There are numerous sales strategies to streamline sales workflows and drive sales processes to a successful conclusion. One of the most important is the methodology developed by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman and named after them.
The goal of this strategy is to build a long term business relationship instead of a one-time contract. Customer satisfaction is the foundation of this strategy since a customer drawing an important benefit from the purchase sees it as an asset for his company. To make it happen, his requirements must be met and his needs covered. This is why it is indispensable for the seller to exactly understand the problems and goals of the buyer. The more details the seller gains insight into the need for optimization, the more targeted he can adjust his sales strategy.
Mostly, in a company, the direct contact is not the one taking the decision, but a group of managers, team leaders, etc. In addition to knowing the intention to buy, it is equally important to know the roles of the respective contact persons during the sales process. Who is the decision maker? Who releases the budget? Who is going to use the product? The Miller Heiman methodology divides the so-called purchase influencers into four categories:
- The decision-makers: the decision-makers are the key players within the sales process. They release the budget and their consent is indispensable for the purchase. This is why it is particularly important to know their opinion regarding the project and to convince them.
- The users: Users are directly affected by the potential purchase of the product since they are going to use it. Making them understand which benefits they would experience themselves and for their work processes is essential.
- The guardians: the so-called guardians must not be ignored. Since they are in charge of carefully examining the potential products, comparing them in terms of price-performance ratio, company requirements, etc., and then making recommendations or discouraging from buying. They do not make the final decision, however they can significantly influence the decision-makers.
- The coach: in contrast to the other roles, this one evolves during the sales process. The task of the coach is to lead through the sales process. For the sellers, this person has a great significance since new contacts can be initiated through him and helpful information collected.
For a successful sales process, all of these role types in the company must be identified anew for each transaction. Only when the seller has the ability to correctly assess all contact persons and to address individually to their roles, he manages to well position himself.
In addition to the role of the purchase influencers, their attitudes regarding the project is of great importance. The Miller Heiman methodology also differentiates four types:
- The growth attitude: Contact persons with this attitude are dissatisfied with the current situation and would like to optimize it thanks to the purchase of the product. If the purchase influencers are convinced of the benefits, then the purchase opportunity is really high.
- The problem attitude: purchase influencers having this attitude do not estimate the current situation as critical as the contact person with growth attitude. If they are convinced of the benefits of the product, then the purchase opportunity with them is also really high.
- The “everything is fine” attitude: these contact persons are satisfied with the current situation and think that “everything is fine”. For them, there is no need for a change, which lower the purchase opportunity.
- The euphoria attitude: these decision-makers see the current situation as really positive and believe that the processes will not be improved but worsened by purchasing the product. They also see no need for a change, the purchase opportunity is therefore very low.
The Miller Heiman methodology strives for a win-win situation for both sides – sellers and buyers, since only then a long term business relationship can be built. Therefore, one should only sell to the buyers what they really need and what actually confers them an advantage. If something has been imposed on them, the sellers are the winners in the short-term, the buyers however the losers. The sellers lose too in the long-term, since the dissatisfied buyers are unlikely to make a second purchase. The seller is also losing too much concessions, for example, the price of the scope of delivery.
In order to make every decision-makers of the company a winner, they should be shown what are their personal winner results, i.e. their personal benefits.
If potential obstacles or reasons, which might jeopardize the purchase are uncovered, they will be signalized by a red flag in the Miller Heiman methodology. This way the “dangers” are kept in mind and it enables timely countermeasures in the context of the sales process. Following each contact with purchase influencers, the “red flags” should be reviewed, updated and possibly extended to new information.
A key element of the Miller Heiman methodology is the sales funnel divided on three level.
- On the first level, the purchase influencers are contacted and all available information is taken into consideration. Data which are not useful for a successful transaction will be sorted out.
- On the second level, the purchase influencers, their roles, attitudes and winner results are determined. In addition, all potential purchase obstacles should be detected and documented. Based on this information, the appropriate sales strategy is defined.
- The third level of the funnel filters out all sales processes that are unlikely to be successful given the aforementioned issues. Only the processes with very high sales probability remain.
Given the Miller Heiman methodology, the employees should prioritize the different levels in their sales work as follows:
- First complete a third level sales transaction,
- Then identify potential buyers and rate them on the first level,
- And finally classify the buyers at level two.
This keeps the funnel flow going. The evaluation of potential customers can be facilitated by the so-called ideal customer profile with which the prospective customers are compared. This profile is based on the most positively valued existing customers and new customers.