An Overview of Principles and Practices

Fundamentals of Economic Advantage Selling

“Selling by the Numbers”


The Types of Salespeople


There are four basic types of salespeople. Their classification is defined by the way in which they deal with customers, and what they believe makes them successful in their work.


Type #1 – Professional Visitor – About 10%-15% of all salespeople fall into this category.


This sales style is characterized by:

  1. Desire to sell on the basis of personal relationships; i.e.; “you like me and I like you”. You’ll buy from me because I am a friend of yours, and friends “take care of” one another.
    1. He/she is very concerned over establishing and maintaining what they believe to be a valuable “trust level” between the buyer and themselves. This is understandable when we recognize that the Professional Visitor bases so much of his/her success on maintaining at least the resemblance of personal friendships among their buyers.
    2. Another offshoot of this selling style is the desire to continually entertain and reward customers as a way of maintaining a favorable position with them.
    3. The Professional Visitor is less concerned with the features (and hardly ever the value) of the products/services they offer, than with their own perceived value to the customer.
  2. The Professional Visitor almost always concentrates his/her selling effort at the Implementer/Selector level. He/she is almost wholly dependent on their product/service being offered a parity price. The Professional Visitor is the least able of all sales types to sell at a higher price than competitors, partly because doing so violates the “trust” that is the basis of their relationship with the buyer.
  3. Attempts to strengthen, or at least maintain, customer relationships by providing services; e.g.; running down answers to problems, resolving administrative problems, pleading the customer’s case to management.


The Effectiveness of Relationship Selling


Selling effectively by developing relationships depends on the type of relationship you’re planning to create.


Personal relationships will not work in differentiating the salesperson, or the products/services he/she represents, in the customer’s mind.


Effective personal relationships are dependent on the customer’s liking one salesperson better than another. This kind of friendship is something that happens naturally between people.


Effective personal relationships are dependent on the customer’s liking one salesperson better than another. This kind of friendship is something that happens naturally between people.


It can’t be affected by the salesperson. The customer either likes you the best of all the people who call on him/her or they don’t. The customers who do like you best will, indeed, choose you more often than the competition. But the other side is also true. Customers with whom you “just can’t get started” are never going to choose you as their favorite.


On the other hand, business relationships, i.e., helping the customer improve the profitability of his/her business through your knowledge of that business, and your ability to apply your company’s resources to its problems, can and should be enhanced.

In fact, customers will often abandon personal relationships, even strong ones, to acquire the benefits provided by those who are building business relationships.



The incidence of the successful Professional Visitor is declining due to the advancing professionalism of the Implementor/Selector level, and the increased use of empirical data to drive purchasing decisions. Their effectiveness will continue to decline as the complexity of the marketplace grows.


Type #2 Product Specialist – About 75% – 80% of all salespeople fall into this category.


This sales type is categorized by:


  1. Desire to make a sale based on the superior features and performance of the products/services they represent.





  1. Product Specialists are always concerned that the products/services they represent have as many “sales features” as possible.


  1. They like to have samples, literature, technical support, etc. to assist in making their sales.


  1. Their normal sales style is to make more or less formal presentations to buyers on the features of their products.
  2. Product Specialists consider their understanding of the product, how it works, how it’s made, how it compares to competitor’s performance, etc. as their primary reason for making sales. This means the products/services they represent must have many superior features for them to be successful in their endeavors.
  3. Product Specialists deal with Implementor/Selectors most of the time, but will occasionally deal with Technicians. The engineering department of prospect companies is usually as high in an organization as most Product Specialists get in their sales efforts. 4.          Product Specialists quite often find themselves worrying about matching competitive price offerings, since it’s rare for any product/service to have such strong product features that they can overcome the buyer’s mandate to “buy the lowest price offering”.


Type #3 Value Contributor (VC) – About 10% of all salespeople qualify in this category.

This sales type is characterized by:

  1. Desire to make a sale on the basis of the overall value their product/service provides to the customer.
  2. In order to accomplish this, the VC needs to know as much about the customer’s business as he/she does about the products/services they represent. In many cases, the VC is not an expert in his/her own product, and frequently calls on others in the company to provide the knowledge they’re missing.
  3. The VC only performs customer service functions when there’s no one else available. Not only does this take away from true selling time, but it also forces the Value Contributor to work at the Implementor/Selector level too much.
  4. The VC strives to work only at the Decision Maker/influencer level, and will only work below that level when the bureaucracy of the customer’s organization forces it.
  5. The VC is very concerned with making the initial contact within a target customer, and avoids responding to the customer’s request for a presentation, a “quote” or a “bid”. When such requests are received, the effective Value Contributor treats them as a “lead”, and begins his/her own sales efforts.


