Making Sales Conversations Matter

All sales leaders know their sales team’s success depends largely on the ability to converse in a compelling way with customers. Whether their team sells over the telephone, through web collaboration, or face-to-face, effective sales conversations are fundamental to the achievement of sales results.

In our book, The Collaborative Sale, Keith Eades and I described the different types of sales conversations that are valuable to buyers. We explained how the flow of a sales conversation will vary depending on the degree to which a buyer has developed their own vision of a solution. A collaborative sales conversation is one that takes the state of a buyer’s vision into consideration and then helps that buyer to create a compelling vision, enhance an emerging vision, or re-engineer an existing vision into something even better.

Collaborative sales conversations, therefore, enable sellers to differentiate themselves by demonstrating situational fluency by providing useful insight to buyers. Perhaps more than anything else, a seller’s skill in aligning each sales conversation to that buyer’s state differentiates the value of that seller in the mind of the buyer from other alternatives.

We call sellers who have this ability to help buyers develop a clear vision of a solution Visualizers. Simply put, they enable buyers to see the potential of what might be, and how it could be made so.

The Differentiation Grid

In order to engage in sales conversations that provide insight and value, Visualizers seek first to understand what unique differentiators they can bring to help develop a compelling vision in collaboration with the buyer. Many people struggle to know what to emphasize in their sales conversations, especially if they provide a broad portfolio of potential offerings and capabilities that might be of service.

The Differentiation Grid is a simple exercise that helps develop that understanding, based on the uniqueness and value of potential solution capabilities for a specific buyer. By evaluating and charting each of these capabilities, the Visualizer can focus on those solution components that provide the most value and which also help to differentiate the vision from alternatives.


Lazy sellers tend to emphasize the same differentiators in every sales conversation, thinking that they never change, but Visualizers know that the value of solution components can vary significantly from buyer to buyer. For this reason, the Differentiation Grid exercise can be a very useful tool to ensure that sellers focus on the optimum aspects of a potential solution, which are both competitively unique and most valuable to each specific buyer.

Sales leaders can use the Differentiation Grid to verify that their teams are emphasizing the right things in sales conversations, and to coach sellers to align better with different buyers. We’ve prepared a template for conducting this exercise, which you can download here.

If your sales team needs help in consistently executing effective sales conversations, contact us for a consultation: +1 (704) 227-6500, email, or visit our website at

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