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If It Ain't Broke: The "Why" Behind the New Strategic SellingStrategic Selling was first published in 1985. At that time, even though the process on which the book was based had been in place for only about eight years, it had already begun to reap significant benefits both for our company, Miller Heiman, Inc., and for the clients who attended our Strategic Selling workshops and programs. In 1985, many of corporate America's most successful selling organizations had already begun to see us as the "process experts," and we had earned the trust of such innovative market leaders as HewlettPackard, Marriott, General Electric, Hallmark, and CocaCola.
As we explained in the introduction to the original edition, we attributed much of our success with these and other forward looking companies to our impassioned support of a nonmanipulative selling philosophy that was the driving force of the Strategic Selling approach. That philosophy was based on the premise that getting an individual order is never enough: True selling success rests on such "beyond the order" achievements as repeat business, solid referrals, and long-term relationships. The key to securing them, we insisted, is to manage every sales objective as a joint venturea mutually beneficial transaction where both buyer and seller "Win."
In 1985, the notion of selling as a "Win-Win" process--indeed, the notion of selling as a process at all-was still a novel approach to the profession. Even among companies who invested heavily in sales training, what was being taught was face-time skills and techniques-the traditional salesperson's grab-bag of hooks, lines, and clinchers. Manipulative tactics were stillvery much in vogue, and Miller Heiman was nearly unique among consultants in insisting that this timeworn approach-the old "Get the order any way you can" approach-was ultimately a way of shooting yourself in the foot. Twelve years ago, if you talked about "serving your customer's interests as well as your own," many salespeople still considered you unrealistic. Everybody paid lip service to customer need, but out in the trenches, according to the given wisdom of the 1980s, it was still numbers, and orders, and hardball, that brought you success. There was something anomalous-some even said revolutionary-in the customer-oriented process of Strategic Selling.
There was also something in it that was eminently practical-so practical that our clients, who were already sales leaders, realized that it was a way to make themselves even better. As "unrealistic" as traditionally trained salespeople might have considered our Win-Win approach, the incontrovertible fact was that it worked. The proof of that could be seen in our clients' financials, which regularly reported major venue gains that could be traced directly to the implementation of our processes. It could be seen in the literally hundreds of success stories about how a "hopelessly confusing" account had begun to yield solid business once the sales team wrote a Miller Heiman-inspired action plan. As those stories poured in, and as our clients confirmed the contribution we were making, we were gratified to see that we had earned a reputation, in the words of one divisional manager, as "the people who brought process into selling."
It was process, to be sure, that lay at the heart of our success, and that was the case whatever in-house terminology our clients used. At Price Waterhouse, for example, our systematic approach is called a "methodology." At Coca-Cola, the preferred term is "technologies." Many of our other clients have adopted our language directly, speaking comfortably and naturally about Buying Influences and Win-Results. Whatever the terms, the point is the same. The systematic approach that we pioneered has fostered a quiet revolution among the nation's sales leaders.
We profited from that revolution as much as anyone. In a sense, by the time the first edition of this book went to press, we had already become our own best advertisement. By running our own business on Strategic Selling principles, we were increasing our revenues dramatically, year after year. Today, while countless companies are wrestling the downsizing dragon, Miller Heiman-like most of our clients-is still on a roll. Over the past five years, for example, we have increased our annual revenues by an average of 25 to 30 percent a year, tripled the staff in our corporate headquarters, and established offices from the United Kingdom and Brazil to Australia. Working with a sales force that has quadrupled in a decade-not to mention hundreds of valued client associates-we have introduced over 150,000 sales professionals to one or more Miller Heiman processes, and we continue to serve roughly 25,000 new ones every year.
All of this has occurred, moreover, during a period of tremendous international turmoil, of dramatic fluctuations in government policies, and of a bewildering "complexification" in selling itself. The world of sales has gone through a thousand major changes, but the processes we teach have been equal to the challenge. They're still relevant, they still work, and they're still improving the revenues of those who employ them. Books on selling "techniques" come and go. Strategic Selling, like the Energizer bunny, "just keeps on going."
Since so much of our success has been based on Strategic Selling-both the process and the book-you might question the rationale for this new edition. Why make adjustments to something that's already working so effectively? Or, to rephrase the old business adage, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" It's a very reasonable question, and it has two answers.
The first is that our clients asked us to. Even though they found Strategic Selling to be just as effective, and the concepts just as relevant, as they had been in 1985, some of them felt that, after a dozen years, even the best of processes could use a face-lift. Some of the book's examples, they pointed out, seemed a little dated for the 1990s, and they might not be connecting as well as we wanted them to with sales forces who were increasingly geared toward the future.
When we described how rapid changes can generate "future shock," for example, we illustrated the point by referring to the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. That pivotal event was still a vivid memory in 1985, but as the 1990s wane and the millennium looms, that's no longer true. "Many of the young lions who sell for us today," a district manager told us recently, "were still making mud pies when the oil crackdown happened If you want to connect with them, you need fresh stories." Because we take such constructive criticism seriously, we've tried to give this new book a more contemporary feeling, so it could achieve an effective fusion of the timeless and the timely.
The second reason we revised Strategic Selling relates to a basic axiom of the process itself. "Whatever got you where you are today is no longer sufficient to keep you there:' We had been telling our clients that since 1977, and last year after considerable exhortation from both clients and colleagues-we finally decided to apply this axiom to ourselves, and to undertake a thorough rethinking of the program that had "got us there." In consultation with our expert field force, therefore, we went through Strategic Selling with a fine-tooth comb, sharpening and enhancing it line by line so that the resulting text would be even more real-world and useful than the original text had been for more than a decade.
Some of the changes we made were chiefly cosmetic-the illustrations, for example, have all been redrawn to give the book a more user-friendly appearance. But most of our changes were on a more substantive level. As we fiddled with this manuscript that wasn't really broken, we weren't content just to slap on some chrome and new paint. We wanted to improve the efficiency of the engine itself, to make the thousand and one minor adjustments that would ensure that the analytical tools we were offering our clients were just as sharp and powerful as they possibly could be...