The New Strategic Selling: Sales (and PR) tactics are only as good as the strategy that leads up to them

04.19.2018 | Beth Mayer

One of my professional goals for 2018 is to hone my business-development skills, and multiple people have recommended the book, “The New Strategic Selling,” by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman, as an excellent foundation with which to begin.

As I read the book in the weeks ahead, I’ll share some of my key takeaways in a three-part blog series. This post will address part one, which focuses on selling strategically.

At its highest level, The New Strategic Selling focuses on how to manage sales processes in a “complex sales cycle,” which is defined as “one in which several people must give their approval before the sale can take place.” This seems straightforward enough, but it was valuable for me to understand the various elements involved with that complex sales cycle, including:
• The buying organization has multiple options;
• The selling organization has multiple options;
• In both organizations, numerous levels of responsibility are involved;
• The buying organizations decision-making process is complex – meaning, it is seldom self-evident to an outsider.

The reality is that there is never a single way to enter into a complex sales or buying process, and there is never a single decision-maker when it comes to complex sales situations. Recognizing that the process is multi-faceted and complex is the first step in determining how you then build out your sales strategy.

Miller and Heiman then lay out the key roles involved with a complex sale: 1) the economic buyer, 2) the user buyer, 3) the technical buyer, and 4) the coach.

In order for a sales campaign to be effective, it has to resonate with every one of these buyers – not just one – and connect with their motivations and responsibilities. The economic buyer, for example, will likely be focused on the return-on-investment and overall value provided by the seller. In comparison, the user buyer will be more involved with the product on a day-to-day basis and will likely care more about its ease-of-use and performance, or its ability to help them in their current role.

What’s enjoyable about this book is that its lessons apply not just directly to sales and business development, but to how we as PR and communications professionals counsel our clients about their businesses. In our case, when an organization decides to bring on a PR and communications agency, there are often several stakeholders involved with the decision-making process. These can range from the CEO, CFO, marketing and PR managers and other business unit managers.

Recognizing that our clients have multiple stakeholders involved as they sell and promote their products has also been valuable for me to understand, in that the PR and communications programs and tactics that I recommend need to align with the needs and priorities of my clients’ stakeholders (my colleague Colleen Moffitt recently posted about ways to secure stakeholder buy-in here).

The New Strategic Selling also lays out multiple premises of strategic selling, including this: “In the complex sale, a good tactical plan is only as good as the strategy that led up to it.” This echoes much of the business model we employ at Communiqué PR, in that all of our activities – every press release, every media pitch, and so on – must align with our clients’ business and communications objectives. At the end of the day, our activities must help our clients to move their businesses forward. Which is similar to the messages in The New Strategic Selling: “Strategy is a pre-requisite for tactical success. … Strategy is, in fact, the single most neglected element in selling today.”

Too often PR becomes associated with simply pushing out the next press release versus taking the time to pause and evaluate how the news (if there is, indeed, a hard news element) will impact the business on a strategic level. Do the activities being recommended address the needs of all the key stakeholders involved?

Beginning to think in this way will have far-reaching benefits not just for business development purposes but for client counsel and account management.

I look forward to continuing this book, and to sharing my findings in my next blog post. The next portion I’ll be discussing will be around how to “Lay the Foundation of Strategic Analysis” and creating uncommon solutions to common solutions.


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