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You’re looking to learn some new sales techniques to help you crush your targets, and you’re wondering if top down selling is the right approach for you. 

There is no shortage of different methods and approaches when it comes to sales. Terms like conceptual selling, value selling, and signal-based selling crop up time and time again. Top down selling is another method you can use to switch up your sales technique. But what is top down selling?

This post will walk you through the basics of top down selling. Then, I’ll give you three examples of principles you can use to implement one of the top-down sales approaches

What is Top Down Selling? 

There are two schools of thought regarding the term “top down selling.” Let’s take a look at each one in detail.

The first approach interprets “top down” in the organizational sense. When you take this approach to selling, you sell directly to the highest level of the organization you can reach—the CEO, if possible. 

This approach to sales is what I consider a legacy sales technique. I have been in this game long enough to remember when it was truly possible to execute in B2B sales based on one senior leader’s sign-off. These days, however, the game has changed. Now, you need consensus from multiple decision-makers to close.

The second interpretation of “top down selling” involves a sales strategy based on pricing. In this strategy, you begin by offering your highest-priced package or solution with the understanding that a large portion of your prospects will likely end up negotiating you down to a lower package. 

A common example of this strategy is used in car dealerships. Dealerships frequently have customers test-drive the top-of-the-line model knowing you'll fall in love with the vehicle… but knowing you'll likely cut some of the luxury features to save on price.

RELATED: Value Creation and your Pricing Problems

The advantage of the pricing-based approach to top down selling is that you stand a greater chance of selling the customer a pricier solution than they may have gone for had you not offered the maximum value package out of the gate. Additionally, if the prospect chooses a lower package, they are more likely to feel like they have gotten a bargain, increasing customer satisfaction. 

Example 1: Offer Tiered Packages

My first example relates to the pricing-based approach to top down selling. This approach is sometimes referred to as the “Goldilocks” strategy. As the name suggests, you’ll start by offering too high (in terms of price point and features), then pivot to a package that is lower than they’ve asked for, finally settling on “just right.”

RELATED: How To Overcome Price Objections

When you use this approach effectively, more than a quarter of the prospects may actually accept your highest offer—as long as you present it in a way that maximizes the value of that high-tier package. Additionally, as high as sixty-six percent will take the middle-tiered offer. 

Other benefits of this approach include:

  • Highlighting features: When you start by offering your premium package, you have the opportunity to show your prospect features or functionality they might not have thought to ask for, but that could solve challenges for them or their business. 
  • Leveraging FOMO: Once your prospect has seen the premium features, they may fear missing out on those if they choose a lower-level package. 

For example, if you were selling a software solution, you would first offer your top-tier package, including all the add-ons and additional features like white-glove onboarding and unlimited live support. Then, you can pivot to offering your most bare-bones package. From there, guide your customer to the package that best fits their needs.

Example 2: Focus on Value-Based Selling 

One word of caution about price-based top down selling is that it can quickly turn into a “race to the bottom.” Leading with price sets your customer up to think in terms of dollars instead of value. 

This concept brings me to the second strategy for the price-focused top down selling approach: Focusing on value-based selling.

If you think of your top down selling strategy as a price-cutting negotiation, you are setting yourself up for nothing but struggle. Instead, focus on the value of the features and functionality offered by your top-tier package.

You should then negotiate based on the customer’s wants and needs rather than focusing on meeting their desired price point. 

For example, in the software example above, if you lead with the price of your top-tier package, your prospect might get sticker shock. In this case, you’ll lose them before you even begin negotiating. 

Instead, you should ask them what they are looking for in their software solution, then show them how the top-tier features can make their processes more efficient or effective. Focus on finding a match between their processes and your features rather than guiding them toward the price point they have asked for. 

Example 3: Aim for the Top Decision-Maker 

Our third strategy comes at  “top down selling” from the organizational approach. Let me start with some transparency: I generally do not advocate for shooting straight for the CEO in a modern sales approach

Candidly, it’s unlikely that a B2B salesperson will be able to get in touch with a CEO. Even if they can book a meeting, the CEO will likely be uninterested in what you’re offering. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot for a top decision-maker. 

Instead of aiming for the company's CEO, aim for the CEO of the problem your product or service can help the company solve. 

The decision-maker you should target is the person directly responsible for the result you can help the business achieve. This person is likely a level or two down from senior company leadership. 

The name of the game with top down selling in modern sales is to avoid targeting the lowest person and avoid shooting for the highest. Instead, target the decision-maker in the organization with a title that suggests your offering relates to their primary concern. 

For example, if you offer email automation software, you may want to approach a marketing or sales director instead of shooting straight for the CEO. 

What is Top Down Selling—and How Can You Use It? 

Examining these three examples should give you an idea of what top down selling means and how you can leverage it in your own day-to-day sales. 

This method of selling has its disadvantages, but when done properly—and when calibrated to match a modern sales approach—you can steer your customers toward greater lifetime value and customer satisfaction while avoiding falling into the trap of race-to-the-bottom pricing, where no one wins. 

These are just the principles of implementing a top-down selling strategy.  If you're looking for a comprehensive sales approach to send your sales numbers into the stratosphere, check out my Sales Accelerator program, where you'll learn the strategies, mindset shifts, and exact scripts you need to gain the commitments you need to close more deals.

Sales 2022
Post by Anthony Iannarino on October 27, 2022

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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