  1. The VC works to get an insight into the customer’s business problem5~ and then strives to develop solutions that will solve those problems using the resources of the company he/she represents. The VC is truly the salesperson that “can sell anything”, because business problems are all the same, and they’re always solved in the same way. The only thing that changes is the specifics of the products/service used to create the solutions.
  2. The Value Contributor is less likely to be forced to offer his/her product/services at parity prices, because of his/her focus on the economic benefits offered.


  1. To get this message across, the Value Contributor focuses his/her sales activities on explaining the economic benefits his/her products/s ices offer, rather than describing the way they perform~ or the specific features they possess.


  1. The Value Contributor creates Proposals that are individU~1z~t0 each specific customer, rather than working strictly from prepared company literature.


Type #4: Value Resource: About 5% of all salespeople qualify in this category. The Value Resource is a highbred version of the Value Contribut0r, a way in which the VC operates some percentage of the time; a way he/she is striving to operate as much as possible.


When performing as a VC, the salesperson makes initial contact with Decision


Makers/Influencers. The VC is elevated to the status of Value Resource when the

Decision Makers/Influencers call him/her in the hopes they may be able to offer

solutions to problems the customer is struggling to solve.

As the marketplace grows more complex, and product5/5e1~~s move more rapidly from the pioneering and growth phases of introduction to maturity and decline, salespeople who can solve customer problems~ as opposed to describing products to them, will be the ones to succeed.


The skills needed to perform as a Value Contributor and Value Resource are different than those needed to be a Product Specialist. The activities are also different. This manual spells out the required skills and activities a good Product Specialist or Professional Visitor needs to develop to operate effectively in this new marketplace.



Skills and Activities


The customer’s problems are the most important component of every sale.

It is through aggressive service differentiation that your company can both increase its share of the market, strengthen its position with customers and prospects and increase what buyers will pay for the company’s services.


While differentiating a service is usually thought of as a marketing (as opposed to a sales) function, it’s critical to successfully selling that the salesperson differentiate him/herself in the prospect’s mind to the greatest extent possible. In many cases, the only thing that’s actually differentiated about an offered service is the person doing the offering.




The most effective method for salesperson differentiation is developing the perception in the prospect’s mind that the salesperson cares more about the prospect’s benefiting from the services being sold than about making a sale.

* The most critical technique for developing this kind of salesperson differentiation is to know more about your prospect than you do about your services. Truly knowing your prospect requires that you:


  1. Understand who the real prospect is.
  2. Understand what the prospect is trying to accomplish in his/her own situation.
  3. Understand the different ways in which your services can be of assistance to the prospect in resolving the problems of their situation.


The professional sales process starts with a clear understanding of who the real prospect is:

Operative Definition of a Customer

The one who pays the bill.

In those instances where a third party actually sends the money even though they don’t use the service, the person who initiates payment is the customer.

Who is the Customer?

Determination affects the services to offer.


Manufacturers, Distributors, Retailers

Uses services to produce/deliver products

Problems: Reduced Net Costs, Improved Productivity,Enhanced Competitive Standing

Creates own programs to sell to his customers

End User


Removes product from the market.


The reuser’s Customer


Problem: Improved Lifestyle


Supplier of warehousing/distribution services.


Most valuable services address Reuser needs



  1. Reuser customer: Ultimate goal is to GET AND KEEP CUSTOMERS (as a part of that endeavor, he strives to be more profitable, so he’ll be able to get and keep more customers).

Reuser customers are faced with 3 major problems in reaching this goal:

    1. Lowering the net cost of doing business
    2. Improving the overall productivity of the business
    3. Making the business more competitive in its market place (which includes increasing revenues, unit sales, gross margins, employing more qualified personnel, enhancing image, etc.)

All decisions to change the way in which business is done are made to satisfy one or more of these three problems. The salesperson must be able to show the prospect, as specifically and with as much statistical support as possible, how your service can solve as many of these problems as possible.


If the offered service does not solve any of these problems, it represents only an increased cost to the customer, something they are specifically attempting to avoid.


  1. End User customer: Ultimate goal is to improve their lifestyle. Only retailers (or direct marketers; who are really retailers without a store) have End Users as customers.


The needs of the End User are taken into consideration when positioning a service through the generation of End User demand. But the appeal in the service is ultimately to help the real customer, the Reuser, and not the End User.


All purchases are ultimately determined by the prospect’s perception of which alternative offers the greatest VALUE.


Value is the comparison the prospect makes between the Benefits they’re being offered and Price they’re being asked to pay.


The degree to which this service assists in solving one or more of the Big Three Problems.


‘What the customer is being asked to contribute to realize the benefits.

Price is not always a matter of just money. Many times it’s calculated in terms of a change in tradition, the lose of good people (voluntary and involuntary), demotions in job responsibility giving up what was enjoyable. These considerations often outweigh the purely dollars and cents ones, particularly among those who do not receive any portion of whatever money may be saved and/or earned; i.e., buyers.

