Strategic Selling Skills: How to Develop Them & Why You Need Them.

Selling is a requirement in any business. In the retail industry, selling takes place both internally and externally for Retailers and Vendors across departments and teams.

There are multiple “Seller” to “Buyer” relationships, including:


  • the account manager or sales director (Seller); calling on the category manager or business unit lead at the Retailer (Buyer).
  • the category analyst or vendor advisor (Seller); calling on the category manager, or someone else in the retail organization responsible for different components of the category review process (Buyer).
  • the Retailer’s category manager with a new promotion or plan (Seller); calling on an account manager or sales director (Buyer).


  • the category manager at the Retailer promoting an idea or concept (Seller); to their business unit lead or manager (Buyer).
  • the Vendor’s category analyst or category management director promoting in an idea or concept (Seller); to the marketing director or sales director within their organization (Buyer).

So when you think about developing selling skills, expand your concept of Sellers and Buyers beyond the Vendor’s sales team. The graphic below summarizes: 



Two critical components of any selling approach include your ability to create engaging and informative presentations that focus on your Buyer (either internal or external). These components include the ability to use software tools like PPT and to tell a compelling story with relevant, fact-based details to your audience. Both components are critical, and must be developed BEFORE you can focus on strategic selling skills.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

  1. Course Video Preview: Strategic Selling
  2. Course Overview: Strategic Selling

4 Ways to Implement a Strategic Selling Approach

  1. Present ideas that are of interest to the Buyer

You need to understand your Buyer and consider their motives and how their business works — e.g. a strong understanding of their Retailer Strategy if the Seller is an account manager and the Buyer is a Retail Category Manager. 

Make sure that your idea is practical and is not too difficult to understand. You can ask yourself whether the idea meets two or more of these criteria:

  • aligns to the Buyer’s situation
  • helps them with their business 
  • solves a specific issue
  • addresses an unmet need
  • possesses obvious benefits for your Buyer

Considerations for your Buyer and their needs should be woven into your entire strategic sales presentation. It should be about them – not about you! 

  1. Have a presentation framework

Building upon a solid framework gives your presentation logic and flow, and ensures that you will cover all of the important questions that are likely to arise in your Buyer’s mind. 

Begin with a clear summary of the situation, including consideration for the Buyer’s conditions, needs, limitations and opportunities with compelling facts that relate or support your statement. Remember, your summary should grab the Buyer’s attention by communicating that you understand their situation and have something significant to offer them. 

Summary of Situation in your sales presentation

By researching their situation, you can more easily anticipate their most likely objections so that you can easily answer their questions about how your idea benefits them or their business, solves their problem or addresses an unmet need. The rest of the presentation framework is illustrated below:


  1. Learn how to deal with different types of objections

Objections are just part of the buying process — they are simply a concern presented in opposition to your idea. If your Buyer has an objection, it does not mean that he/she will not buy. Despite extensive preparation, as a Seller you will most likely face some unanticipated objections from your Buyer.

Misunderstanding “unexpected objections” can threaten your ability to uncover “win-win” solutions for both you and your Buyer and so it is important to prepare yourself with the right knowledge. By learning to identify what type of objection is being expressed (e.g. skepticism, indifference, misunderstanding, legitimate, red herring), you can tailor your response to the Buyer’s needs.

Objection handling in retail sales

  1. Consider alternatives and your walkaway positions in advance

Negotiating is an essential life skill. In our increasingly complex and competitive marketplace, negotiating has become a core requirement for many organizations. 

An effective way to give both the Buyer and Seller power in negotiation is to create alternatives to 100% acceptance of your idea. By considering reasonable alternatives in advance of your presentation, you can explore their pros and cons in detail, including gaining approval or buy-in from others in your organization where necessary.

Another essential preparation is to define your walkaway position prior to the negotiation, should the other side become unreasonable or unwilling to create a win-win solution. Your walkaway position must weigh the predetermined value of the relationship and should ask:

Is this a mutually beneficial relationship, or one side taking undue advantage of the other?

It is better to walk away from a sale rather than make too large a concession on your product or service.

In summary, developing strategic selling skills is a requirement in most businesses. By learning how to tailor presentations to your Buyer and their needs, you can:

  • Anticipate and address objections of your Buyer
  • Gain confidence to negotiate win-win solutions
  • Know where your alternatives and walkaway position are
  • Move one step closer to a truly collaborative approach in your business


 Want to learn more about Strategic Selling? Category Management Knowledge Group can help you, your team or your organization through a single online, live or webinar course or a customized strategic sales training program. We have some great category management training options available to meet your needs. You can preview our brand new, accredited Strategic Selling course below:



Link to Purchase "Strategic Selling" Category Management Training Course

$125 USD

30-day Access



Reference Guide

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Topics: Category Management, Presentations, Fact-Based Sales Process

Written by Sue Nicholls, CPSA Founder & President CMKG

Category Management is my passion. Since beginning with P&G in the late 1980s, I have dedicated my work life to building and sharing this passion with others through active involvement in the industry, including long-term business relationships with large Retailer and CPG executives, development and influence on Category Management Association certification standards, curriculum, and conference education, thought leadership publishing and presentations at CSP News’ Convenience University, CMA’s Annual Conference and LinkedIn, and as a member of DePaul University’s Center for Sales Leadership Advisory Board, and Western Michigan University’s Food Marketing Advisory Board. Beginning in 2019, our catalogue of accredited training that my team and I have developed is part of the Category Management Association’s strategic education initiative for all member organizations. Always anticipating where the industry is moving and the skills needed to compete and stay relevant, I’ve helped to bridge the gap between data and insights pioneering the way we use storytelling and data visualization to better understand analytics and make effective decisions for the future. Using my years of experience, I coach clients of all experience levels in the Retail, Manufacturer, and Solution Provider industries to help them propel forward achieving both their learning and career goals whether in eCommerce, sales, or marketing and beyond. My specialty lies in leadership and engagement, networking and consulting with individuals and large companies from around the world to better improve and develop our curriculum and accredited training programs, like our leading-edge Master’s Training, utilized by category management organizations for strategic education. Through this blog and other channels, I share my years of expertise with our industry and believe that an open and ongoing conversation can improve any team’s capacity to implement business strategies that achieve their strategic priorities.