The New Conceptual Selling

The New Conceptual Selling

Title: The New Conceptual Selling

Authors: Stephen E. Heiman, Diane Sanchez

Executive Summary:

In 1987, Miller Heiman published their groundbreaking book that challenged the current thoughts about sales at the time and provided a strategic, achievable approach to product-pitch selling.

Since it was first published, “The New Conceptual Selling” has proven to be timeless and effective in helping sales teams to reach their goals.

In “The New Conceptual Selling,” one main focus is the suggestion of using performance metrics. The authors show those who do significantly outperform other organizations.  Some of these metrics include: volume of qualified leads, acquiring new customers, retaining existing customers, salesperson productivity, quota achievement, and forecast accuracy.

The twelve sales best practices are addressed that were most influential in driving growth in these metrics, along with insights about how organizations can take action to improve in these areas.

“The New Conceptual Selling” helps the young salesperson and seasoned pro alike. Its primary goal is to promote the idea of building a system of dialogue between buyers and sellers, which ultimately improve the quality of the sales call. The three phases of a sales call are:

  1. Getting information – it is most desirable to gather information about the buyer’s business. It is only after the buyer believes that you understand their business is he/she ready for the next phase.
  2. Giving information – Now, with knowledge of the buyer’s system, you can share information about your product or service, customizing your solution to differentiate your organization.
  3. Getting commitment – It is critical to overcome any uncertainties that help you build a shared commitment to a buy/sell process and solution that you can supply.

One of the biggest takeaways from “The New Conceptual Selling” can be attributed to the book’s ability to view the sales process from the prospect’s perspective. This is a gigantic paradigm shift for many salespeople –  and one that is much needed.

As technology makes information more readily available, a win-win approach is even more valuable as it builds a sense of trust and transparency into the relationship.

By not pushing the company line or misfit solution, a salesman begins to become a trusted consultant and reliable resource in the buy/sell process.

Interested in learning more? Check out the book summary below.

Outline: “The New Conceptual Selling”

1) Understanding Why your customers buy: No Sell Selling 

  • Sales myths
    • Push “X” – instead of what meets the needs of the client
    • Use anything that works (just get the order) – instead be honest and assess value
    • “Track selling” – instead, be flexible and open to a collaborative effort to reach goals
    • Do more legwork – analyze what you are doing wrong; do not just do more “work”
    • Confidence makes the difference – necessary but insufficient; create sales processes that promote interaction
  • People buy for their reasons, not for yours
  • Identify their purchasing motives and you can help them to solve a problem, rather than sell them something
    • Sell within their decision-making process by helping them decide how to deliver quality results
    • Natural thought process: cognition => divergent => convergent – this is backwards from the traditional sales model
  • Win-win selling
    • More profitable, better leads build better relationships for your clients
  • Continue to serve needs
    • Go beyond product pitch and identify their needs and where you might be able to help. Don’t just follow the script. First understand, then connect the dots.

2) Preparation Before the Call

There are four questions to ask yourself before making the call:

  1. Have a clear reason and state the purpose of your call.
  2. What do I want the prospect to do? What action commitment do I expect, at a minimum and optimally?
  3. Why should the prospect see me? Have a valid business reason.
  4. Do I have credibility with the prospect? Do you have a track record of success in the customer’s business or industry? (I.e., technical expertise, educational background, or network associations.)

3) Getting the Information

  • Learn how to listen
  • There are five types of questions:
    • Confirmation questions
    • New information questions
    • Attitude questions
    • Commitment questions
    • Basic issue questions
  • Establishing communication with the prospect
    • Pause for effect
    • Wait for information; don’t question-barrage
    • Treat it as conversation and not a sales call
    • Practice golden silence – use a longer silence between answers to your question and the next question, giving the prospect time to add and you to think

4) Giving Information

  • Differentiation
    • Is what we are saying a “me-too” value proposition?
    • Be able to answer the “So what?” objection
  • Joint venture approach
    • Don’t sell; learn
    • Find fit; don’t push square pegs through round holes

5) Getting a Commitment

  • Every call should end with some form of commitment either follow-up or email or identify future timelines
  • Objections
    • Underlying reasons or basic issue objections (personal, not business)
    • Describe understanding, confirm and, try to help here, then identify any actions

Key Learning Themes:

  • Value-add sales approach…does this prospect really need what I am selling?
  • Problem-solving sales approach
    • Truly understanding your prospects’ needs – LISTEN!
    • Provide relevant information that helps the prospect solve their problem
    • Gain commitment to explore problems and solutions together
  • Develop a win-win solution

*Note: This article was originally published in April 2013 and has been updated and revised for relevance.  

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