When it comes to active opportunities and vision re-engineering, I strongly recommend following the 9 Block Vision Processing Model. You’ve already seen the 9 Block Model. However, this time we’re going to use the 9 Block Vision Processing Model differently. In vision re-engineering, we start in Box C1, because the buyer is already at vision. See Figure 10.1 and note the nine steps and the new sequence by which we navigate the model.

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Figure 10.1: The 9 Block Vision Processing Model—Vision Re-engineering

Let’s revisit our sales scenario with Bill Hart and Steve Jones, but let’s reverse the situation. This is not a latent opportunity. Steve Jones, VP Sales for the manufacturing company, Titan Games, Inc., calls Bill Hart. Steve briefly explains why he is calling, and then asks for Bill’s product specifications, pricing, and a demonstration. Bill is told that Titan is in the market for e-commerce capabilities. Steve is inviting Bill to bid or, as we now know, to fill a column—but not Column A.

The conversation starts with the buyer calling the salesperson. Bill engages the buyer in a vision re-engineering conversation. Note how Bill navigates through the resequenced model—what he says and when he says it.

Buyer: Mr. Bill Hart, please.

Salesperson: Hello, this is Bill Hart speaking.

Buyer: Mr. Hart, my name is Steve Jones and I work for Titan Games, Inc. We’re a manufacturing organization that specializes in production of toys and games . . . [the description continues in detail]. We haven’t met, but we’re looking for some specific e-commerce type of capabilities. We’ve heard great things about your company and would like to know what you have to offer. You know, the usual stuff: specifications, terms and conditions, prices—including a demonstration of your offering.

Salesperson: Thank you. I’ll be happy to give you all the information you want, but before I do, I’d like to ask you a few questions. I need to know more before I’m able to talk about our offerings.

Buyer: Like what?

Here’s an important Solution Selling principle: first make yourself equal before you make yourself different. In other words, first understand everything you can about the competing vision. Think about it: How will you know how to compete and what differentiators to use until you thoroughly learn about the current vision?

As you read this hypothetical conversation, note that each step has a small graphic illustrating where that step occurs in the 9 Block Vision Processing Model. It will help you follow along in the dialogue.

We enter the conversation starting with the first box (C1) of the 9 Block Vision Processing Model.

Box C1: Open Question, Visualize the Buyer’s Current Capabilities

Salesperson: What specific capabilities are you looking for, and how do you see yourself using these capabilities?

Box C1

Buyer: Our salespeople have assigned accounts. Any time customers want to place an order, they must place that order through their assigned salesperson. I feel our salespeople spend way too much time doing what I call order taking with their assigned accounts instead of being out there selling into new accounts. Given all that, we’ve decided to implement an e-commerce application that will allow those existing customers to place their own orders. First, they’d be able to view inventory levels, then place the order on their own and have it allocated and confirmed on the Internet. We really think this will allow the salespeople to devote their time to selling into new accounts.

Salesperson: [Clarifies initial vision.] So, it sounds like when existing customers want to place an order on standard items, you want them to easily and at any time be able to do that via the Internet without involving the salesperson, is that right?

Buyer: Yes, that’s what we’re attempting to do.

You will find all types of active buyers. The buyer may be active but has not selected a vendor. The buyer is truly shopping for the best alternative. In this case, the salesperson may have some latitude to further explore Box C1 and ask some probing questions to better participate in the existing vision. It’s possible that the buyer will even share the pain early on that is driving the requirements.

Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. We will proceed with the dialogue assuming a worst-case scenario. The buyer is not very talkative and has not admitted a pain, and the salesperson doesn’t feel he has earned the right to explore the current vision too much. The salesperson must attempt to establish valuable differentiators to earn the right to continue. After Bill has gained a good understanding of Steve’s existing vision, the next step is to differentiate himself—that is, change the buying requirements so they include his strengths. The goal is to move into Column A and become the company and salesperson of choice. Let’s assume that Bill has a good idea of the buyer’s existing vision. It’s now time to make himself different.

Box C2: Control Question, Visualize Capabilities


This is a sensitive area, because Bill is exploring areas outside Steve’s original vision. The Pain Sheet example from Chapter Seven showed a list of four possible reasons for a given pain with four corresponding capabilities (visions) that address each reason. In this re-engineering scenario, the buyer has offered one of the four capabilities listed on the Pain Sheet as his existing vision. This allows the salesperson to attempt to provide a differentiating capability among the ones left.

Box C2

First Differentiating Capability (Capability B)

Salesperson: Steve, as part of your e-commerce initiative, are you also looking for a way for customers who are at your Web site and have questions to click on a FAQ to get those answers, or, alternatively, select a help option to connect to the appropriate person in the company?

Buyer: That’s not currently part of our initiative, but it does sound interesting.


Bill has two options here: (1) he can continue positioning all his differentiators and then explore the possible value of them (reason column), or (2) he can bounce back and forth through the boxes. That is, once interest is shown in a new capability, Bill might go straight to the reason columns to establish value for the new capability before introducing a second new capability. The chosen style will vary by salesperson and opportunity.

