Pre-Sales RE – Pt 3: Mitigating Primary Risks–The Sales Risk Responses

This article introduces the Miller Heiman approach and presents the measures or risk responses it uses to address the challenges mentioned in the previous article, Pre-Sales Challenges–The Risks.

The Miller Heiman Sales Approach in a Nutshell

Miller Heiman is one of the top five companies in sales performance providing game-changing insights to sales leaders for nearly the last four decades. Their Strategic Selling® [3] and Conceptual Selling® [2] approaches bundle their long-term sales expertise and experience into methods and tools. This paper focuses on Conceptual Selling® which aims at the individual sales session while Strategic Selling® provides a framework for multiple customer interactions gathering feedback from several directions. The central objective of Conceptual Selling® is to get access to the customer’s concept, who wants to achieve, fix, or avoid something for a certain reason. The approach seeks to find this discrepancy and root cause first, before promoting a specific product or service requiring the sales staff to listen actively rather than talk. Buying reason and buying influencers have to be determined since

“the customer buys for her reasons, not yours“[2].

A sales session is comprised of three major building blocks: “Getting information”, “Giving information”, and “Getting commitment”. The first tries to capture the customer’s concept by questioning, the second aims to build specific links to the product or service being offered, and the third negotiates further customer contributions to the overall process. Especially the third part is to ensure a win-win situation, a central goal of the approach.

The part “Getting information” provides a questioning framework consisting of „Confirmation questions”, “New information questions”, and “Attitude questions”. These check and confirm already existing knowledge about the customer, collect new aspects of the customer’s concept, and even go beyond technical details by asking for attitudes and feelings. The Green Sheet is the Conceptual Selling® tool. It helps preparing the session and provides structure and guidance for the abovementioned parts.

Risk Responses

As a sales approach Miller Heiman provides appropriate responses to the risks of the pre-sales phases introduced earlier:

  1. Limited time: the approach has a strong emphasis on preparation and a strong focuson the things needed especially expressed by its tool, the Green Sheet.
  2. Competition: the approach explicitly requires providing information connecting customer needs to product/service attributes and to build a dedicated and unique selling position, which might be more expensive but truly addressing the customer’s need.
  3. Pre-investment: the approach explicitly asks why a sales session should take place from a customer’s perspective and records it as buying reason on the Green Sheet. A reason for selling is recorded as well. The approach further secures the contractor’s investment by explicitly asking for customer commitment or otherwise exit.
  4. Bargaining/Negotiating: the concept’s central objective is to stay win-win. It strongly recommends to quit rather than to accept a losing situation for either the contractor or the customer.
  5. Limited trust: the concept and the Green Sheet have a section on trust building measures, if needed.
  6. Unknown organization and decision making: the approach contains a detailed buying influencer analysis. Asking to reveal the decision making process should beone of the first commitment questions.
  7. Fragility: the approach urges its users to look for basic issues and to find them by using attitude questions. They are marked as “red flags” which mark situations thathave to be taken care of in the tools (e.g., the Green Sheet).
  8. Right time: it is mentioned in the concept to address the right people with the right solution at the right time, though it is not explicitly mentioned in the Green Sheet. Yet, it can be conceived as part of the buying reason which is to be phrased from the customer’s perspective.
  9. Seriousness of interest: this is monitored by asking for the customer’s commitment, e.g., to provide a budget in combination with offering refunds when closing the deal instead of free incentives. Another approach is to use the discrepancy analysis to find out if the customer has true reasons for his interest.
  10. Buying is not selling: Miller Heiman explicitly differentiates selling and buying processes and strongly monitors the buying process using commitments requested from the customer.

As already mentioned, each of the risk responses allows defining criteria or situations when the contractor should exit or quit the pre-sales activities in order to save his preinvestment or not to start an unfavorable business relationship. On the other end, signs or reasons that the customer might quit for are marked with red flags in the tool.

Previous: Pre-Sales RE – Pt 2: Pre-Sales Challenges–The Risks
Next: Pre-Sales RE – Pt 4: Mitigating Secondary Risks – The Requirements Engineering Risk Responses

Christoph Oemig

Christoph Oemig

studierte Medieninformatik mit dem Schwerpunkt Mensch-Computer Interaktion und Betriebswirtschaft in Wedel und Furtwangen. Er ist IREB Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering (CPRE), IIBA Certfied Business Analysis Professional (CBAP), UXQB Certified Professional for Usability and User Experience (CPUX) und gestaltet als Lead Business Analyst bei der Deutschen Bank die anforderungstechnischen Belange im Bereich Cash und Selbstbedienung. Er ist Mitglied der Fachgruppe Requirements Engineering der Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) sowie des Berufsverbandes der Deutschen Usability und User Experience Professionals (German UPA) und regelmäßig Referent auf Tagungen und Konferenzen zu Themen des Requirements Engineerings, der Business Analyse sowie dem Usability Engineering.
Christoph Oemig

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