Strategic Selling Process: What it Is, How to Use It & Examples
Looking to find out more about Strategic Selling and learn how you can start using it to close more deals? You've come to the right place.
Keep reading to learn what Strategic Selling is, what are its pros and cons, and how to get started using it.
What is Strategic Selling?
Strategic Selling is a framework designed by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman, first popularized in their book, The New Strategic Selling. It focuses on building relationships with various stakeholders and decision-makers rather than just one contact.
Using Strategic Selling techniques, sales teams identify sales opportunities by identifying all key members of the decision-making process, evaluating where they currently stand in regard to purchasing, and then using those insights to tailor their pitch or sales approach.
Pros and cons of the Strategic Selling framework
Like most other sales frameworks for business to business sales, the Strategic Selling model has its pros and cons. Understanding what they are can help you determine if it's the right approach for your team.
- Because the Strategic Selling sales strategy focuses on building relationships with various stakeholders and decision-makers, it can help reps establish strong relationships across an entire company (rather than with just one contact).
- Strategic Selling supports company contacts, helping them bring other team members on board to get excited about a new product or service and positioning reps as supportive resources.
- It can be time-consuming to build relationships with multiple stakeholders.
- Focusing on the long game can be frustrating for reps, especially if they’re experiencing pressure to quickly close deals to meet quotas or goals.
How to get started with Strategic Selling
The Strategic Selling process has a pretty simple structure. Miller and Heiman identified three key steps:
- Categorize sales contacts based on decision-making power or impact of purchase.
- Determine the attitude of key contacts.
- Influence key contacts based on their prospect profile.
Let’s dive deeper into what each of these steps actually mean.
1. Categorize your contacts
With any prospective deal, there are multiple decision-makers responsible for approving a purchase. According to Miller and Heiman, each of these individuals can be classified into one of four categories:
The “champion” is typically the go-to contact for reps. This person wants the deal to succeed and is willing to provide the rep with the support they need to make the purchase happen.
They're already on your side and require little convincing to make the deal happen. The champion is educated about your offering and understands how it can benefit the company as a whole, but they might struggle to articulate that to the other stakeholders.
2. User buyer
The “user buyer” is the person (or group of people) who will ultimately use the product or service purchased. For example, if you’re selling software, the user buyer would be the team that will use the software to do their job.
The user buyer typically undergoes the biggest change after a purchase, which can create resistance or hesitancy — but they also have the biggest opportunity for positive change. They’ll need to be convinced that switching products (or introducing a new product entirely) will be worth their efforts.
3. Technical buyer
A “technical buyer” needs to assess and approve a purchase through the lens of the company’s standards or requirements. This might include IT, legal, or finance.
Technical buyers thinks in black and white. They have a checklist a product must meet in order to be considered, so convincing them is less about selling a story or idea and more about proving you meet their (sometimes quite rigid) requirements and expectations.
4. Economic buyer
Finally, the “economic buyer” is responsible for making the final purchase. These final decision-makers give the ultimate stamp of approval and typically include the C-suite or executive branch of the company.
The economic buyer can be the hardest or the easiest person to convince, depending on the structure of the company. If all other decision-makers are invested, it’s easier to get the economic buyer to approve the deal — but they’ll still need to believe making the purchase is the best decision for the company as a whole.
In order for a deal to happen, reps need to convince the contact (or contacts) in each category. There might be some overlap (for example, your champion might be a user buyer, or your technical buyer and economic buyer could be the same person), but each sale has at least one decision-maker in each category.
We’ll get into how you can use a contact’s category to convert them more efficiently in a bit — for now, just focus on categorizing your contacts or finding contacts to match empty categories.
2. Determine key contacts’ attitudes
After knowing who you’re connecting with and where they fall in the decision-making process, it’s time to determine each contact’s attitude toward your offering.
This Strategic Selling technique identifies four attitudes:
Your buyer is ready to challenge the status quo and try something new. They want their teams to be more productive so they can grow efficiently.
These types of buyers are ready to hear about your offering and understand how it can help them reach their growth goals. But because they’re so focused on growing (and growing quickly), they’re likely exploring many options, so competition is high.
Buyers with a problem attitude recognize that there is probably a better way of doing things, but they’re not quite as frustrated as those in the growth group. They’re open to exploring new options but might not be actively looking for a solution.
Those with a problem attitude want to hear pitches centered on how your product can solve problems, like automating busy work or reducing human error.
“Everything is fine.”
Buyers in this category don’t believe there is anything wrong with how their team is currently working. They might listen to your sales pitch, but they don’t believe they have a reason to change.
Pitching buyers in this category depends on proving there is a better way to do things. This could be pointing out a problem they don’t realize exists or showing them an alternative (and better) solution.
These buyers are the most difficult to convert. Not only are they happy with their existing state, but they’re excited about the products or solutions they’re using and not interested in changing.
Finding a solid way to connect with these buyers is a challenge — but it’s not impossible. Converting them involves identifying areas of improvement with their existing products and showing why your offering is a better option.
At this phase, you should still be focused on building out profiles for each of your contacts. Pairing a contact’s category with their attitude will give you a stronger idea of how you can craft your pitch and how important their buy-in is to making a final purchasing decision.
3. Influence your contacts
Now is the time to put everything together and craft your pitches based on your contacts’ categories and attitudes.
Some combinations will be easier than others. For example, if your contact is an economic buyer with a problem attitude, you can present them with a solutions-focused pitch and worry less about winning over other members of the team.
However, user buyers with euphoric attitudes can be a hard sell. If they’re already excited about what they’re using, convincing them to change can be difficult. You’ll really need to dig into finding an unidentified pain point and positioning your product as a solution that improves their life.
Focus on crafting unique pitches for your contacts, even if they seemingly have the same problems or challenges. The point of the Strategic Selling sales methodology is to personalize your sales approach, so while templates or formulas can help speed up the process, you’ll see the most success from getting to know each contact, what problems they face, and what kind of solution they’re looking for.
Operationalize Strategic Selling with Weflow
Operationalizing sales frameworks like Strategic Selling can be hard. Sales reps won’t follow the methodology consistently, and managers won’t enforce it.
This will result in the team missing the data that’s needed to successfully manage the success criteria of each opportunity.
Weflow offers note templates that can help streamline Strategic Selling and allow you to create a repeatable sales process. It only takes seconds to create a note template that can be reused by your entire team.
Weflow also enables RevOps to set up central pipeline views and field templates to focus reps on fields that need to be populated at each stage of the sales process.
Ready to implement Strategic Selling? Get started with Weflow today.
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