the person best qualified to do so.

A guru, in Strategic Selling terminology, is someone with expertise in an area that exerts influence on business trends.

The advantage to you of arranging a meeting between a guru and your Economic Buyer is that it will introduce that person to new ideas.

It’s especially crucial to cover the Economic Buying Influence on an initial sale to a new account — and to do this early in the selling cycle.

Contact with the Economic Buying Influence must be periodic, not sporadic. Whenever you contact this person, you should have a valid business reason for doing so. Ask yourself four key questions:

  • What do I need to FIND OUT?
  • What do I want the Economic Buyer to KNOW?
  • What do I want the Economic Buyer to DO?
  • What do I want the Economic Buyer to FEEL?


A good Coach functions essentially as an information resource.

Just as important, Coaches can help you tie together everything that you know, or are still trying to find out, about the Buying Influences for your Single Sales Objectives.

As you begin your strategy, your Coach can help you find the real key players for your sales objective and help you determine each one’s Degree of Influence.

  • Your Coach can help you identify areas of Strength.
  • Your Coach can help you understand each Buying Influence’s perception of reality.
  • Your Coach can help you understand the Results each Buyer needs to Win.

You need exact criteria to determine who can, and who probably cannot, function as this critical information resource.

Criterion 1: Your credibility. Your Coach has got to believe in you, to be convinced that you can be trusted.

Criterion 2: The Coach’s credibility.

Criterion 3: Desiring your success.

Categories of individuals who are often mistaken for Coaches. Among these “false Coaches” are the following:

  • THE INFORMATION GIVER – To be a reliable Coach, the person has to get you information that’s unique and useful to you in this particular sale.
  • THE INSIDE SALESPERSON – By definition an inside salesperson sells. That’s not what a Coach does. Coaches belong on the sidelines, giving you direction.

The best of all possible Coaching situations is to turn the Economic Buyer for your sales objective into a Coach in his or her own organization.

When you’ve winnowed out the false Coaches and have found someone who you believe fulfills the three Coaching criteria, you should ask that person for Coaching.

You should try to develop at least one Coach per major sales objective.

So your long-term aim should be to develop a network of Coaches within each account whose expertise you can draw on when and as needed.

When all other means have been exhausted, you should ask yourself how you feel about using a given person as a Coach.

To be effective as a sales strategist over time, you must continually reassess your position. One reason that your Coach is indispensable to your strategy is that he or she can help you, on a regular basis, to perform this necessary reassessment.


There are four basic reasons that maintaining a competitive edge has become so difficult. In brief, these relate to lack of differentiation, increasing savviness in the marketplace, the rise in different types of competition, and last but certainly not least, a widespread obsession about what the “other guy” is doing.

We define competition as any alternative solution to the one you and your company are proposing. Buying from “somebody else” is one alternative solution — the one that most-of us mean when we say “competition.” But consider the following scenarios:

  • Using internal sources.
  • Using the budget for something else.
  • Doing nothing.

Salespeople make analogous mistakes all the time. The reason is that a competitive strategy focusing on the competition is, naturally and inevitably, a reactive one.

There can be major repercussions in sending that message. Among the most negative are the following:

  • It allows the competition to write the rules of the game.
  • It advertises your weaknesses, not your Strengths.
  • It invites price slashing.
  • It makes you look stupid.
  • It deflects attention from the customer’s concerns.

When you use a proactive competitive strategy, you set the agenda and the standards. Rather than looking over your shoulder or sideways at the competition, you spend your time analyzing the situation to be sure that you are as effectively positioned as you can be.

To compete effectively, you’ve got to be different from your competitors.

We’re not saying to ignore the competition. But put them into perspective, as the “side” effect they are. Selling doesn’t take place on a three-way street. It takes place between you and your Buying Influences, and nobody else.

Picking the brains of the people who sell against you is even less valuable, eventually, than picking your own. The head that you need to get into is your customer’s.

The only real way to “overcome” the price issue is to demonstrate to your customers how your solution will impact their business concerns.

One of the most important contributions you can make to any customer’s business is to help him or her develop solid buying criteria.




The fact is that some sales objectives are not worth pursuing. According to a lot of people in sales — especially those who came up through the ranks under traditional sales “trainers” — this kind of thinking is a little off the wall. “Any sale is a good sale,” they tell themselves. Or “All dollars are alike.” Or “A bad customer’s money is just as green as a good one’s.”

In our experience, these poor-quality sales objectives can account for as much as 35 percent of the potential business in most sales representatives’ territories.

The reason that up to 35 percent of the prospective business in most salespeople’s territories is poor is that they lack a dynamic, field-tested process for analyzing their customers’ real needs.

Only by assessing your individual customers’ needs, and weighing them against broader market designs, can you adopt effective “matching” strategies for all your accounts.

A significant element in the development of an Ideal Customer Profile, therefore, is to concentrate on customers who not only want what you have, but also have what you want.


