Marketing Book Review: Conversations That Win the Complex Sale


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 workshop he recently 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 us 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 and to help you 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 & marketing , we’ve never had more tools at our disposal to arm our channels and get our message to our target audience. We continuously innovate vehicles that help us deliver creative, multi-media and relevant messages. Unfortunately, tools is can be easily imitated. If you have enough budget, you can copy the tactics your 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 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 our benefits and ultimately to persuade our buyers.

Point-of-View Pitch

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 underappreciated issue currently eating away at their 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 acting soon.

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 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 to 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!

This book review was published in PM360.