Each salesperson should give the your service offering the Value Test before discussing it with a prospect. Having good answers to the Benefits/Value questions makes the sale go easier.


Value = Benefits Received

Price Paid




The primary duty of a salesperson is to generate new business.

This can be either/or business from new customers or increased business from existing customers. There will obviously be times, particularly in smaller operations when the salesperson will be asked to perform duties which do not directly lead to the generation of new sales. While it may not always be possible to avoid these assignments~ the professional salesperson recognizes that the time used up needs to be added back into his/her selling schedule.


Target customers in your marketing area that would logically have problems for which your designated Benefits would offer appealing solutions.


  1. Target customers who appear to be in similar situations, since they’ll likely be experiencing similar problems.
  2. Subdivide like groups of target prospects by other categories; e.g., types of products offered, size of company, geographic areas serviced, etc. Again, companies in similar situations will need similar solutions to their problems.
  3. Create proper Mix of targets to contact.
  4. Target medium-sized organizations first. They offer many advantages to the supplier providing high value services:
  5. People in positions of influence are easier for the salesperson to see
  6. Decision Makers are more likely to respond to and buy the values provided by differentiated services

iii.     Have less reason to maintain the status quo

  1. Shortens the time frame from contact to sale
  2. These organizations are more likely to be either in a growth mode, or trying to fend off the competitive advances of larger competitors. Are interested in reducing costs and conserving cash, both of which can be accomplished by a properly designed and delivered distribution service. Provide opportunities for your company’s business to become a growing part of the prospects. This increases the return on your sales effort.
  3. They’re less likely to have been approached by your competitors; or approached in a creative way. Most salespeople make the mistake of spending the bulk of their time chasing the volume offered by prospects at the “top of the triangle”.
  4. They’re less likely to squabble about the price of your services. Since they’re more likely to find greater value in what you’re offering, they’re usually more willing to pay the necessary price to get it.
  5. Pursue larger prospects as a way of mixing in higher volume, lower margin business. Let the “top of the triangle” customers cover the overhead. Make the profit on the Medium- and Small sized companies.
  6. Make sure you clearly define what constitutes a prospect that’s too small to do business with. Many smaller organizations can be handled with no appreciable increase in operating expenses. Grouped together, smaller firms can generate margin like larger ones, and may even be less expensive to manage.




The technique a salesperson employs in acquiring a customer is influenced to a large degree by the type of prospect with whom he/she is dealing.


Not all the people a salesperson can contact within a target prospect’s organization will have the same concerns, nor decide to buy for the same reasons. It’s most important that the salesperson strive to meet with those who will buy on the same basis the salesperson wants to sell; i.e., on the basis of the Value provided by your products and/or services.


Develop a clear understanding of the buying motives of the people with whom you’re dealing. The buying motives of your prospects are a major determinant of how you approach each selling situation. Depending on the job level and responsibility of the prospect contacted, the buying motives can vary widely.




Contact Types
Decision Makers Decision Influencers NEEDS
1. Reduced Net Costs
2. Improved Productivity
3. Enhanced Competitive Standing

Implementors/ Selectors

Exert Knowledge
Fulfill Assignments
(Maintain Position)


Attempting to utilize the same sales approach to buyers operating with different motives will negatively affect your chances of success with one group or the other.


Decision Maker – Person with the authority to change the way his/her company does business without getting permission from any other person. They have titles like President, CEO or Owner. In very large organizations, a General or Division Manager may be the Decision Maker in his/her own facility.


This level should always be the salesperson’s primary target, since what the salesperson wants is for the target prospect to change the way he/she does business; i.e., start doing business, or do more business, with your company.


Decision Makers are good sales targets because:


  1. They’re interested in solving the Big Three Problems. Doing so usually generates direct cash rewards, which few other people in the company enjoy.
  2. They have a broad enough view of the company’s programs and plans to understand how your products and/or services can positively affect the total performance of the company. Professional sales activity will have its maximum impact on this level of person.
  3. They are not controlled by budgets. They set budgets. They can also decide to overspend in one budget and underspend in another; which is also what the salesperson usually wants to have happen.
  4. ‘While they rarely make an actual purchase, their direction to the contract signer that a specific service or company be “considered” carries the maximum amount of influence.


Decision Influencer – Think of them as Decision Makers in training. The Decision Maker turns to the Influencer for advice on how the company should proceed in improving the way its business is operating. In this capacity, the Influencer is in charge of coming up with the new ideas that will help the company prosper.


It’s important to make a correct determination as to who is a true Decision Influencer. Presenting benefits that appeal to a Decision Influencer to someone _______ who’s not renders those benefits relatively ineffective.


