The New Conceptual Selling: The Face-to-Face Sales Method That Helps Leading Companies Stay on Top


Even in a world of cyber commerce, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. And if you're one of those men and women who make their living in this high-pressure, highly demanding environment, this new edition of Conceptual Selling will change the way you interact with customers and clients, and the way you conduct your business career. Book jacket.

The authors show you how to develop and use a specific buyer/seller communicatin that ...

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Even in a world of cyber commerce, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. And if you're one of those men and women who make their living in this high-pressure, highly demanding environment, this new edition of Conceptual Selling will change the way you interact with customers and clients, and the way you conduct your business career. Book jacket.

The authors show you how to develop and use a specific buyer/seller communicatin that leads to quality sales and to referrals and reorders.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446674492
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Edition description: Revised & Updated for the 21st Century
  • Edition number: 21
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen E. Heiman has worked in sales development for over thirty years. In the 1970s, as an IBM national account salesman, he increased sales by over 35 percent and was in the top 5 percent for total sales and percentage quota. He continued his success at Kepner-Tregoe as director of marketing and at North American Van Lines where, in four years as executive vice president, he increased sales and profits by 36 percent. In 1978 he joined partner Robert B. Miller in the company that became Miller Heiman Inc. Heiman retired in 1988 as MHI president and CEO; he continues to serve as the company's chairman of the board.

Diane Sanchez began her selling career in 1970 as a field representative for Savin Business Machines. In 1973 she joined the Scholl Corporation, where she developed sales coaching skills and managed promotional programs for the sales force. In 1979, as vice president of marketing for newly formed Miller Heiman Inc., she developed a telemarketing and direct mail system that she implemented there and, in the 1980s, in her own consulting practice. She rejoined Miller Heiman as president and CEO in 1988, when its annual revenues were just over $2 million; in the tenth year of her presidency, that figure is expected to surpass $20 million.

Tad Tuleja, Miller Heiman Inc.'s staff writer, has cowritten five MHI books, including the original Strategic Selling. Among his nearly thirty other books is Beyond the Bottom Line, a study of business ethics. From 1987 to 1991 he directed the School of Management writing program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has just completed a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Why Your Customers Really Buy

This is a book that shows you how to stop selling.

This may not strike you as exactly what you had in mind when you picked up a book with selling in its title. But if you're a sales professional, it's almost certainly what you need. Why? Because we are, right now, experiencing a shift in customer consciousness that is dramatically redefining everything we know about selling and fundamentally altering the rules of this ancient profession. To survive in sales today, you've got to junk the old rules and take a 180-degree turn on what you do when you "sell."

For centuries, sales success was an outgrowth of product knowledge. The great salesperson was someone who so thoroughly understood his product (or service) that he could persuade a person who didn't know anything about it—the ignorant buyer—that it could solve a problem the buyer didn't even know she had. In traditional selling, product knowledge was a magic elixir. Coupled with glibness—allegedly the sales profession's unique contribution to human interaction—it could turn the most recalcitrant buyer into a willing victim by enabling the salesperson to "sell" her whether she wanted to buy or not. Hence the ultimate salesman cliche: "He could sell iceboxes to Eskimos."

When we say this book will show you how to stop selling, this is the kind of selling we have in mind. Call it "the art of persuasion" or "the snake oil method" or "hucksterism" or just plain "traditional selling." By any name, it's selling according to old rules—rules that are becoming as obsolete as snake oil itself. That's why the rules in this book are decidedly nontraditional.

If the old rules said you've got to "talk it up" until your prospect "bites," the new rules say you've got to start by listening to the prospect. This doesn't mean your product or service is unimportant. It means it is secondary to the customer's perception—not of you, or of your product, but of his own situation. We refer to that perception as the customer's Concept, and attending to the customer's Concept is the very foundation of a philosophy that might be referred to as No-Sell Selling.

For a quick fix on No-Sell Selling, consider this story.

No Dogs, No Ponies

A few years ago a major manufacturer was experiencing problems with the food service company that was managing its employee cafeterias and went shopping for a replacement. On orders from senior management, the vice-president for operations invited the incumbent's four major competitors to the manufacturer's Chicago headquarters. Each candidate would have ninety minutes to present its case to a selection committee composed of finance, operations, and employee service managers. The presentation date was one month away.

