Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, by Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer

Conversations That Win the Complex Sale: Using Power Messaging to Create More Opportunities, Differentiate Your Solutions, and Close More Deals, by Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer. 2011, McGraw-Hill

How can you achieve the highest return per dollar spent of your marketing budget? “Great messaging through your sales force,” said Tim Riesterer, co-author of Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, in a recent workshop he conducted for my marketing team. This makes particular sense in a complex sale, where your highest operating costs are in your sales force…and your primary competitor is the status quo. Riesterer and his co-author Erik Peterson provide an interesting messaging model. Before you decide to invest in the latest marketing tool, think about how you can leverage messaging across your marketing tactics to help achieve a high return on investment.

This is an exciting time to be a marketer! In the 20 years I’ve worked in B2B commercial sales and marketing, we’ve never had more tools at our disposal to get our message to our target audience. We continuously innovate vehicles that help us deliver relevant, creative, multimedia messages. Unfortunately, tools can be easily imitated. If you have a large enough budget, you can copy the tactics competitors are using: marketers cannot differentiate on tools alone.

For all the tools we have at our disposal, specifically the complex sale, messaging is the critical component that sets us apart from our competition and makes our solution relevant to our target audience. Messaging is the thread that ties all of the tools together, delivers a consistent…well, message…and makes the most of our spend. It maximizes our efficiency to clearly communicate our value proposition, educate on the benefits, and ultimately persuade our buyers.


Conversations That Win the Complex Sale lays out a messaging framework that’s easy to understand and can be translated through different marketing tools. Here are the components:
1. Grabber. Generate a reputable third-party point of view that is relevant to your client’s core business objective.
2. Pain. Shock the clients by showing them an unknown or under-appreciated issue currently eating away at their organization and threatening their core business objectives.
3. Impact. Create urgency by appropriately quantifying the personal, business, and financial impacts of ignoring the problem. Follow up by showing the beneficial effects of quick action.
4. Contrast. Differentiate your unique strengths, and show how they address the threats the customer is facing. Be clear about how your proposed solution differs from the present situation…without offending clients who may have skin in the current game.
5. Proof. Demonstrate how you have helped similar clients by implementing the solution you’re proposing, and show your approach’s positive impact on the client’s objective.


From a marketing management perspective, the Point-of-View Pitch should flow from the overall positioning strategy. This model can help marketers create compelling messages for their sales forces, particularly in the prospecting phase. I particularly like the authors’ challenge of the status quo. But one strong caution: The model is only as good as the information you input, so the stronger the supporting data, the greater your opportunity for success.

Good marketing!

PS—I’m looking for good books to review. Please send recommendations of the best marketing books you’ve read in 2011 and 2012 to


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