How Do We Broaden Our Thinking About Our Deal Strategies?


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This morning, I was conducting a deal review with a very experienced sales person.  It was like many other reviews and the sales person was falling into the same trap that I see replicated too many times with too many sales people.

This trap is deceptive, seemingly it narrows our focus on what the customer is trying to achieve and how we respond, but too often, it limits our ability to compete and differentiate ourselves.

In this review, the sales person said, “there are two driving issues, all we have to do is address those and we win the deal.”  He went on to say, “The two driving issues are price (where have I heard that before) and our ability to do this [this changes for each of us].  I know we can achieve their goals with each of those areas….”

I see this pattern in too many deals.  Sales people are usually happy that they’ve identified these, and focus intensely on how they help the customer achieve them.

But in narrowing their and the customer’s focus too quickly, they fall into a trap…..

The competition is doing exactly the same thing!

For example, in this particular situation, there was an incumbent supplier.  I asked the sales person, “You know they already have the capability that meets the second requirement for the customer–they are already the supplier.  So what are you going to do if the supplier drops their price to meet yours?  Of the customer is also looking to other suppliers, what will cause the customer to choose you if any of the others match their needs, as well?”

In complex B2B buying, the critical issues for the customer will seldom come down to 1 or 2 issues.  Yet too often, that’s all we identify, and we err in our sales strategies in focusing on just those.

Perhaps we’ve asked the wrong questions, and inadvertently narrowed the customer scope.  For example, we always ask/obsess about the price question and tend to make that the most important thing the customer is considering, when it’s just one of many.

We may not have asked enough of the right questions to explore everything they are considering.

We may be focusing on one or two people in the buying group, assuming everyone in the buying group has the same needs/requirements/priorities.

The customer may not be able articulate their needs, they know them, but they don’t know how to or forget to express them.

Or the customer may be neglecting things that should be important to their decision and we need to educate them on those issues.

We improve our ability to serve the customer and create great differentiated value when we look at their needs and requirements in the broadest possible way.  There are things they haven’t articulated, or things they haven’t thought of that will/should impact their decisions.

We improve our ability to compete, when we have more areas in which to differentiate ourselves.  If the only criteria is price, then the only way we can win is on price.  But if they have half a dozen things they are trying to achieve, we have a greater basis to differentiate ourselves and win.

Too often, while it seems as though we have identified THE issue and we focus on that, we are doing our customers a disservice and we are seriously limiting our ability to compete and create value.

It’s always critical to engage our customers in helping them understand the variety of issues that should be important to their decision.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. You have identified a key challenge for salespeople: how do I stay on task and address the specific needs my prospect has articulated or outlined, while simultaneously making sure I don’t get mired in the weeds and miss the big picture?

    Most veteran salespeople can recall a deal they lost because they “overbaked” their message or proposal, and in the process, they overwhelmed the buyer. And most salespeople can point to a lost opportunity where they adopted a K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid) selling approach, but failed to recognize larger issues that mattered to the prospect, because the prospect never brought them up.

    I believe the solution is for salespeople to always maintain a broad perspective, but have good discretion about whether to bring it into the conversation, and the maturity for knowing how to do it in the most effective way. There is no ‘one-size-fits’all.’ I think the best way for salespeople to learn is to stub your toe, fail, shake it off, and figure out the nuances.


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