Strategic Selling

What is Strategic Selling?

Strategic Selling is a comprehensive, buyer-focused sales framework designed to navigate complex B2B sales environments. Unlike traditional selling, it focuses on building and maintaining long-term relationships rather than the product and its features. It was first introduced by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman in their book “The New Strategic Selling.”

The core idea of Strategic Selling is to focus on building mutually beneficial relationships with multiple decision-makers within a potential customer’s organization, rather than concentrating on just one contact. This approach helps sales teams identify and engage stakeholders on an individual level, tailor strategies to their needs, and craft more effective sales pitches.


  • The Miller Heiman Sales Process

The Four Roles in Strategic Selling

The strategic selling framework is built around understanding the different roles within a prospective client’s organization:

  • The economic buyer (who has the final say in financial decisions)
  • The user buyer (the end users of the product or service)
  • The technical buyer (who evaluates the technical aspects)
  • The coach (who guides and supports the sales process from within the client’s organization).

By categorizing these contacts and understanding their unique perspectives, sales professionals can tailor their approach to each stakeholder more effectively.

Economic buyers

Economic buyers are those who have the power to make financial decisions within an organization. They sign off on the purchase, are often the most challenging to engage with, and will spend the least time with your sales team.

Typically, the economic buyer is a member (or members) of the executive branch or C-suite, such as a CFO, CRO, CTO, or CEO. They’re primarily concerned with how a purchase will affect the company’s bottom line and make decisions based on the long-term benefits and risks associated with the deal.

Your economic buyer will evaluate…

  • Financial implications, such as cost savings
  • Revenue generation potential
  • Overall value the product or service brings to their organization
  • Alignment with high-level company objectives

Their approval is essential for a sale to proceed, but they probably won’t be directly involved in the day-to-day use of the product. That’s why, particularly in larger companies, a smart economic buyer will leave the core decisions to other influencers while they handle financial vetting and sign-off.

Answer this question for economic buyers: “What are the potential risks and ROI for this purchase, based on our company’s objectives?”

User buyers

User buyers are the ones your product directly influences. They’re the ones who will reap the benefits (or face the consequences) of its purchase and subsequent use.

They want to know about:

  • Usability
  • Safety
  • Time-saving benefits
  • Efficiency
  • How the product will make their jobs easier/better

While you want to get your economic buyer on board, you’ll never get to them in the first place if your user buyers say the product isn’t right for them. Earlier on in the sales process, understanding user buyers’ needs, pain points, and how the product fits into their workflow is 100% essential.

Answer this question for user buyers: “How will this tool make my job easier, more efficient, or more enjoyable?”

Technical buyers

Technical buyers evaluate the technical aspects of your product or service. They’re normally members of the engineering, IT, legal, or finance team. They’re experts who assess its compatibility with existing systems and processes.

They prioritize:

  • Integration capabilities
  • Ease of implementation
  • Technical support and training options
  • Scalability and future-proofing potential
  • Others’ reviews of your product

Technical buyers think in black and white. They have a checklist they go down, and if your product ticks all the boxes, you’re in. If it can’t meet certain (sometimes rigid) requirements, no amount of persuasion will change their minds.

Answer this question for technical buyers: “How is this product feasible, given our current systems and processes?”


If you’re at all familiar with the MEDDIC sales methodology, you might know this member of the buying group as the “Champion.” The coach is someone within the prospective client’s organization who supports your sales efforts.

They will:

  • Be your go-to contact within the company you’re targeting
  • Provide insider knowledge about decision-making processes
  • Put in a good word for you and build relationships with other stakeholders
  • Act as an internal advocate for your product or service

Coaches are also instrumental in helping you gain access to higher-level decision-makers and connecting with other influencers within the organization. They can provide insight on how to adjust your sales pitch and strategies based on their company culture, values, and current pain points.

Answer this question for coaches: “How can we work together to ensure a successful sales process, and how can I best support you in advocating for our product?”

The Strategic Selling Framework

Like other sales methodologies, Strategic Selling consists of a series of steps that guide sales reps through the entire sales process. These steps are designed to help sellers:

  • Identify potential buyers
  • Understand their needs and motivations
  • Develop a tailored and actionable sales strategy
  • Position their product or service as the solution to the buyer’s problem
  • Close the deal

Let’s take a look at the five steps you can take to get started on your Strategic Selling journey:

1. Identify and prioritize your target buyers.

It all starts with your ideal customer profile (ICP). Since Strategic Selling is quite a long process, spending time finding prospects who fit your ICP is crucial.

When building your ICP, take into account:

  • Determine your core customer attributes (location, annual revenue, team size, etc.)
  • Make a list of your strongest customers
  • Find common characteristics among them
  • Figure out the problems they’re trying to solve
  • Document everything — firmographics, goals, challenges, reason to purchase, decision-maker characteristics

Do this for all your different types of valuable customers (guaranteed you have more than one). Then, create a scoring system to prioritize your leads based on how closely they match it.

