Best Practice

Structured Selling


By Brain J. Klink

In every customer interaction, there are opportunities to advance relationships and trust. In addition, there are also opportunities to evaluate where customers feel they are in making a decision to buy. For many, the process for helping the customer migrate to a “Yes” buying decision is a complete unknown and is rarely taught in employee training.

As part of our Executive Development Program, we often use the following quick reference approach to review client and prospect interactions and coach people to better understand how every interaction can strengthen a relationship, increase trust and deliver value.

Best Practice = Structured Inquiries

As part of our years of research, we have identified and documented many of the most frequent questions and responses of conversations and face-to-face interactions. With these frequent exchanges in mind, we created a hierarchy of structured inquiries for migrating conversations. This is designed to help both sales professionals and potential buyers quickly determine if there is likely a buying decision that day, and if not then, when there might be.

Structured Inquiries = Eliminate Buying Uncertainty

In many scenarios the single greatest barrier to closing a sale is buyer uncertainty. Helping potential buyers gain the clarity to make a decision in a timely fashion is what successful sales representatives do. Sellers that spend time in other forms of dialogue are often less effective.

Ask your sales force if they have heard any of the following phrases:

• “Not Now”

• “Pretty Soon”

• “Just Looking”

• “I Was Wondering …”

• “We Were Thinking About …”

• “I Am Considering …”

These phrases are on our list of most frequent conversational barriers to closing a sale. Unfortunately, many sales professionals do not understand there are common interactions when the customer is desperately searching for help to alleviate buyer uncertainty.

We truly believe using our structured inquiry approach can provide relief for people who are struggling to decide.

For many, the process for helping the customer migrate to a “Yes” buying decision is a complete unknown and is rarely taught in employee training.

Delivering Relief = Early Assessment

We believe there is one key question that sets the stage for a diagnostic buying assessment:

“Is there anything you need today?”

Our experiences indicate that early identification of need is the cornerstone of strategic selling.

In fact, almost everything else discussed is a variable in the equation of sales inefficiency. In our opinion, there is no more important goal for anyone involved in selling than to quickly and efficiently identify if there is an immediate or upcoming need.

Fulfillment vs. Relationship Development

If “Yes” … Then Support, Compassion & Expediency

If the answer is “Yes,” then quite often your only job is to simply deliver fulfillment in three areas.


Once they declare a need, you should listen closely or even write down what they say and be supportive. They have explained what they are looking for and now it is your job to deliver to the best of your ability.


In other scenarios, the “Yes” response is followed with an explanation of their personal scenario or declaration of urgency. Remember, alleviating buyer uncertainty is a key skill set for successful sales staff.


Finally, it can also be important to assess the customer’s transaction needs. It is not uncommon for people to wait until the last minute to make buying decisions. So, once you have fulfilled their product need, helping to expedite the transaction can create a long-lasting bond.

Relationship Development = Iterative vs. Quantum Leap Dialogue

If “No” … Then Relationship Development

If the answer to our question is “No,” then your job is to try to build a potential future relationship by helping identify possible ways you can satisfy lesser levels of purchasing desire.

We have found that crossing the “threshold of want” can be achieved using iterative progression or by more aggressive quantum leap approaches to quickly assess likely buyer behavior.


Brian J. KLINK, PhD, MBA

Brian Klink is the president of Strategic Business Solutions, Inc. and has over 30 years’ experience at Fortune 500 Companies and as an independent consultant. www.MyResearchPartner.com

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