  1. Decision Influencers have titles like Vice President, Director, CEO, etc. They’re usually the people who report directly to the Decision Maker, although not always. There are some Decision Influencers who have less obvious
  2. It’s from the ranks of the Decision Influencers that most decision Makers come, If no one with a particular job title has ever been promoted to the top job at the company, than it’ highly unlikely that person is a true

Decision Influencer. They’re most likely serving in the role of Technician.


  1. The services the salesperson represents should always be presenting a new way for the target prospect to do business, If you have a new idea to present, a

Decision Influencer should be the person you want to see. Decision Influencer are good sales targets because:

  1. They need, and value, a source of new ideas. Salespeople who can provide them are able to establish a lasting relationship with people at this level.


  1. They’re also interested in solving the Big Three Problems. It gets them closer to being Decision Makers, and often generates direct cash rewards.
  2. They also know enough about the company to understand how its products and services can positively affect performance. (The CFO or Controller is an ideal sales target, since so much of what your company provides generates cost reductions. The person in charge of marketing and/or sales is also a prime Decision Influencer target, because distribution services can have such a vital impact on the company’s competitive position.) They’re also not controlled by budgets. They see all, or most, of the company’s budgets, and usually have the authority to suggest that monies be moved between them. They can also decide to overspend in one budget and underspend in another. They may not frequently actually sign an order, but their direction to “consider” a particular service carries significant influence.                                                        Technician: Person to whom Decision Makers/Influencers (and occasionally Implementers/Selectors) turn for “expert” advice in a particular area of specialty.


The best example of Technicians are engineers, lawyers, human resources professionals, etc.; those who are less involved in decisions that affect the overall business than their own area of expertise.


  1. Technicians most often fill staff jobs within an organization; as opposed to Decision Influencers who most often fill line jobs.


  1. Technicians are more concerned with the proper functioning of equipment and processes than with the economic advantages they provide to the company.


  1. Prejudice and opinion are more likely to guide a Technician’s choice than are sound business concerns. It’s difficult to sell a Technician unless you’re offering a service that meets their individual criteria.


It’s often necessary to receive the “blessing” of the Technician before your service can be accepted. In these cases, it’s very important for the salesperson to control the “direction” from which the request for the Technician’s input comes.


  1. If the Technician is asked to evaluate a concept or service program suggested by either a Decision Maker or Influencer, the underlying suggestion is that he/she find a way of justifying the purchase.


To recommend against purchasing your service, the Technician must explain to the DM or DI why he/she was wrong in suggesting it in the first place. Unless your service suffers from extensive and obvious failings, the Technician is not eager to take this risk. There is little or no reward for doing so.


  1. If the Technician is asked to evaluate a concept or service program suggested by an Tmplementor/Selector~ there is very little to prevent them from deciding against you.


  1. To accept your service often means the Technician must admit that the service he/she had previously approved was not the best available. This is difficult, and often perceived as dangerous, for most Technicians to do.
  2. A fact of sales life is that virtually everyone in any organization has the authority to say “no” to purchasing an offered service. However, very few people have the authority, or are willing to accept the responsibility, for saying “yes”. People are hardly ever criticized for not buying something. But almost everyone fears, to some extent, being criticized for making a bad purchase. All too often, Implementer/Selectors exercise the one type of challenged authority they have.


When dealing with Implementor/Selectors, realize that you have put yourself in a position where the most likely response to what your offering is rejection.


Implementors/Selectors- – Person charged with responsibility for accomplishing tasks assigned to them by either a Decision Maker or Influencer (often communicated through “company policy” or tradition). In essence, everyone who isn’t a decision maker/influencer or technician is an implementor/selector.


  1. Implementor/Selectors are risk adverse. They receive less reward for developing new ideas or changing the way things are done, than they do for fulfilling the directions of others. They’re less likely to respond to an appeal to do things in a new way, since new ways pose risk.
  2. The primary goal of Implementor/ electors is to maintain their position; i.e., job security. NOTE: occasionally, you’ll find an Implementor who’s a Decision Influencer in training. They’re among the easiest prospects to sell, since they are easily accessible and will take new ideas forward to their superiors
  3. In almost all cases, the only reason Implementors are interested in the price their company pays for a service is because a Decision Maker/Influencer told them to buy that service at a lower price. They don’t really care if the company’s finances improve, because they rarely, if ever, share directly in those increases.
  4. Sales people often encounter Decision Makers/Influencers when they’re acting like Implementors/selectors.


When a Decision Maker/Influencer arrives at a conclusion as to how a particular problem should be solved, he/she often shifts roles and begins acting like an Implementor That is, once he/she decides what service is needed he/she begins shopping for the “best deal”. In most cases, the “best deal” is represented by the lowest price.


All the benefits of working with a Decision Maker/Influencer are lost when that person begins acting like an Implementor/selector Getting in contact with the Decision Maker/Influencer before he/she has decided what should be done is the most effective way of avoiding the problem.





Professional selling is actually understanding the prospect’s problems and using your services to solve them.