2. Segment buyers based on their role and level of influence.

Identifying your customers isn’t enough for this sales approach. The typical B2B sale involves six to 10 decision-makers, each with their own roles, concerns, and levels of influence.

First, segment members of the buying group based on their role — Economic Buyer, User Buyer, Technical Buyer, and Coach. From there, map out the following criteria for each buyer:

  • Decision-making capacity
  • Influence over the decision
  • Where they appear in the buying process
  • Blockers and inhibitors for each of them

Since you already have an idea of what each buyer is looking for (e.g., the user buyer cares about the product’s usability), mapping out the buying process ahead of time will help you prepare for when and where you’ll need to address their concerns.

3. Determine each buyer’s attitude.

In Miller Heiman Strategic Selling, there are four main attitudes a buyer can have:

  • Growth — The buyer actively wants to change their internal status quo to grow efficiently. They’re ready to hear you out, but they definitely will be comparing multiple options (competition is high). They want to see your product’s growth potential — more leads, more sales, etc.
  • Problem — Buyers know there’s an issue with their current way of doing things, but they’re not frustrated like a growth buyer. They’re open to exploring, but might not be actively looking (competition is relatively low). They want to see problem-solving capacity — better employee or customer experience, fewer errors, less manual work.
  • “Everything is fine.” — In sales onboarding, this is the buyer you probably practiced on. They don’t see a particular issue with the current state of things, which lowers both their motivation and purchase opportunity. You have to show them what they risk by sticking to the status quo, or an alternate scenario your product can bring to life (e.g., 2x conversions).
  • Euphoria — These guys are the hardest to get on board because they’re actively excited about their current solution (whether that’s due to ignorance, overconfidence, or genuine satisfaction). They might even feel change is detrimental to their business. Challenge their perception of reality — maybe their current solution isn’t scalable, or the market is evolving.

The tricky part here is that most buying groups will include some or all of the above. Especially if you’re selling to larger companies with older C-level execs and young professionals (users), you’ll face a combination of attitudes and motivations.

Part of navigating B2B sales is learning how to identify and adapt to each buyer’s attitude. Your coach will help you with some of the convincing, but it’s up to you to understand what makes each decision-maker tick and communicate value effectively.

4. Spot the red flags.

A red flag is an indicator of a possible hurdle between the current scenario and Closed Won. It could be anything that might jeopardize the sale.

A few examples:

  • New employees (think: new influencers)
  • Unidentified buying influencers
  • Reorganization or realignment
  • Lack of budget information (or the existence of an unstated one)
  • Merger, acquisition, or funding

It’s the sales rep’s job to identify the red flags during initial research and keep an eye out throughout the rest of the sales process. Then, use your coach and other contacts to mitigate or eliminate these potential hurdles.

5. Create a win-win situation.

Buyers won’t be quick to trust sales reps when they can smell their commission breath. And they can smell it from a mile away.

On the contrary, 88% of B2B leads say they make a purchase when they see the seller as a “trusted advisor.”

The constant competition (plus, of course, monetary incentives) sometimes makes salespeople forget the most essential truth:

  • This isn’t a war
  • The prospect isn’t the enemy

Your customer retention and lifetime value will absolutely tank if you prioritize closing over creating value for your prospects. Closing customers on products they don’t need is also bad for your reputation.

When the seller wins (closes deals and earns more), the buyer should also win (get a product they can actually use and benefit from). That’s why solution selling is a core principle of Miller Heiman Strategic Selling.

Strategic Selling Techniques

Within strategic selling, there are a number of techniques you can use to execute the abovementioned framework.

Here’s a closer look at them:

Blue Sheet Analysis

Originally, the Blue Sheet was a physical document, its name stemming from the blue-colored paper it was printed on due to a lack of white paper at the time of its creation. Today, you can integrate i into your CRM or fill it in electronically.

The Blue Sheet prompts sales reps to define a clear sales objective that benefits both them and their buyer (the win-win). They also use it to map out the four buying influencers within the client’s organization (economic buyers, user buyers, technical buyers, and coaches) and pinpoint red flags.

Throughout the sales process, your reps will update the Blue Sheet as they gather more information or as it changes. For instance, it would reflect a reorganization or budget reallocation in the middle of the sale.

Action Plan

The Action Plan helps sellers map out the steps required to advance a sales opportunity. It encompasses:

  • Specific actions
  • Timelines
  • Sales rep responsibilities
  • Customer responsibilities

The Action Plan is also a place to document how each sales call or meeting moves the opportunity forward, what the next steps are (and when they should happen), and which resources will be required.

