Todays’ short (eight minute) video covers some core ideas in business-to-business (B2B) sales. It considers the need to undertake research before approaching a prospective client and how the research continues when you first make contact. The idea is to “be more detective” to learn about your prospect. It then explores the idea of the Decision-Making Unit (DMU) – how different people play different roles during the decision-making process. So this video explores Selling Basics – Detectives and DMUs.

(Video script)

Hi, I’m Kim Tasso. Today I’d like to share two ideas with you that will help you with selling. Or, to put it a different way, to help clients buy from you.

Why don’t we like the idea of selling?

To most people, selling conjures up ideas of unethical second-hand car dealers and superficial and pushy sales assistants. But this is because they misunderstand selling.

Selling isn’t about pushing your products onto people. It’s about helping people to buy.

“Telling isn’t selling” – Before we get to the projection or talking part of selling (explaining how our products and services might be useful) we need to do the empathy bit of selling – learning what the client wants and needs and why.

So the first thing you should think about in selling is learning more about your buyer.

The ? is because selling is about asking questions.

So reframe selling to “being more detective” (magnifying glass)

Maybe you saw the video on targeting using the rabbits, deer and elephants model?

Once you’ve identified your target your job is research. Lots of research. On-line and off-line. About market, the organisation and the people – and their backgrounds.

And when you meet a prospective client – you guessed – you continue the research.

The most important skills for selling are: asking questions and active listening

So think about your detective skills when you meet prospects and targets.

You are collecting information which you can then piece together to solve the sale.

Asking questions means you can uncover hidden needs – to find out, in the words of The Spice Girls – what the client really, really wants.

Asking questions shows interest in the client and his or her problems. But it’s hard to ask questions if you really don’t know what the answers might be – it can be uncomfortable. Especially if you are a highly trained and experienced adviser.

And as you ask questions you are building your empathy and helping rapport and trust to develop

Most sales methodologies provide a structure and way in which to ask questions – to prompt interaction and reveal the needs and sales challenge effectively

But what are we detecting?

Well, we can’t attempt to propose a solution if we don’t know the problem!

Marketing and selling is about detecting (or creating) needs and then meeting them.

So we are hunting to find out where the client has needs – sometimes these might be goals or aspirations and sometimes these might be problems or afflictions.

Great salespeople will help frame the problem and co-create the solution with the client.

So as well as learning about the person and their organisation we are also learning about what they need.

Understanding the Decision-Making Unit (DMU)

In a B2B situation – when you are selling to a business – there is likely to be more than one person involved in the decision-making process.

Part of your detective work is to learn about that decision-making process.

You also need to learn about the DMU.

(DRAWING) Let me explain this model for you:

Gatekeeper – You might think these people are decision-makers – but often they are too junior or lack the authority to buy. Their job is to guard and protect senior people and decision-makers from people like you. Sometimes they have been tasked with doing the initial research. You need to respect these people and make friends with them. Otherwise they will thwart your efforts to reach the people you need to.

User – This is someone who uses the products or services you provide but isn’t involved in the decision-making process to buy. In some organisation, decisions might be made in the centre and teams in other regions or divisions have to use centrally appointed advisers. This happens in a panel environment. However, if they are dissatisfied with something or someone they are likely to tell others in the organisation and prompt a rethink on the centrally-approved providers.

Influencer – These people may be inside or outside the organisation. For example, think of a company that seeks the views of its Non-Executive Directors, bankers or lawyers before appointing other professional advisers. Many influencing and referrer management programmes focus on ensuring that these influencers are aware of and favourably disposed towards your organisation.

Buyer – These are the people tasked with managing the buying processes within organisations. It might be the procurement or contracts team. For professional services, the general counsel or finance director may adopt this role. Often their focus will be on the technical quality and price of the products and services.

Decision-maker – This is the person or people who ultimately make the decision. They may consult with or be influenced by other people in the decision-making unit though.

Sponsors and Anti-sponsors – Each person in the DMU can also be a sponsor or anti-sponsor. Sponsors like you, provide you with information and try to help you sell to the organisation. Anti-sponsors want to prevent you selling to the organisation. Use your detective skills to find out where people’s loyalties lay and why.

Remember as well that if you hope to sell other products and services to the same organisation in the future – for example, when cross-selling in professional service firms – you are likely to need to investigate and learn about (be more detective) different decision making units.

As you meet with different people from the prospective client organisation you need to learn their likely role in the decision-making process – both now and in the future if they are junior. And you need to adapt your selling style and what information you provide depending on their role in the decision-making process.

So. Two basic sales concepts to help you sell more professionally and effectively – Be more detective by doing your research and learning to ask questions in a structured way. And the DMU – one of the things you need to learn about when you are selling to organisations.

Related selling skills videos:

Targeting – With Rabbits, Deer and Elephant model 

Understanding different personalities – Cats, Dogs and Bears 

The importance of empathy and emotional intelligence

A model to help build better business relationships

Persuasive business writing

Learning more about selling

There are millions of books about selling – I even wrote one myself on selling skills in the professions back in 2000. That’s 20 years ago – ouch! So here are some recommended books – depending on whether you are new to selling or more experienced.

Beginners selling books

But if you have never read a book on selling before here is a good, cheap and quick to read introductory (and cheap) book Book Review: Smarter selling – Next generation sales strategies ( The book, written by Keith Dugdale and David Lambert, is available on Amazon Smarter selling – how to grow sales by building trusted relationships”. . Their SHAPE model follows the following stages: Surface Hunt Adjust Paint Engage

Intermediate selling books

One of my favourite models involves problem-solving and consultative selling approaches is Strategic Selling – which I review here alongside some other classic management books Classic management book reviews – The McKinsey way, Good to great ( It is on Amazon: “The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World’s Best Companies” by Miller and Heiman which is one of the leading sales training organisations.

If you have a bit more experience in selling and want to learn how to structure questions to support  your sales effort SPIN selling” by Neil Rackham of Huthwaite International is an established model from psychologists  The SPIN model stands for: Situation. Problem. Implication. Need/payoff. There are many (US) law firms who use this methodology in their sales training.

Another book – which argues that it moves beyond consultative selling Hope is not a strategy – the 6 keys to winning the complex sale (

Advanced selling books

Most traditional models of selling use the problem-solving or consultative style. The most recent research indicates that the challenger or insight model is most effective. This book is good if you understand the principals of selling and/or have some experience. “Insight selling” by Mike Schultz and John E Doerr

This is an older but still valuable book: Book review – Demise of dysfunctional selling (Khalsa) (