Sales-Transactional vs. Strategic

We all hear it, but for those that don’t really understand the difference, the nuances of strategic selling overshadow the transactional aspect, but not so much that one can’t be strategic in a transactional sales opportunity.

Transactional selling is really about treating the product or service as a commodity image7rather than a strategic investment. We participate in transactional engagements on almost every trip to the grocery store, and we for the most part, don’t give it a second thought. But what would happen if that item was now a major piece in your way of life that required a substantial cash outlay? Exactly! Now look who has to “kick the tires” and really do some investigating! In addition, for you (the male) that are married, you also have to get the VP of Household Finance to sign-off on the purchase. You have just stepped into the world of strategic selling.

Very little value add is afforded a transactional sale and what exists is mainly in the form of immediate need/price matching. You have a [need] for 100 roles of paper; I have them for 50 cents [price] a roll. The reason for little or no value add is there are no non-standard business inputs (needs) that would require much more than the exchange of goods and cash. A salesperson would only need to uncover the need, establish a quasi-relationship, and fill that need for product or service. image2The biggest challenge in this short sales cycle window is for the salesperson to uncover the maximum price the buyer would pay, all the while the buyer is determining your lowest selling  price. The main characters in this off-Broadway play are usually the salesperson and the  procurement department.

The image below is a chart from Neil Rackham, the author of “Spin Selling”, a course I took and can recommend. Neil does have a newer book, “Rethinking the Salesforce” that teaches the same principles from his previous book. Although aimed at bigger sales organizations, it is highly effective for smaller groups that wish to grow their business in a volatile market as it addresses the technological changes that have occurred.

Click on chart for bigger picture….


Strategic, consultative, solution, complex, relationship, and even enterprise selling are pretty much the same term, and for the sake of this article are going to be treated as such.
Strategic selling is a long-term sell that typically takes 6 months or more. In some extreme cases, I have witnessed a 18 month sales cycle. In today’s environment, these are taking even longer and transactional sales are beginning to mimic the cycle times of typical strategic sales. Strategic selling is a systematic sell in that a formal process is undertaken on both the buying and selling side. A strategic sale is one that demands a ROI because it is usually a capital investment project. The dollar amount will vary according to what you sell and to whom, but my experience in enterprise sales the typical deals are $500k-$1M. With this dollar amount there is a lot at stake on both sides.

The complexity of a strategic sale involves many decision makers from the buying side and many reviewers from the selling side. This is the reason I wrote in a previous article about having a game plan, hence your effectiveness to manage a sale of this nature is compromised unless you have a formal process because of the complexities in this type of sale. The following are additional points that are just as important to remember.

  • Relationships with the customer is of the utmost importance
  • Solution sell to a customer’s perceived need
  • Your skills as a listener and your ability to formulate a workable solution will play a major role
  • Substantial time will be invested once the deal is qualified
  • Your skills as it relates to dealing with C-level executives are paramount. Know how to talk their talk

I hope this gives a better feel to what’s involved in either type of sales. Regardless, appropriate selling techniques have to be used in order to maximize your effectiveness for not only what you sell, but to whom you are selling. This short article does not cover the complete scope of strategic selling, which in itself could be many chapters.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and as always, I do appreciate and welcome your comments. Feel free to contact me should you have additional questions.

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Let the Customer Sell

Ever wonder how you could decrease your sales cycle and at the same time increase the probability of closure? I have a tip that might allow you to accomplish just that.

Forget about writing proposals that are haphazardly read, instead, engage the customer, and let him do the selling. I used this method when I sold software to a hospital in South Carolina. Here’s how I did it.

image1First, I called the customer and set the appointment, but at the same time made sure I had a fairly good understanding of their IT infrastructure. On the day of the meeting, I cut right to the chase, went straight to their white board and began drawing their system in block diagram. If you have ever given a technical presentation to a group of IT professionals, then you know to expect interruptions; and that is exactly what I got.

I was immediately challenged for the board marker, which I happily relinquished. After all, this was my goal, Customer involvement. The customer then began to draw the infrastructure and all I did was to inject where our equipment would reside and how the benefits would be overwhelmingly positive for what they were seeking to accomplish. This allowed me to engage the customer, make him part of building “his own solution” which gives a greater sense of value in the end.

The greater good here is the ability to show and engage a wider audience for buy-off and at the same time it uncovers holes in what would have been a flat presentation if delivered in the typical paper form. If your design is off target it allows you to adjust, showing the client you do understand and care about their business processes. This way, you don’t mandate change, you solicit support for change.

image2If this is shot down in committee or by finance, I guarantee this group will fight tooth-n-nail to get it approved. I have actually seen the customer make a better case for ROI than I ever could.

