New Strategic Selling with Perspective – Sales Methodology Review and Best Fit Analysis


  • Miller Heiman's New Strategic Selling sets itself apart with its focus on four buyer roles. It is designed to identify each buying role and their stated rational and unstated emotional goals.
  • The Miller Heiman Blue Sheet is a one-page visual display of the seller's position, weaknesses and next steps. Red flags checker the Blue Sheet to identify gaps and suggest actions to improve the sellers competitive position.
  • This sales methodology is well suited for selling sophisticated and high dollar solutions over lengthy sales cycles to purchase committees.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Strategic Selling was developed in 1978 but didn't gain market acceptance until authors Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman of Miller Heiman Group released their book in 1985. It was an evolution from the first ever sales method called Professional Selling Skills (PSS) developed by Xerox in the late 1960s.

New Strategic Selling Review

Back in the day, Xerox PSS was recognized as the gold standard of sales training. The company eventually spun PSS into its own company called Learning International. The sales method would later be acquired by Achieve Global, and eventually by Miller Heiman. I guess good sales methodologies never die, they just evolve among sales training companies.

New Strategic Selling key principals include defining your strategy and supporting tactics. That includes getting an accurate assessment of your competitive position, navigating and connecting with the influential roles among the buyer committee, mitigating or repositioning weaknesses into strengths, continually assessing your buying influences desire for your solution, and structuring the deal for a mutual win. But these defining hallmarks are really pretty generic.

What Makes New Strategic Selling Unique

This sale methodology sets itself apart with its focus on buyer roles.

Failing to identify all buying roles and their stated rational (professional) and unstated emotional (personal) goals is one of the most common reasons for losing deals. To mitigate this, New Strategic Selling identifies four critical buyer roles to satisfy.

  1. Economic Buyer. This buyer role has the final say and approves the winning vendor. They often hold the budget and can override the buying committee.
  2. User Buyer. These buyers evaluate vendor solutions at an operational level. They assess how each vendor product will impact their work performance. They either use or manage the proposed solution, so their personal success is linked to the winning vendor.
  3. Technical Buyer. This role screens vendors and often creates vendor short lists to further assess. They may have responsibilities for technical or standards compliance. They cannot approve a vendor solution, but they can reject it. Technical buyers often reside in procurement, legal, finance or IT.
  4. Coach. This role is the seller's sounding board and advocate. The Coach believes in your product, trusts you and acts as a guide to navigate the company politics and decision-making process. They provide information that may otherwise not be available to the seller. They provide the most help when they have credibility with the rest of the buying committee. They act as a conduit to deliver the vendor's messaging or value proposition in internal meetings. Every seller needs at least one coach, preferably more.

This sales methodology continually assesses each buyer role and their disposition toward your proposal. Advancing your sales position requires each buyer role to recognize the discrepancy between their current state and your proposed future state. This positions buyer response modes into four categories.

  1. Growth – the buyer believes they need a solution to address their growth
  2. Trouble – like the prior, the buyer recognizes a discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be, but unlike the prior mode, they want a solution that will help them change course; Trouble trumps all other buyer response modes
  3. Even Keel (or confident) – the buyer does not see a discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be; they are satisfied with the status quo
  4. Over-confident – the buyer views their current reality as better than any change being pitched by vendors

Incurring Even Keel and Over-confident buyers should be part of the qualification and ongoing discovery process. For these buyer types, no problem leads to no decision.

A Blue Sheet, sometimes called a Strategic Analysis Worksheet, is the most iconic asset for this method. These one-page summary visually display the seller's position, weaknesses and next steps.

This document should be appended to the CRM sale opportunity record or be an online form that integrates with the CRM opportunity. There are packaged integrations available to embed Blue Sheets into popular CRM systems such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Red Flags are another unique component. They are positioned on the Blue Sheet next to areas of concern. They are very effective in identifying what you don't know about the sale opportunity and what you must do to increase your competitive position.

Common red flags include not knowing a buying roles stated or unstated goals or not having access to the Economic Buyer or any other buying role. Other red flags may include incurring Even Keel or Over-confident buyer roles, incurring a staff change among the buying committee, the introduction of an external consultant by the buyer, or the seller falsely believing they have all the information they need. Eliminating red flags is the path to sales success.

You might think the top producers have the fewest red flags. That's not the case. They usually have the most, at least in the beginning of the sales cycle, as they are candid in recognizing their blind spots.

When to Use New Strategic Selling

This sales methodology will appeal to salesforces seeking to improve their strategic analysis for accounts with buying committees and many decision makers. It's an effective approach for assessing the many buying roles, modes and motives.

Two areas where I find this method lacking when compared to other sales methods are process sequence and value proposition. This sales methodology is without a clear sequential approach. While this could be considered a strength, it's been my experience that most sales reps prefer some level of guidance. Also, most sales managers prefer a sales process that is easily repeatable.

I also find this methodology doesn't do a lot to position and promote a unique value proposition. Lastly, I find the methodology spends a lot of time promoting concepts that are not really methods, and frankly just obvious.

For example, this method includes instruction to not trick your buyer into a sale, strive to create win-win outcomes, and build long-term relationships that will lead to future sales. All important but so obvious and fundamental, they dilute the less obvious and impactful methods that elevate a salesforce.

Another interesting point, and in contrast to the Challenger Sale model review, new Strategic Selling promotes relationship building as a key to sales success. The Challenger Sale model and its research suggest relationships matter, but relationship-based sellers are the least effective among the five seller types.

The Miller Heiman method is somewhat popular among the Fortune 1000 and over one million salespeople have been trained in this method. I was first trained in this methodology in 1992 and became so enthralled with the framework and tools (especially the Blue Sheet) that I immediately went on to become an instructor. I'm convinced to this day that was a smart move.

See the Miller Heiman Strategic Selling review with strengths, weaknesses and recommendations where this sales methodology best fits.

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