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 rather 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. The biggest challenge in this short sales cycle window is for the salesperson to uncover theÂ maximum price the buyer would pay, all the while the buyer is determining your lowest sellingÂ price. The main characters in this off-Broadway play are usually the salesperson and theÂ 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.