To be effective, a person selling your services has to be able to do lot of different things. However, some of these requisite abilities are more important than others. For a salesperson to be a consistently top performer, it’s important he/she maximize those skills that are most important to producing the greatest amount of high margin revenue.

  • The salesperson’s most important skill is nd his/her knowledge of the industry or even the your products or services.
  • It’s not his/her ability to make a good presentation of the features that highlight your product and/or services.
  • It’s not his/her ability to spar with the customer over objections to buying. The modern salesperson’s most important skill is his/her ability to ask good questions of the right people.






  • Good questions produce information that provides the salesperson with insight into those problems or concerns that are of the most importance to the prospect. Those problems vary depending of the job responsibilities of the person being interviewed.


  • The most lucrative sales are made when the salesperson is able to show the prospect how your company can resolve the prospect’s concerns in ways that produce economic gain the competition can’t match.






Whenever possible, initial contact and selling activity to Implementors should be avoided. Every attempt should be made to start with Decision Makers/Influencers. They offer the best chance to develop the perception of a differentiated service.


In those cases where it’s simply not possible to avoid selling to an Implementor, the following approaches will be helpful in securing a larger volume of business at the most acceptable price.


The salesperson’s first contact with the prospect occurs through the Needs Analysis Interview. (NAD)


Every contact with a prospect, not just the first, should contain a Needs Analysis Interview. During every contact with the prospect/customer, the salesperson should be attempting to uncover some information that will help expand and/or secure the amount of business done with the prospect/customer by continually suggesting new solutions to uncovered problems.


The fundamentals of asking questions.

Quite apart from any new information that may be gained, the questioning process is a very effective way for the salesperson to separate him/herself from less professional competitors, or to at least establish him/herself as knowledgeable and experienced.


  1. The questions themselves.

Most of the questions asked of Implementors must necessarily focus on aspects of the service itself, (design, operation, problems experienced with competitive brands, delivery of orders, prices, etc.) because this is the only type of information the Implementor has.


However, whenever possible, the salesperson show attempt to ask questions that uncover problems with the Implementor’s job, not with your, or your industry’s, services. As long as the prospect has several sources of supply, they really have no meaningful problems with service. At best, they might be experiencing a periodic difficulty, but those do not provide a sufficient base for substantial

sales development.


  1. The most effective questions.
  2. To be most effective, questions must be “open-ended; i.e., ones that can not be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Asking “yes-no” questions causes the salesperson to do too much talking. You want the prospect to be the one speaking most of the time during the


  1. Good open-ended questions should ask the Implementor to describe a situation, or give their opinion about something that bothers them or causes them difficulty. Questions that ask the Implementor whether something is or is not the case can, and will, be answered with a “yes” or “no”.


Obviously, there will be times when you will need some specific information (e.g. a number, a time frame, an amount) when only a direct question is appropriate. However, you should be prepared with another open ended question to ask immediately, so the respondent’s direct answer does not impede the flow of the questioning session.

  1. Avoid asking the Implementor to tell you how they would change things if they could.
  2. You’re assuming they know and understand the full range of possibilities that exist for changing things. They very rarely do.
  3. You’re asking them to be creative in developing solutions. That’s your job.
  4. If they tell you something they would like, you’re obligated to either provide the service, tell them why you can’t, or explain why your idea was better than theirs. All of these are tough to do.
  5. Questions that assume a large part of the answer generate less information than those that don’t assume so much. “How much have you budgeted for next year’s logistics costs?” assumes a logistics budget has been created. It may not exist; and if it doesn’t, providing one may be your most valuable service. “How are you planning to control the costs associated with next year’s distribution program? Will generate more important information.



Examples of the different types of questions for Implementers: (these questions were prepared assuming the company was in the distribution business.)






Open  Ended Closed
What is the full range of responsibilities? Do you handle the purchase of all logistics services?
How do the other people in the company coordinate their activities with yours? (a question to NEVER ask) Are you the decision maker on this project?
How do you define a good distribution service (or supplier)? Which distribution companies are you presently using?
What is it about the way distribution companies operate that causes the greatest concern for you? Would you want (a specific service) if it were available?
How would you change (service description if you could? What would you like us to offer that our competitors aren’t?
What procedure does your company use for determining if a new supplier should be used? How could we make our service better for you?
In what way do others in the company tell you how they feel about the distribution suppliers you use? Do you get feedback about the suppliers you’re using?
How are your concerns over service levels communicated to the distribution company? Do you have a way of rating the logistics services you buy?


Care should be given to the way questions are phrased. The proper choice of words can serve to flatter the respondent, while improper phrasing can demean his/her position and job.


Whenever possible, questions should be phrased so the respondent feels the interviewer thinks he/she works very hard and is more important than they actually might be. Many times, respondents will provide additional, unsolicited information in an attempt to live up to the image the interviewer has created for them.


How extensive is the distribution program you’re presently managing? With this question, the interviewer reflects he/she believes the respondent is actually in charge of a very large operation


How do your staff members assist in handling a program this extensive?


To where can you look for help in handling this program? How have you been able to develop a statistical analysis of a program as complex as this?


What occurrences are most damaging to your budget management procedures?

How do you balance your primary responsibilities with the added duties of managing finished good distribution?


III. Additional suggested questions that will uncover opportunities for selling services to Implementors.


When something does go wrong, how do you go about fixing it?


How is control maintained over this department’s budget? How do you deal with complaints about the suppliers you select?


How does the company support you in your job?


What is your preferred method for evaluating the quality of the suppliers you use?


  1. Questions related to the more technical aspects of services and/or supplier performance should be relegated to the end of the interview, and presented to the Implementor as “necessary”, but not the primary reason for the interview.


Getting to understand the Implementor’s problems should always be positioned as the primary reason for the interview.

  1. This approach positions you as more professional than the competitor who spent the whole interview talking about performance features, production materials, endorsements, etc.


  1. Provides an opportunity to further explore some of the Implementor’s personal discomfort with how he/she is being treated by your competitors and/or company administration.




The salesperson’s best chance of selling on the basis of a differentiated service, which is the only kind for which they can expect to receive a premium price or maintain a proprietary position with the customer, comes through contact with Decision Makers/Influencers.


Decision Makers/Influencers are more concerned with different things than are Implementors. Salespeople must, therefore, approach and deal with these people differently than they do the Implementors.


All initial contact with Decision Makers/Influencers should be attempted at the highest level. Beginning at the highest levels increases the salesperson’s opportunity to sell differentiated services that offer new solutions. It can avoid, to the greatest extent possible, getting trapped in a “quote” or “bid” situation relative to a pre-determined set of specifications such as those usually provided by the Implementor.


If the highest level Decision Maker/Influencer doesn’t want to deal with your services, they’ll recommend you contact someone on their staff who deals directly with what you’re selling. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll recommend you all the way to the Implementor level. You’ll most likely be recommended to someone on the Decision Maker/Influencer’s staff, which is an excellent level for the professional salesperson to be working.


Targeting the most productive prospects.


Every person who has a need for the services provided by your company is not a prospect right now. He/she may become a prospect later. The salesperson should spend his/her time working with only those who are prospects right now.


The challenge is to determine which companies within the total universe of suspects is actually a prospect, i.e., feels they have a problem you might be able to solve. The The only person with whom easiest way is to let them tell you!


Two of the more popular ways of making contact dealing is a Decision with new prospects is: a) call them on the phone Maker/Influencer who feels (the proverbial “cold call”), or b) send them a he/she has a problem your “sales letter” and then call them on the phone.

A letter as screening device.

An alternative to the standard “selling” sales letter use a non-traditional “prospecting” sales letter. It’s not used to secure an appointment per se, but as a first step in identifying those people who have concluded that your company might be able to help solve an existing problem.


This “screening” letter is intended to a) make a prospect aware that your company is available to help if the prospect thinks they might need such help, and b) provide an excuse for the salesperson’s making a more effective follow-up phone call.


Because the salesperson’s not trying to sell anyone anything, the wording of the letter intentionally conveys the message that the salesperson will not be making a “pitch” when he/she meets with the prospect.


This “screening” letter is intended to a) make a prospect aware that your company is available to help if the prospect thinks they might need such help, and b) provide an excuse for the salesperson’s making a more effective follow-up phone call.


Because the salesperson’s not trying to sell anyone anything, the wording of the letter intentionally conveys the message that the salesperson will not be making a “pitch” when he/she meets with the prospect. It’s important not to “sell” your services during initial encounters with Decision Makers. They don’t want to hear about what you do. They want to know how what you do is going to help them.


Getting an appointment with the Decision Maker/Influencer.


  1. Send the Decision Maker a short, non-threatening letter that holds out the promise of their receiving valuable, long term benefits if they will only meet with you.


  1. Avoid the appearance of wanting to make a sale. Decision Makers/Influencers don’t usually deal with “salespeople”. The Decision Maker/Influencer must be promised they’ll not be receiving a sales presentation when the salesperson first approaches them to arrange an interview. Make the promise through your method, not your words.
  2. At the close of the letter, promise to call the Decision Maker/Influencer in a few days to set up an appointment.
  3. Follow the letter with the phone call that’s been promised:


  1. When calling, the salesperson asks for the individual to whom the letter was addressed. You’ll most likely get a secretary.
Avoid being screened out by the Decision Maker/Influencer’s secretary by assuming a very professional tone on the telephone Hello. My name is “” I sent Mr. “” (the Decision maker) some information last week and I promised I would get back in touch. I am doing that now. Is he there, please.