The Ideal Customer is a standard against which to measure your actual customers, so that you can focus on the good ones, get rid of the truly bad ones, and anticipate problems with those who fall in the middle.

In drawing up this profile, you need to consider two categories of possible customer characteristics. The first is called demographics, the second psychographics.

Psychographics are the values and attitudes shared by the individual Buying Influences within an organization and held collectively, as it were, by the organization itself.

Psychographics aren’t as accessible to measurement as are demographics because they’re not usually objective.

At the top of the page write the heading “Ideal Customer.” Divide the page into five equal columns and label them with the following subheadings, from left to right: “Best Customers,” “Characteristics of Best,” “Ideal Customer Profile,” “Characteristics of Worst,” and “Worst Customers.”

List, in the left-hand column, your best current and past customers.

List as many as you want of these Best Customers, but follow this guideline for establishing a cutoff point: First, write down your single Best Customer; then, write down number two; and so on down the line, until you come to a name that’s significantly different in your eyes from the last one you wrote down. Stop there. Now go to the right-hand column of your Ideal Customer chart and list your worst past and current customers. Again, stop when you reach a quantum difference between the last name you wrote down and the next one that comes to mind.

In the second column from the left, list those characteristics that are common to, or unique to, the Best Customers you’ve just identified. Now, in the second column from the right, do the same thing for your Worst Customers.

Now, in the central column of your Ideal Customer chart, you can define the standard against which your customers should be measured.

This step of the workshop is a process of distillation. Study the lists you’ve just made of Best Customer characteristics and Worst Customer characteristics, and distill out of the items there a new list of characteristics that you consider most significant.

Once you’ve transferred all the relevant characteristics to the center column, study the items there carefully and zero in on the five most significant ones. Then turn to a clean page of your notebook and write “Ideal Customer Profile” at the top. This final distillation is your Ideal Customer Profile.

Once you know how close a given account is to your Ideal Customer Profile, you’re in a position to make a decision about how to improve your strategy for that account.

We don’t advise anyone to use the Ideal Customer Profile as a cop-out for avoiding difficult business. Instead, it should serve to establish the basic criteria that you need for Win-Win outcomes.

No salesperson has the luxury of selling only those accounts that perfectly match an Ideal Customer Profile.

Your goal, as always, is to Win — and to ensure that all your Buying Influences, in all your accounts, Win as well. The best way to do that, we’ve found, is to use your Ideal Customer Profile as a baseline test and then weigh the information it gives you against everything else you know about the account.

The Key Elements of strategy become fully effective only when they’re used interactively, as a system.

The Ideal Customer Profile enables you to sort through the virtually limitless field of potential sales opportunities, to create a personal territory that is actually manageable. To manage it efficiently, though, you need a territory management tool that we call the Sales Funnel.



Selling time is any time spent talking to a Buying Influence about Growth or Trouble, or asking questions of a Buying Influence to uncover a Growth or Trouble discrepancy.

Most top salespeople, in fact, spend only about 5 to 15 percent of their total work weeks actively engaged in face time with their customers.

Selling time is still always in short supply. If it isn’t managed well, the salesperson typically falls victim to a deadly pattern of fluctuating income — the pattern we call the Roller Coaster Effect.

Steady work won’t necessarily give you a steady income.

No matter how natural and inescapable it may seem, the Roller Coaster Effect is not inevitable. And you do have an alternative to “hanging in there” until things improve.

Our experience shows that the worst fluctuations of the Roller Coaster Effect are caused not by these economic forces, but by the salesperson’s own poor management of selling time. That’s something that you can control.


Focus your work so that you can accomplish the following essential tasks:

  • Define exactly where you are in the selling process
  • Track each sales objective’s progress as it moves “down the funnel”
  • Set priorities for working on the objectives
  • Allocate time to the objectives in each level of the Funnel
  • Forecast future income

Our names for the three levels of the Funnel “proper”:

  • Above the Funnel
  • In the Funnel
  • Best Few

“Narrowing the Universe” is a necessary preliminary step to working any objective down the Funnel.

Each part of the Funnel is by definition associated with one, and only one, kind of work.

You have to be able to:

  • Prospect
  • Qualify
  • Cover the bases
  • Close the order

You’ll achieve the predictable and sound income you want only if you consistently do the right kind of work on each possible order at the right time.

The Sales Funnel helps you sort and track the progress of individual possible orders or Single Sales Objectives, not accounts.

Two things decrease as a Single Sales Objective moves down the Funnel: the expected time to the order and the level of uncertainty involved.

There are prerequisites that must be met before you can reasonably move an objective from one level of the Funnel to the next. These conditions relate to the kinds of work that you have to do at each level.

The prerequisite for placing a business opportunity in your particular Universe — the world of your potential sales objectives — is that there’s a suggestion of a reasonable fit to your Ideal Customer Profile.

