The book emphasises the need for a Win-Win approach to Selling and Negotiation (as advocated by Fischer and Ury in “Getting to Yes” - in fact, Fischer and Ury prefer “Win-Win or no deal”, which is in line with Miller Heiman’s insistence that you should walk away from some deals). It stresses that complex, business-to-business sales are only viable in the context of a long-term relationship, and that this makes a Win-Win approach the only viable option.

Miller Heiman defines a Complex Sale as “one in which a number of people must give their approval or input before the buying decision can be made”. Hence the importance of Buying Influences. These are four types of people that can influence the sale:

  • Economic Buying Influence: There is only one of these, by definition, and this person gives the final approval to buy, or they can veto the sale even though others have approved.
  • User Buying Influences: These people have an interest in the product and/or service in question. It will directly affect their productivity or comfort.
  • Technical Buying Influences: These people screen suppliers. They can range from people in a buying department or a CAD group. They cannot give a final “yes” to a purchase, but they can stop it.

Coaches: Also referred to as “Champions” in other texts, Coaches are allies inside the client organisation that can help the Sales person to move the order forward, mainly by giving advice on the people and processes in the organisation.

Miller Heiman proposes a variant of Stakeholder Analysis to help Sales people identify and manage Buying Influences (see Wikipedia for various references on Stakeholder analysis). This is called the Buying Influences Chart and it has evolved into a central tool for the Miller Heiman approach called the Blue Sheet (though this is not covered in the book).

Stepping down into the detail of the Buying Influences’ behaviour, four Response Modes are defined: Growth: The Buying Influence wishes to improve on the current situation in some way - to make things better, faster, larger or some other positive comparator. They are ready to invest in a solution to remove the discrepancy between today’s results and the desired situation.

Trouble: The Buying Influence has a problem that is causing his results to get worse in some way, and they are looking for a solution that will fix or avoid a crisis.

Even Keel: The Buying Influence is content with the current situation: today’s results match his expectations and he does not see a need for change.

Overconfident: The Buying Influence has an inaccurate understanding of the current situation and this leads him to believe that his results are even better than his expectations.

Understanding which of these Response Modes applies to each of the Buying Influences for a particular deal allows a Sales person to assess the difficulty of achieving a Win-Result (see below) for that buyer. The last two Response Modes clearly pose a trickier problem than the first two.

A Win-Result is a concept that reflects the dual aspects of any professional: they are both a representative of their employer and an individual. Miller Heiman states that, in order to be confident of the support of a Buying Influence for a deal, it is necessary to satisfy their needs as both a representative of their company - there must be a Result that satisfies company interests - and as an individual - there must be a Win for the person. The latter could be, for example, that it helps them in their need for recognition in their company or that their career will be helped by working with the technology in question.

Finally, Red Flags highlight obstacles to obtaining Win-Results for Buying Influences. The use of Red Flags helps in tracking one’s progress in working with the Buying Influences (a process that Miller Heiman calls “Covering the Bases”). Miller Heiman stresses the importance using situation-specific Strengths to eliminate Red Flags. That is, to realise that only the product or service features that are relevant to the prospect in question can be considered to be Strengths. Other features, no matter how innovative or “interesting”, do not count.

As well as the above concepts, Miller Heiman explains a couple of useful tools. The Buying Influencer’s Chart has already been mentioned. This consists of four squares, one for each type of Buying Influence. The names of the Buying Influencers are put into each square and annotated with their Degree of Influence (with respect to the deal in question), their current Response Mode and their perceived current level of support for the deal.

Miller Heiman also describe a Sales Funnel. They do not claim that this is original, but they do make a novel and (I think) useful point: when working on the Sales Funnel, one should proceed in the order Best Few, Universe, Above the Funnel, In the Funnel. This ensures that the funnel is constantly fed and reduces the danger of it drying up.

Personally, I had some trouble with the book's length and style. It is rather long and, in my opinion, there should be infinitely more references (there is not a single one ;-). Also, while much space is devoted to selling the Miller Heiman approach to the reader, there is no acknowledgement of prior art on Sales methodologies.

Overall, however, I believe that the book is well worth reading for the ideas that it contains.

I hope that this review is helpful to you.