This method can work if you sell over the phone too. You just have to ask the customer to describe their current situation and then ask if you could email or fax what you have to make sure you understood their requirements. Bottom line, Get the customer involved!


Using this method in as many cases as possible will decrease the sales cycle time simply by taking the onus off the customer to read your proposal. Admit it, would you want to read it? Hope you are able to use this and if you are, let me and others know by posting your comments. Maybe you used something similar? Hey, we want to know that too!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Selling in Tough Times

I thought I would put my own spin on what I’ve experienced and in addition, what I currently see transpiring in today’s selling environment. Aimed mostly at sales management, I would like to share my thoughts from having been an active participant as both a sales professional and manager.

Selling in the toughest of economies can still be done, but it takes special leadership to navigate the waters. My career has taken me through broad as well as vertically tough times. The one element that must stand out is LEADERSHIP, not management. Given the events of the past 12-18 months, salespeople AND customers are more nervous than ever before. Now is the time to lead, not manage. Pressure is building on both sides of the selling/buying fence. Here’s what I suggest……

  • Don’t beat a dead horse– brow-beating the salesforce to make their numbers isn’t going to make it happen, rather, beating up on sales people will demoralize and damage their esteem and in the end won’t generate another $ of sales. It just poor management and shows zero leadership.
  • Turn the pressure down– Money is short and both the seller and buyer know it. Pressuring the customer with constant pinging will only result in resentment and anger towards you and your product. It also sets a precedent in future dealings; it shows your desperation. To counter, uncover additional pain points that show value for your product, then work to motivate the customer to buy.
  • Go back a few steps– In order to have a winning situation, you may need to revisit prior sales steps to uncover functionally better reasons to buy including the cost of delaying the purchase. Above all, you must have previously in the sales cycle built a mutually agreeable plan with the customer.
  • Climb the ladder– climb the corporate ladder for the funding. Upper management has, or can obtain the money, especially so in a down economy. If not, they know how to get it so your value proposition better be spot-on. Cultivate higher-level relationships, higher than you are now. When costs are trimmed, they are done at lower levels and if you are working at this level this might be why you are not selling!

The last thought an organization has right now is hiring; but it should be the first thing. NOW is the right time to hire. The market is full of very talented people and we all know GREAT salespeople are rare.

One last thought. Everyone naturally holds the sales organization responsible for revenue generation and even more so when times are tough. Sales knows what they have to do and how far they are out on the limb. –SUPPORT THE LIMB–

As always, Good, bad or indifferent, Contact Me and let me know your thoughts or better yet, post your comment here!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

5 Sales Tips to Practice Daily

Five different, but important tasks you can do Monday through Friday and watch how they begin to help.

  1. Stop the insanity– break the cycle and try something new everyday by Getting out of your comfort zone without losing control. Start small, and as your comfort level rises keep expanding outside of your comfort zone. Do something you have never done before or something not typical for you. It might take practice but that’s ok, just do it. Look for new ways of doing the same task like how you meet new customers…even take a different route to your car as you head home.
  2. Practice your value proposition– As you get ready for work, repeat the value proposition for your product line. Get it down to an mirrorart and make it as much your DNA as your skin. Try this… Look yourself in the mirror and convince “that person” your product is of value. If you cannot convince yourself, how are you going to convince a client?
  3. Stop being a salesperson– be the buyer for a change. What’s running through their head? What’s important to them? Do you know, or did you even ask? Your agenda does not translate into the customer’s agenda.  Recall when you were a buyer of a big ticket item. Did your priorities and agenda coincide with the salesperson? More likely they did not. Make your product a must have, not a nice to have.
  4. Become a psychic– Well maybe not really, but having the ability to read and understand a customer is invaluable. Study the art of psychicnon-verbal communications and use it to your advantage. It really does work. Practice using this in informal gatherings. It will also polish your observational skills. Most sales people regard this as  low priority to learn, yet it is high on their list of “wanna do’s.”
  5. Refocus your efforts– While this is may not be a daily activity, focus on the 20%-30% of customers that have the highest percentage of closing. This may mean taking a hard, honest look at your pipeline. This may also mean altering your strategy rather than waiting for the account review meetings to do it for you. At a minimum, refocus on your pipeline on a weekly basis.

As always, let me know if you find these of value.  Contact Me and let me know your thoughts.

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner