Strategic Selling Process: What it Is, How to Use It & Examples
Have you ever tried to use a one-size-fits-all pitch to sell a product?
What were your results? If we had to guess, it probably didn’t go over as well as you hoped.
The truth is, sales tactics based in templated, copy-and-paste-style communication just don’t work. While having frameworks to customize and build from is a great way for sales reps to save time and create consistent experiences, depending too heavily on generic pitches and fill-in-the-blank messaging will only get you so far.
Successful sales comes down to one thing — being strategic in your decisions. But what does strategic selling actually look like? Let’s dive into what Strategic Selling really is.
What is a Strategic Selling Process?
Strategic Selling is a framework designed by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman (hence why it is sometimes referred to as the Miller Heiman process) that focuses on building relationships with various stakeholders and decision makers rather than just one contact.
Using the Strategic Selling framework, reps identify sales opportunities by identifying all key members of the decision-making process, evaluating where they currently stand in regards to purchasing, and then using those insights to tailor their pitch or sales approach.
Pros and cons of Strategic Selling
Like most other sales frameworks, Strategic Selling has its pros and cons. Understanding what they are can help your team determine if it's the right sales approach for them.
Pros of Strategic Selling
- Because Strategic Selling focuses on building relationships with various stakeholders and decision makers, it can help the rep establish strong relationships across the 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.
- Strategic Selling encourages reps to create personalized pitches for each contact, helping them build their communication, education, and persuasion skills.
Cons of Strategic Selling
- It can be time consuming to build relationships with multiple team members.
- 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.
3 Steps of the Strategic Selling Sales Process
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 those 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.
This person is already on your side and requires little convincing to make the deal happen. They’re already educated about your offering and understand how it can benefit the company as a whole, but they might struggle to articulate that to the rest of their team or company.
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 ultimately use the software to do their jobs.
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.
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.
The technical buyer thinks in black and white. They have a checklist a product must meet in order to consider it, so convincing them is less about selling a story or idea and more about proving you meet their (sometimes quite rigid) requirements and expectations.
Finally, the “economic buyer” is responsible for making the final purchase. These final decision makers give the ultimate stamp of approval and typically includes 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.
Miller and Heiman identify four buyer 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 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 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’ categorizes 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 Strategic Selling 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.
Strategic Selling in Action: Getting the Most From the Miller Heiman Framework
Strategic Selling involves a lot of work up front, but when done correctly, it can create serious long-term returns. To increase your chances of success, you need to approach this framework with the right systems, tools, and processes in place.
Here are some areas to consider to make Strategic Selling as impactful as possible:
Data and information storage
Strategic Selling involves learning and storing a lot of information about your contacts. While a standard CRM can help you keep track of names, job titles, and contact information, you’ll want a tool with comprehensive note taking and organization features.
Weflow’s notes feature is designed for sales teams, embedding Salesforce fields to make it easier to capture and store data. You can even use templates and checklists to ensure you’re covering all your bases and capturing the right information.
Team collaboration and communication
Strategic Selling can be a team effort, which means you need to be able to easily share your notes and insights with team members. Having tools that make collaboration and communication easy can make Strategic Selling easier on everyone.
Weflow has options for sharing notes with relevant team members, as well as keeping certain notes private. This gives your team the option to share information that is important to others while not forcing them to share everything.
Task and activity management
When you’re building relationships with many different contacts at different stages of the sales funnel, it can be challenging to keep track of everything you’ve done and what still needs to be completed.
Weflow’s task manager makes adding tasks and delegating responsibilities easy. You can even add priorities, due dates, and access tasks from your calendar or inbox so you can quickly check in on the status of your tasks.
Strategic Selling is a powerful framework for researching your contacts and determining the right strategy to convince them to convert, but it works best when paired with another methodology like SNAP Selling or the SPICED Sales Framework.
Weflow paired with the right sales methodology can help your team be more productive to build stronger customer relationships and sell more efficiently. Sign up for a product trial to learn how.