  1. Many secretaries are not sure if the salesperson is calling on his/her own initiative or was asked to call by the boss. Rather than risk making a mistake, they’ll many times connect the salesperson with their boss.


Don’t plan on getting through 100% of the time. But if only 20% of the Decision Makers/influencers to whom you mailed agreed to an appointment, you’ll have a solid core of new business opportunities.


  1. Put those who resist the most ma follow-up file and go back to looking for the ones who feel they might have problems they’d like help in solving.


Asking questions of Decision Makers/Influencers


  1. Decision Makers/Influencers are more concerned about the overall growth of the business than the functioning of any one component. While Decision Makers/Influencers will rarely make an actual purchase on behalf of their companies.


  1. They more often make recommendations to Implementors that they “look into” a certain service or supplier to see if it’s right for the company.


  1. This kind of recommendation carries a lot of weight with the Implementor, and more times than not results in a sale of the suggested service.


  1. All questions asked of Decision Makers/Influencers during the interview must be concerned with the prospect’s business situation, not attitudes about distribution services and supplies.


  1. None should be asked about the company and its relationship to you or competitive suppliers, unless the answers pertain to the company’s business situation.
  2. It’s important that the salesperson know basic facts about the prospect before meeting with them. (i.e., type of products produced, areas of distribution, names of major competitors, any recent significant industry events reported th the press, etc.)

III. Much of the information gained from a Decision Maker/Influencer will not be relevant to selling your products andlor services.

  1. The purpose of the interview is to discover one or more potential problems for which you can offer a solution.
  2. Decision Makers (and Decision Influencers to a lesser degree) usually will not have much detailed information about specific problems with your


  1. Once you feel you’ve exhausted the Decision Maker/Influencer’s input into a subject, move on to another topic; or bring the interview to a close.


Suggested questions for Decision Makers/Influence?’. (These questions were written as if the company was in the distribution business.)


The purpose of the interview is to get the prospect talking about the company and how its business is progressing.


Warm up” questions (Help to start the interview easily, but also demonstrate very quickly that you are there to conduct business and not “chat”.) While you shouldn’t completely avoid the polite _______________________________ interactions traditional with making any new acquaintance, you should not dwell on these subjects.


(Any questions directed at physical changes of which you’re aware) I noticed your productivity?

What has been your experience in using third-party service organizations?

What are your plans for using third party suppliers in the future? Why do you feel that way?

How would expect a logistics service supplier to help improve your company’s productivity?

In what ways would a logistics service be of most value to you?


Looking for chances to improve the company’s competitive position

How would you describe your competitive situation? How would you rate this company in regard to its competition?

Which products or services contribute most to this company’s competitive standing?

How are you planning to strengthen your competitive position? What kinds of products or services are you considering offering? Why?

What changes will be necessary for you to offer those new products or services? (Here again, reserve questions about changes in distribution programs for later questions.)


What’s the most important ingredient in keeping customers happy with your products?

What are you doing to change (or “improve” or “maintain” depending on the response) that situation?

How does your method of distribution affect your competitive position? What are the strengths/weaknesses of your present distribution program?

What are you doing (to take advantage of the strengths, overcome the weaknesses, eliminate the weaknesses) of your present distribution system?


Making a “sale” at the end of the Needs Analysis interview.


  1. No selling of your company’s products or services must occur during the Need Analysis interview.
  2. Do not leave literature behind on the interview call if you can avoid it. Brochures should be designed to satisfy a prospect’s inquiry without giving away too much about what the company can do for the customer. The purpose of sending a brochure is to overt the door for an interview. not to sell the customer on buying from you.


  1. The salesperson should avoid even mentioning what your company does, except for a perfunctory introductory explanation. (“We’re one of the country’s leading logistics services company.) Most Decision Makers/Influencers don’t really want to know what you do when they ask. It’s their way of “warming up”. Give them a short, concise answer and move onto your interview.


  1. However, the sales person must secure a Second Appointment in which to present to the customer the recommended program. This is mandatory!








Using a sales proposal to develop the perception of differentiation.

  1. Putting your offer into written form gives it greater value than when it’s merely spoken … even if what’s written is not substantially different from what von were going to say. Targeting your written proposal directly to the individual customer’s needs adds greater value still.


  1. The recommended written form is the Sales Proposal.


  1. It follows a very specific format, so the gathering of informatioi~ becomes easier and more productive as more proposals are produced.


  1. Large parts of a proposal are generic, so they can be prepared in advance and modified only in those areas where the target customer has specific needs.


The Sales Proposal


  1. Section OneNeeds Recap – Recaps the information acquired during the Needs Analysis interview, and describes the prospect’s problems as you understand them. This is the most important part of the Proposal. If the customer agrees they have problems for which you have economically advantageous solutions, there’s very little reason they won’t buy your solutions. Get the needs right, and you’ve all but got the sale!


