The Effectiveness of Strategic Selling in B2B Sales Environments

It is a known fact that strategic selling is an effective, useful tactic in B2B environments. It is particularly useful in enterprise business environments where multiple people are involved in buying decisions which can make the process more difficult.

It would be difficult to cover the entire process of strategic selling and its effectiveness for B2B sales in one article. Here are some highlights to help explain the core concepts.


What is Strategic Selling?

The approach of strategic selling was established by the Miller Heiman Group. It can be useful in almost all selling situations but, as mentioned before, it is particularly effective in B2B environments.

Strategic selling establishes a connection between the current and future needs of the client. It focuses on creating long-term relationships to better understand client needs throughout the sales process.

The reason strategic selling works for B2B sales is that it breaks complex situations down into more digestible bits, allowing the seller to focus on the development of mutually beneficial relationships with clients.

It categorizes the different types of ways buying decisions are made, how marketing approaches are handled, and who has an influence on those buying decisions to help sales reps hone their sales approach.


The Concept of “Buyer Personas”

Demographics such as company size, location, and industry are not enough to completely describe a current or potential customer. With strategic selling, sales reps create a more robust customer profile, taking into consideration the characteristics of the customer and their company’s culture.

Using these customer profiles, we can identify a client’s “buyer persona” and decide what the best sales approach is. Thankfully, the concept of organizational personalities is instinctively being applied by effective salespeople.

The “ideal customer profile” has become commonplace in B2B marketing and is something that can only be developed through continued conversation between seller and customer.


Identifying the Buying Influencers

In larger companies the final buying decision could be influenced by many people. Strategic selling recognizes that the influencers can vary widely from company to company.

To better understand and effectively identify these decision-makers, strategic selling classifies them into four categories:

  • Economic buyer. The economic buyer will make the final decision on whether a product/service is purchased or not. It could be one person or a board of members but even within a decision group, it is crucial identify and target the most influential person.
  • User Buyer. The user buyer will be using the product/service. They decide if a product/service would be a beneficial purchase and provide feedback to the economic buyer.
  • Technical buyer. The technical buyer decides whether the product/service is a good fit for a company’s environment. It primarily involves IT personnel, but procurement and legal departments might provide input here as well.
  • Coach. The coach is the one the sales rep will primarily work with. They’ll need to develop a relationship this person, unlike the first three who are already looking to purchase.

Typically, these key buying influencers do not have same level of influence over the sale. With strategic selling, sales reps create buying influences chart to identify and assess each of the players.


Companies Get Results, but Only People Win

Now that we have the key buying influencers, sales reps need to show them how the product/service will benefit them and the company.

This can be shown through both economic and non-economic stats, such as business metrics, customer success stories, etc.

Any sales pitch should be able to answer the question “how does this product/service help the company and users meet their personal goals?”


The Four Potential Response Modes

If a seller can identify the size of the gap between a client’s current situation and their desired situation, they should be able to close a deal more easily. Using the size of this gap, strategic selling identifies four types of response modes that, for the sake of simplicity, can be grouped into two:

  • Growth and trouble 
  • Even keel and over-confident

Clients who fall into either the growth or the trouble category can clearly identify that there is a big difference between where they are and where they want to be. Chances of closing a deal are greater with these types of clients.

The even keel and over-confident clients are harder to reach. If there is no significant gap between the current situation and where they want to be in the future, they are unlikely to make any changes. The success here relies on proving a product/service would greatly benefit them and changing their perception.


In Conclusion

Because B2B environments tend to be complex, using strategic selling to break them down in to more manageable pieces will increase the chance for sales success.  Salespeople can use the concepts listed above to categorize each client and determine the best sales strategy.