When we say “prospect,” we use it to mean “search for a fit.” At the top of the Funnel, you assess prospects against your Ideal Customer Profile. The prerequisite for identifying a possible objective as being Above the Funnel is that you have data that suggests a fit. The kind of work that needs to be done on a prospect that’s Above the Funnel is to qualify, or verify your suggestive data. But one element of the verification process is essential. You must contact at least one Buying Influence and identify a Growth or Trouble discrepancy that your product or service can address. This is your minimum selling task on a piece of business Above the Funnel.

The prerequisite for placing a sales objective In the Funnel is that you have verified the possibility of an order. The kind of work that you need to perform in this part of the Funnel is to cover the bases.

  • In covering the bases , you perform the following tasks:
  • Identify all the Buying Influences for your sales objective
  • Understand the Response Mode of every Buying Influence
  • Identify the Results each Buying Influence needs to Win
  • Continually reassess the sales picture

The prerequisite for placing a sales objective into the Best Few category is that you’ve all but eliminated luck and uncertainty as factors in the final buying decision. In Best Few, there are few discrete tasks left to be performed and you know exactly what they are. On a Best Few objective, you’ve covered the bases so well that you’ve moved entirely beyond trial and error or guessing. In Best Few, there’s at least a 90 percent probability that you’ll close the order in one half or less the time of your normal selling cycle.

When we talk about your normal selling cycle, we mean the amount of time that it typically takes you to move an order from the top to the bottom of your Sales Funnel — in other words, the amount of time between initial prospecting and the signed agreement to buy.

There’s no such thing as a universally “normal” selling cycle. What we’re concerned with here is your normal selling cycle, for your business and your service or product line.

The final step in any Sales Funnel analysis is to search for ways you can move your various sales objectives more steadily and more predictably toward the close.


Your ultimate goal in using the Sales Funnel concept is to be able to move your various sales objectives down the Funnel at a steady and predictable rate , so that your income is also steady and predictable. You do that by working on two interrelated tasks:

  • Setting appropriate priorities for the four kinds of selling work that need to get done.
  • Allocating your limited selling time so that these four kinds of work always do get done, on a consistent basis.

If you wait until the last minute to prospect, you simply don’t leave enough lead time for a new prospect to “mature” before it can generate the income you want. Prospecting for new business when you’re in a panic slate is psychologically ineffective.

The right way of dealing with the Roller Coaster Effect is to arrange your work priorities in such a way that you never experience a dry quarter or a dry Funnel in the first place. Here’s the priority sequence that will ensure that:

  • Do closing work on your Best Few objectives.
  • Prospect by narrowing the Universe.
  • Qualify your Above the Funnel objectives.
  • Work the objectives In the Funnel.

Every time you close something, prospect or qualify something else.

The amount of time that you should give to each level of the Funnel must be continually adjusted, depending on several factors.

  • The first and most important factor is the number and type of selling tasks that must be done in order to move your objectives steadily down the Funnel.
  • Since every Complex Sale is different, no two sales objectives require exactly the same amount of work.
  • No matter where an objective is in the Sales Funnel, you’ll probably want to give it special attention if it’s going to mean major income down the line.
  • Product-mix quotas are of a continual push-pull between the factory and the field, although few of us in the field really like them, we can’t ignore them.

The allocation of your time — like everything else in your strategy — must be constantly reassessed if it is to remain effective. Use of the Sales Funnel concept must be periodic rather than sporadic.

When an objective is in Universe, that is, when it’s still on the verge of being qualified, the probability of its closing in half your selling cycle is minimal — perhaps no more than 4 or 5 percent. When it’s in Above the Funnel, you’ve begun to qualify it, and the probability rises to 10 or 15 percent. An objective that has progressed to In the Funnel may have a 20 to 80 percent probability. Taking these figures as rough guidelines, it’s easy to see how the Sales Funnel gives you a fix on the future.



In drafting a list of practical actions to improve your position, the emphasis is on practical.

Each action that you list as part of your Action Plan should capitalize on a Strength, eliminate or reduce the impact of a Red Flag, or do both.

The four Response Modes must be viewed as situation perceptions, not personality types. This means that they can change at any time.

How many actions should be included in an Action Plan? We recommend a short list because an Action Plan is a dynamic instrument designed to help you improve your current position.


When a complete Action Plan isn’t essential, or when you simply don’t have time to construct one, we suggest that you employ one of two modifications of the sixty-minute model.


  • Do I know who all my Buying Influences are?
  • Do I know all these individuals’ Win-Results?
  • Am I capitalizing on Strengths?
  • Do I have at least one reliable Coach for this sale?


What you need to do in that fifty – two seconds is to identify just what you do know so that, when you meet the Buying Influence, you’ll at least have made your current position.


The reason that Strategic Selling professionals are able to make their own luck is that they understand two critical keys to sales success. The first is the method. Strategic Selling professionals approach their sales with a planned system of selling steps that are logical, visible, and repeatable.

The second key is something that we’ve stressed again and again in our Personal Workshops. It’s the importance of constant reassessment.

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