The Strategic Selling Funnel

In the Miller Heiman Sales Process, we can divide the sales funnel into a three-level process.

  • Level One — The seller reaches out to the purchase influencers and reviews all the provided information. They eliminate anything that isn’t pertinent to the sales process.
  • Level Two — This is where they categorize influencers based on their attitudes, organizational roles, and levels of influence. They’ll also look for red flags and start developing a personalized Action Plan tailored to the prospect in question.
  • Level Three — At this point, you should have documented several strategies. Here’ you’ll narrow them down to the ones that are more likely to succeed. Eliminate those with a low probability of success.

Conceptual Selling

Conceptual Selling, as part of Miller Heiman’s suite of sales methodologies, focuses on the importance of understanding the buyer’s concept of a solution rather than just selling a product or service.

It emphasizes the need for sales professionals to tailor their value propositions to address different roles’ unique needs and situations within a client’s organization. The goal is to move beyond a one-size-fits-all pitch, ensuring that sales strategies are customized and client-focused.

Win Results

Miller Heiman Strategic Selling encourages salespeople to prioritize the desired outcomes or “Win Results” their customers aim for. The premise is simple: companies can see results, but only people can win.

Essentially, strategic sellers have to consider (a) how the purchasing organization will benefit from your product and, more importantly, (b) how key buying influencers will personally benefit from selecting you.

No Decision

The “No Decision” is exactly what it sounds like — when a prospect decides not to make a purchase, despite your best efforts. Miller Heiman recognizes that, after months of moving a prospect through the deal cycle, your biggest competitor might be “taking no action whatsoever.”

  • Buyer disengagement
  • Cold feet
  • A lack of urgency

These are some of the reasons a “No Decision” might occur. The seller can avoid this by identifying and addressing potential red flags early in the process, continuously reinforce the risks of sticking with the status quo, and use a sales engagement platform to enhance the buying experience.

Benefits of Strategic Selling

Done correctly, Strategic Selling helps you win more business.

Since it’s a repeatable sales process focused on building relationships with different members of the buyer’s organization, it can help your sales team personalize interactions in each sale and establish strong relationships throughout the whole company (instead of just one contact).

For the buyer, engaging with a sales rep whose interest is in delivering a product that benefits them and improves their lives is a breath of fresh air. If they really can become more efficient, make more money, improve team engagement, or grow their company, they’ll appreciate the seller’s effort in providing the right solution.

The Role of Data in Strategic Selling

Strategic Selling relies heavily on data to guide the sales process. Businesses use a combination of customer data, sales enablement tools, and sales AI to execute the process.

  • More effective lead generation
  • Lead scoring
  • Pricing strategies for complex contracts
  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Matching sales talent with new deals
  • Personalizing customer interactions
  • Analyzing sales performance

It’s also worth mentioning that insights from each particular sale can also help you optimize the process. If you’re struggling to convert leads into closed deals after implementing Strategic Selling, look into your sales reps’ selling techniques.

Are they identifying red flags? Do they effectively get buyers’ motivations and pain points out of them? Do they spend too much time with euphoric buyers?

There are lots of hidden signals (like keywords, phrases, tonality, and body language) that can reveal the health of a sales opportunity.

Examples of Strategic Selling

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing

When HubSpot successfully launched a new category of sales known as “Inbound Marketing,” it exemplified Strategic Selling to a tee. By emphasizing permission-based marketing rather than interruptive methods like cold calling and spam emails, this powerful concept shifted the focus from marketer-centric to customer-centric strategies.

In a world where sales-marketing alignment is more important than ever, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing strategy is the perfect example of how to apply elements of Strategic Selling sales methodology to the now-more-integrated marketing and sales functions.

Close CRM

Another example comes from James Urie, Sr. Partnerships Manager at Close, who describes his experience with consultative selling firsthand. When transitioning his garage into an office, he bought a heating and cooling system and hired an electrician for installation.

After evaluating the situation, the electrician honestly advised James that the chosen system wouldn’t meet his needs effectively. Instead of making a sale that wouldn’t solve the problem, the electrician recommended a more suitable solution, demonstrating a genuine interest in addressing the customer’s needs rather than just closing a sale.

This approach built trust and highlighted the importance of solving the customer’s problem effectively, even if it meant losing a sale​​.

People Also Ask

Why is strategic selling effective for B2B sales?

Strategic Selling is effective for B2B sales teams because it shifts the emphasis from selling a product or service to addressing the buyer’s specific needs and goals. It also prioritizes individual relationships with different influencers and members of the buying group, which leads to more successful sales outcomes.

How do you write a strategic sales plan?

To write a strategic sales plan, start by identifying your target market, understanding their needs, and mapping the buying process. Define your value proposition and how it relates to the buyer. Then, outline each funnel stage, determine the required resources for success, and establish clear implementation goals and timelines.