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Sales Solutions
The Complex Sale, Part 1I. The Final Three Components vol 1, issue #10
November 15, 2003

In our last Tip, we introduced a framework for selling products and services in complex environments. We identified five components that comprised the framework:

  1. Roles
  2. Types of Needs
  3. Dominant Buying Value
  4. Motivational Triggers
  5. Buying Style

We then discussed, as Part I, the first two steps of the framework. Today, in Part II, we cover the remaining three steps of the framework, and provide examples of ways to implement the entire framework. This framework for selling in complex sales situations will dramatically increase your success rate for closing business in such situations. Caution: Today’s Tip is a bit lengthy, so you may want to read this in two sittings — start with the final three components, then come back and read the Practical Application section.


Component Component 3 — Dominant Buying Value

People have one of two Dominant Buying Values when it comes to making purchase decisions — they value them either as opportunities to gain or to avoid loss. This value is determined by the kind of lens through which they to generally view such purchases, and is influenced by a myriad of factors in the individual’s life experience. Why an individual has one or the other dominant buying value is not important. What is important is determining which one it is. Because that dominant value dictates the tone of the broad strokes you as a seller must use to paint the picture of your prospect’s life with your solution — whether to use "desire-fulfillment" language or "risk-reduction" and "safety" language.


Component 4- Motivational Triggers

A fourth consideration for the seller is determining the individual buying influence’s motivational triggers. These are the criteria, the important factors - the benefits — he or she wants to derive from the purchase that he or she will weigh in determining which vendor to recommend. These triggers fall into the following categories:

  1. Money - Financial Gain by increasing revenue or cutting costs
  2. Performance - improved effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity; time saving
  3. Comfort/Convenience/Ease of Use
  4. Emotional Satisfaction — Approval, Prestige, Image, Pride, Power, Self-Esteem, Self-Actualization (growing, expressing oneself, learning new skills, making a contribution), Belonging, Acceptance; Security, Safety, Risk Avoidance (loss of money, property; prestige, respect; embarrassment, criticism, ridicule)

Component 5 – Buying Style

Buying Style refers to how the individual buying influence interacts with the seller. Is he or she

  • Short-winded or Talkative
  • Cautious and Analytical, or Impatient
  • Decisive or Indecisive
  • Authoritative and Controlling, or Yielding
  • Antagonistic or Relationship-oriented
  • Confrontational/negotiation-oriented, or accepting
  • Focused on Immediate or Future benefits

There are other styles, of course, but you get the idea.


Practical Application


OK, now that we have the theory, let’s see some practical examples you can use in your business.

1. Buying Roles

Once you’ve determined an individual’s functional role, what should you talk about when you’re sitting down one-on-one trying to sell him or her?


Functional Role Sample Benefit Statements
User "Here’s how our product will reduce the amount of time you have to spend on this task, freeing you up to do other things you enjoy."
Technical "Because our system integrates seamlessly into your network, you won’t have clients calling you incessantly with problems."
Financial "The projected return on investment is typically over 35%, well in excess of what you’d indicated is your hurdle rate."
Managerial "So you can see how our solution will streamline your processes and ensure that your staff is operating at peak efficiency, which will help your department’s performance stand out among all others."
Executive "An investment in our solution will position you well vs. your top two competitors, which will lead to increased market share and a higher share price for your stockholders."

2. Buyers’ Needs

Here are some questions you can use to determine an individual buying influence’s needs:

  • What are some of the business challenges your company is facing?
  • What are some of the challenges you personally are facing?
  • How does not addressing these challenges affect you personally?
  • What do you want out of a solution? What does the ideal solution look like?


3. and 4. Dominant Buying Value and Motivational Triggers

By asking the right questions, you can determine an individual buying influence’s Dominant Buying Value and Motivational Triggers simultaneously. Simply listen carefully to the answers to questions such as these

  • What do you want to happen as a result of bringing in a solution?
  • Tell me the best thing that’s ever happened to you
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • What does success look like?


Do the answers to these questions indicate a desire to gain or achieve something, or to avoid or reduce something? If they are the former, the individual’s dominant buying value is to gain - use language that speaks to achieving and succeeding. For example: "Think about how much more money your department will make by investing in our solution!" If the responses sound like, "I can’t afford to ever have the system go down!" the individual’s dominant buying value is to avoid loss or reduce risk. Language that connects with this individual might be, "Because of xyz feature, you’ll never lose a night’s sleep worrying about downtime. Wouldn’t that be great?" That statement will connect much better with this individual than, say, "Our prices are 30% less than our competition, and we average 87.6% uptime. What do you think?" You think offering a great price is the hook, but he’s hearing, "only 87.6%? I need 99.5%! What do I think? Forget these guys!"


Make sense? Sure it does. Just keep in mind that whichever dominant buying value you identify, be consistent in your responses.


5. Buying Style

An individual’s buying style is easy to determine if you’re adept at reading people. It’s pretty obvious if a person is belligerent, shy, cautious, or aggressive. No overanalyzing necessary here – go with your gut, and adapt your style accordingly. Is the person a nuts and bolts guy? Forget the fluff and get right down to business. Is she a talker? Keep quiet and listen, and make an occasional comment. Build rapport with her before getting into the business aspects of the meeting.


Action item:

Take the same two complex deals you used last time (you did do this exercise, did you not?). For each individual buying influence in each of your deals, assign a functional role, and determine a dominant buying value, buying style, and motivational trigger, or triggers (it may help to create a form, or a spreadsheet, to help you organize this information). Where you can’t fill in the blank, recontact each buying influence you feel needs to be re-sold and ask the questions you need to in order to be sure they’re on your side..

Let me know how this exercise works for you. If done properly, you should find yourself enlisting more allies and having fewer "enemies" at your prospective customers’ businesses, which in turn will lead to a higher closing ratio in complex selling situations – in other words, more sales!

Good Selling!






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