Because this multiple-site food service contract was worth several million dollars a year, all four of the invited companies expressed strong interest. Their sales managers designated top people to handle the new-account presentation and made it clear that their pitches had better be perfect. The four individuals who were chosen—all first-rate, experienced professionals—understood that this would be one of the most important sales calls they would ever make. So they spared no effort in preparing.

But they didn't all prepare in the same way.

Three of the four went the sales rep's time-honored route. They crammed their heads full of product and service specs and burned the midnight oil memorizing their companies' capabilities. They reviewed the presentation techniques that had worked for them over the years and prepared perfectly timed, brilliantly written pitches that made their service packages look like offers no sane person could refuse.

The pitches all had catchy openings (for establishing "rapport"), plenty of arguments and counterarguments (for deflecting the inevitable objections), and a copious supply of trial closes. Not to mention the usual supporting material: Among the three of them, these candidates had put together enough spreadsheets, statistical abstracts, overheads, diagrams, and colored slides to keep a congressional committee in session for a year. For the three of them, it was going to be the battle of the dog-and-pony shows.

The circus metaphor is appropriate because the idea behind such sales pitches is the same one behind big top performances. You are the ringmaster in charge of the show, and your job is to keep the action moving—to fend off boredom by engaging the spectators' attention at all times. Trot out enough dancing dogs and prancing ponies, and the customer will be so dazzled by your staging that the ink will dry on her check before she knows what hit her.

The rep sent in by the fourth candidate—we'll call him Gene—didn't buy this traditional wisdom. A few months before the manufacturer sent out its invitations, Gene had attended one of our two-day programs on Conceptual Selling. In those two days we had taught him a method for managing his face-to-face sales calls that reversed everything he had done in presentations before—and that went to the heart of the issue posed by the title of this chapter: why people really buy. We'll be talking throughout this book about why people buy and demonstrating how understanding your customers' decision-making process makes you a much more effective sales professional than even the most dazzling practitioners of the dog-and-pony method.

The first step in understanding that process is to remember a seemingly simple message we gave Gene:

People buy for their own reasons, not for yours.

The message is crucial because until you know your customers' reasons for wanting—or not wanting—to buy, you're selling with blinders on. No matter how many reasons you may have for believing your product or service is a great buy, they will mean nothing unless each individual customer has solid reasons of his own for wanting to do business with you.

As difficult as it can be to discover those reasons, sales success depends on doing just that—and on staying in touch with each customer's reasons when they change (as they often do) from one sales call to another. In this era of accelerated change, when even your longtime customers face new problems every day that can radically alter the way they see your product or service, taking a customer's views for granted, even for a minute, can spell disaster for even the most "secure" account. That's just what had happened in the Chicago account: The incumbent was on the way out because he had failed to keep on top of the manufacturer's changing perception of their service needs.

Solid business begins and ends with the customer: with his or her needs, problems, and range of reasons for buying...

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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Introduction: Two People Speaking 1
Special Thanks from the Authors 9
Part I "No Sell" Selling
Chapter 1 Why Your Customers Really Buy 19
Chapter 2 How Your Customers Make Buying Decisions 36
Chapter 3 What We're Striving for: Win-Win 48
Chapter 4 Life Beyond the Product Pitch 72
Part II Getting Started: Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Make the Call
Chapter 5 Why Am I Here? 103
Chapter 6 What Do I Want the Customer to Do? 111
Chapter 7 Why Should the Customer See Me? 134
Chapter 8 Do I Have Credibility? 155
Part III The Sales Call: Getting Information
Chapter 9 Learning to Listen 181
Chapter 10 The Five Question Types 195
Chapter 11 Establishing Superb Communication 223
Part IV The Sales Call: Giving Information
Chapter 12 The Importance of Differentiation 241
Chapter 13 Using the Joint Venture Approach 257
Part V The Sales Call: Getting Commitment
Chapter 14 Beyond the Chumming Exercise 281
Chapter 15 Don't Call Them Objections 295
Part VI Assessment: Zero Hour--and Beyond
Chapter 16 Pre-Call Planning and Rehearsal 317
Chapter 17 Assessing the Call 331
Chapter 18 Selling Beyond the Close 343
The Questioning Process Revisited: Continuing the Dialogue with Our Customers 347
Index 365
About Miller Heiman, Inc. 372
About the Authors 373
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