  1. Section TwoBenefits Received – Describes the economic rewards the prospect will receive when the identified problems are resolved by the program that’s going to be offered.


  1. Describe how much you “estimate” the customer will gain, (through either one or all of: lower costs, increased productivity, increased competitive standing) in specific dollar terms. It’s very hard for a Decision Maker/Influencer to reject the possibility of economic gain, since they’re ultimately in charge of producing it. You can even toss in a trial close, if you like.


  1. Once the prospect has agreed they’d like to have the Benefits, all the salesperson has to do is convince them that your company can deliver.


  1. Failing th explain Benefits is failing to explain why the prospect should be interested in doing business with your company.


III.                                                                      Section ThreeThe Program. Describes what your company is going to provide in the way of services, and the way in which they’re going to provide them to generate the savings/earnings being estimated in the Benefits section.


This section consists of two main sub-sections.


  1. Advantages Provided – Shows why you can solve the expressed needs better than what the customer is now buying/doing and/or what’s being offered by



  1. This is the second most critical part of the proposal, because it presents those things that differentiate your company from the competition.
  2. Rather than using sales materials and presentation skills to explain the Process your company goes through in delivering its services, offer to give the prospect the Results they want.


  1. If no real differences exist, the proposal must create a strong perception of difference by positioning the services you routinely provides as being specifically suited to the prospect’s individual needs.





B.A.F. Proposal

Benefits: Point out what your superior methods are going to do for the prospect. (This is what they want to buy)


Advantages:      Explain why the way your service functions is superior to the way competitors’ work. (If they want the Benefits, they have to have your Advantages, and only yours.)


Features: Describe how your service functions. (Prove that you can do what you promised.)




FAIR. Presentation

Features: Describe how your service functions.

Advantages: Explain why the way your service functions is superior to the way competitors’ work.


Benefits: Point out what your superior methods are going to do for the prospect.



  1. 4.                                                                   4. The prospect’s only arguments at this stage can be:


  1. Whether or not you can provide the Advantages promised.

(That concern is addressed in


the Features section of the _______________________________ proposal.


  1. Whether the Benefits provide enough of a value to justify the price you’ll be asking. (That concern is addressed in the Investment

section of the proposal.)


  1. Features – Describes why your company is able to provide the services that have been offered. Creates as much proprietary positioning as possible.


  1. This description of the Features (the Process) is used to prove to the prospect that you can fulfill the promises/guarantees (and, therefore, deliver the economic benefits) that have been made in the Proposal.


  1. The more effectively your proposal positions the Advantages, the less interest the prospect will have in exactly how you are going to deliver them.


  1. Section FourInvestment – Discusses the cost of your services in terms of the savings and/or return on investment (ROl) the prospect will enjoy from using them.



Net Savings
+      Gain in Gross Margin
=                   Total Gross Gain
–       Cost of Service or Amount of Premium paid to your company
=      Net Gain
/       Cost of Service or Amount of Premium paid your company
=      Return on Investment Percentage
  1. The return on investment is figured by calculating what savings and/or increased earnings the prospect is likely to realize because of your services and programs.


  1. Never discuss what you charge for your products or services merely in terms of dollars and cents. Commercial entities never “buy” anything in the same way end user consumers buy things. They invest company money in various services with a goal of realizing a return.


  1. The prospect should be made to first evaluate your proposal in terms of the savings generated or its percentage of return CR01) rather than the simple cost of the equipment being offered.


  1. This makes a direct cost comparison with a competitor not talking about savings/ROl more difficult; and an internal comparison to the prospect’s present costs easier.


  1. An ROl analysis compares the total cost of a doing business with your company to those same costs when using services offered by competitors, or provided by company personnel. Because of the many advantages you will be offering, the true total costs are reduced.


  1. Comparison is further complicated because the unique aspects of your program are contributing to a favorable level of return in ways that competitors not offering these features can’t demonstrate.


  1. The return on investment is figured by calculating what savings and/or increased earnings the prospect is likely to realize because of your services and programs.


  1. If you don’t know the exact figures for calculating a return, estimate them and permit the prospect to modify your figures during the course of the proposal presentation.
Cost/Gain Item Quantity/Rate Estimated Amount Actual Amount
Reassign 2 Warehouse Workers $13.50/hr $51,840
Reduce Inventory by 2% Average $500,000 in inventory @ cost $10,000
Generate .5% sales increase Region sales = $15 million at gross margin level $75,000
Total Gain $136,840

Use of a return on Investment Worksheet facilitates the prospect’s verifying your numbers with his/her own.


  1. Section Five – The signature page – All members of management, along with all those who will be involved with the prospect, sign the proposal indicating their commitment to fulfilling its promises.


Fundamentals of Economic Advantage Selling – Selling by the Numbers by Jack Harms