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Strategic Selling: Part 2 - Account Strategy

1 Oct, 2001 By: Larry Breed imageSource

Strategic Selling: Part 2 - Account Strategy

last month’s issue we discussed in how the objective of a good sales strategy
is to get yourself in the right place with the right people at the right time so
you can tactically make the right presentations by Focusing on the Account, and
Customer Purchasing Cycle. This month, we will cover four more phases of
strategic selling.



recognition phase usually begins with dissatisfaction with existing systems,
products or suppliers. The dissatisfaction grows until the account begins to
feel “pain,” financial or psychological. No change will take place until
pain tolerance has been surpassed.


You Have Four Fundamental Challenges In This

  1. Build
    a bond of trust.

  2. Help
    the account players become aware of their pain, the implication of the pain,
    and how they will win by eliminating the pain (sometimes referred to as the
    Medical Model).

  3. Gather
    data about each player's personal values and sensory preference when

  4. Gather
    data about possible decision criteria.

A Bond

build a bond of trust, you might study and learn to use the skills that
counseling psychologists use to establish “rapport” with new clients. You
can imagine a person who comes to a psychologist for the first time being a
little nervous about revealing life secrets. The psychologist must establish a
deep level of rapport very quickly, or spend several sessions before getting to
the key issues. In the same sense you too need to establish a deep level of
rapport or trust with people in the account if you expect them to reveal the
real issues affecting the account's business.



next part of what you need to accomplish is to understand your prospects'
situation, the pain they are feeling, the implication of that pain and how,
specifically, they will benefit once the pain is removed (the Medical Model of
selling). To do this you must learn how to ask questions, which go beyond simple
“open” and “closed” questions. This approach is based on the fact that
people usually just communicate the surface of what they are thinking. Seldom do
they reveal the deep levels of what, where, when, how, and who. This approach
will allow you to recognize what is being left out and assist the person in more
clearly communicating the key issues.



third part of your job is to uncover the specific sensory preferences of each
person who will influence the account's decision. You should learn to develop
skills in recognizing buyers preferences to help you communicate better through
your conversations, proposals, demonstrations, and to recognize the customer's
next action steps in that person's sensory preference.



you should gather data about both the hard and soft sides of decision criteria
that the client will use in selecting the winning vendor. Hard criteria are
factors like price, delivery, and technical support. Soft criteria are more
psychological, such as authority. An individual may be an authority unto
themselves, may rely on others' opinions, or may rely on product data. Knowing
how they will respond will allow you to tailor your presentation and
negotiations accordingly. You will use this information in the Assessing Options


biggest mistake a salesperson make at this phase in the buying cycle is to start
discussing products and making presentations. Becoming too involved in product
discussion this early in the sale may in fact put you at a disadvantage when the
account moves to the next phase. The more time you spend in this phase doing all
of your homework and building an appropriate foundation, the easier the selling
process will be later in the cycle.


Options Phase

account enters the Assessing Options
phase when the pain becomes too great. Attention turns to uncovering options and
making choices. This phase will be your most competitive, because it's where the
account will begin to look at other options in the marketplace.


Your strategy here is to understand,
influence, and respond to four factors:

  1. Personal
    Values of all decision participants.

  2. Decision
    Criteria of all decision participants.

  3. Behavioral
    Preferences of all decision participants.

  4. Sensory
    Preferences of all decision participants.

common mistake a salesperson make in the Assessing
phase is not using key psychological information they might have
uncovered in the first meetings. Not knowing this information, they are at a
loss in knowing how to differentiate themselves from other competitors or how to
emphasize those things that will have greatest impact on the customer.


can change the way in which decision makers evaluate products or services and
help the account differentiate you from your competition. However, you will have
to learn selling tactics for influencing and changing decision criteria that can
appear to be rigid and inflexible. This can't be done unless you know what the
criterion is.


Concerns Phase

final phase of the sale, Resolving
, happens after the account has assessed competing alternatives.
Last minute fears and concerns arise that can block the decision or cause
customers to re- open discussions with competitors. If you have been a long time
supplier for the account, this phase may be anticlimactic. There may be no
concerns to resolve. As your competitors become more savvy and their selling
skills increase, you cannot afford to make any assumption with existing


a complex sale it's unusual for any vendor to meet all needs perfectly. During
the Assessing Options phase it's
uncommon for one vendor to stand out so clearly from all others that the choice
is a foregone conclusion. The account may decide that one vendor is marginally
better and it's not surprising that customers feel that a decision is risky.
Your strategy must uncover and help resolve any perceived risks. You will be
making a fatal strategic error if you think these concerns will disappear by
themselves. They won't. Your ability to uncover and resolve feelings of risk, no
matter how uncomfortable this is for you, will make the difference. Your ability
to tie in all of the psychological information you have gathered, the trust
building you have done, and the use of question-asking skills will assist you
through this phase.


Installation Phase

easy to take a naive view of selling that suggests that once the decision is
made, the selling job is over. That's a limited view of selling and account
strategy or management. Very few major sales stop when the customer signs the
purchase order. You will be involved in installation, after-sales support, and
continuing contact with the customer. The period after the decision is a very
fertile area of sales opportunity. By using the information gathered in Needs
and Evaluating Options,
you can leave your customers very happy with having chosen you and your company
as their vendor of choice.

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