The Best Book on the Fundamentals of Selling

I’ve asked many VPs of Sales the same question. Which is the best book on the fundamentals of selling? Almost unequivocally, they respond, “Miller-Heiman.” The New Strategic Selling is an updated version of the original Strategic Selling, which was published in 1988, and describes the key activities of successful sales people. I resonated with two concepts in the book: the 4 Seller Response Modes and the authors’ recommendations on how to prioritize a salesperson’s time.

The 4 Seller Modes classify the prospect’s state of mind. This is important because, “Anytime you’re asking someone to buy something, you’re asking them to make a change.” Determining the prospect’s mindset helps a salesperson determine if the prospect is ready to make a change, or not; and how to respond. To convert a prospect to a buyer, a salesperson must establish the discrepancy between the prospect’s current state and their ideal state; and establish that the salesperson’s product will resolve it.

Growth mode prospects recognize the gap between where they find themselves and their ideal. They are driven by the desire to do more and ready to buy. Troubled buyers fear the current situation and search for a solution to their perceived or real problems. Even-keeled prospects don’t perceive a problem. They are very difficult to sell to. The same is true of Overconfident prospects who don’t believe or see an issue in their state of affairs. No discrepancy, no sale. These 4 Seller Modes provide a succinct categorization of prospects.

Moving onto sales time prioritization, Miller and Heiman recommend prioritizing efforts in an unusual pattern.

  1. Closing work on the highest quality leads
  2. Prospect new leads
  3. Qualify existing leads
  4. Move the existing leads through the funnel

To rank prospecting as the second most important activity seemed counterintuitive to me. I would have thought moving backwards up through the funnel would have been the optimal. But the authors submit that building the top of the funnel is more important than moving other leads through the funnel. This order maximizes consistency of leads in the funnel and leads to more predictable pipeline and income for the sales person. I’m curious how modern account executives manage their time. If you have a point of view, please send me a comment using the chat box at tomtunguz.com.

Overall, Strategic Selling is a very mechanized approach to selling effectively. I haven’t touched on other frameworks introduced in the book including the four buying influences, territory management or other key sales books. The book is a comprehensive guide to the processes and frameworks for maximizing sales success.

Published 2017-07-09 in Sales 


I am partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

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