For the sake of this illustration and to learn the sequence, we will have Bill continue positioning his differentiating capabilities in Box C2 before exploring their value.

Second Differentiating Capability (Capability C)

Salesperson: Steve, we will certainly explore that further, but let me ask you this: Are you also looking for a way, when offering promotions, for your salespeople to create personalized messages and broadcast them to all the prospects via email?

Buyer: Not really. Our sales force doesn’t get involved with creating promotions. It’s something we’ve looked into, but I really don’t want to explore that today.

Although Steve wasn’t interested in the second differentiating capability, Bill is not discouraged. He explores another differentiator.

Third Differentiating Capability (Capability D)

Salesperson: Well, I respect that. [Moves on to additional capability.] Do you think it would help if, when visiting your Web site, your customers could be prompted to submit referrals in exchange for discounts or promotional items?

Buyer: Again, this is not part of our current initiative, but that does intrigue me.

Now that Bill understands Steve’s current vision and has piqued his interest in exploring some additional capabilities, it’s time to find out what it currently costs the buyer to do business without the desired capabilities and why the buyer is seeking those capabilities. Again, you find all types of active buyers. Some may allow you to back up in their buying process to establish the “cost of doing business today.” In this case, the salesperson may be able to ask some probing questions to better establish value for the existing vision. Once again, this is not usually the case. Often, buyers who have already gone through the due diligence process don’t want to repeat it. In that case, the salesperson should respect their decision and focus on establishing value for his or her differentiating capabilities only. We’ll proceed with the dialogue assuming the latter, worst-case scenario.


When Bill explores Boxes R1 and R2, the boxes seem to merge together. The dialogue fluctuates between the two.

Box R1: Open Questions, Diagnose Reasons

Box R1

Salesperson: Tell me about it—how do you manage your accounts today without these capabilities?

Buyer: Specifically in regard to handling FAQs, I was intrigued by your description, because today when customers have a question, they go straight to their assigned sales reps. They usually call on a direct line. If they don’t get their reps that way, they usually can reach them on their cell phones.

Salesperson: I’d like to explore that a little further, if I may.

Buyer: By all means, go ahead.

Box R2: How They Do Business Today Without Capability B

The dialogue below is very similar to the drill-down conversation that I explained in Chapter Eight showing the establishment of value during Vision Creation.

Salesperson: Today, how much time do salespeople actually spend answering these types of questions?

Buyer: They probably spend 15 percent of their day answering FAQs.

Box R2

Salesperson: Well, how much time do you think should be devoted to that?

Buyer: Frankly, none. They are salespeople, not customer support. This really takes away from the time that they should be selling into new accounts.

Salesperson: How many new accounts did each sales rep acquire last year?

Buyer: On average, each sales rep was probably assigned ten new accounts.

Salesperson: And what was the average revenue per new account?

Buyer: I would guess conservatively that it was about $75,000 each.

Salesperson: If the salespeople were freed from answering FAQs, could they bring in one new account with the saved time?

Buyer: They probably should bring in more accounts, but one account sounds good.

Salesperson: Is it reasonable then that if all the reps—all fifty—could bring in one new account each and those accounts yielded at least $75,000, that you could bring in $3.75 million in revenue from new accounts?

Buyer: I never thought of the potential as that large, but I think that’s a reasonable figure.

Once Bill had established the cost of doing business today without the first differentiating capability, he would then explore the second differentiating capability by asking the open question of R1. He would have then explored the cost of doing business today in R2 without the second differentiating capability. The dialogue is similar to the drill-down conversation that took place for the first differentiating capability. In the next dialogue, Bill confirms how the firm does business today.

Box R3: Confirm Questions, Diagnose Reasons (Cost of Business Today)

Box R3

Salesperson: So, it sounds like from what we just discussed, the way you’re doing business today is that (A) your salespeople spend too much time handling repeat business in existing accounts, (B) they’re also spending too much time answering FAQs, and this is taking away from their task of prospecting into new accounts, and (C) they also fail to ask customers for referrals and leads. Looking quickly at the numbers, it appears that not having these additional capabilities could be costing you close to $4.75 million in revenue a year. Is that right?

Buyer: Yes, the figures I gave you are accurate.

Admission of Pain Between Boxes R3 and I1 When conducting Solution Selling Workshops, I (jokingly) call this moment in the Vision Re-engineering Model the “out-of-box experience.” Here we’re assuming the worst-case scenario, where the buyer has not admitted his or her pain to us. It may become obvious to the salesperson (via the exploration of how the firm does business today) that the pain is driving the opportunity, but it’s important that the buyer be the one to admit it. Here we would ask a leading question:

Salesperson: What is the effect on you and your business of doing it this way?

Buyer: Well, quite frankly it’s having a real bearing on my ability to hit our new account revenue targets.

Salesperson: What is your target? And how short of it do you think you will be?

Buyer: Our goal is $5 million. At this rate we won’t even come close.


Bill would explore the impact column in the same method as he did for Vision Creation. Feel free to skip the dialogue and proceed to Box C3.

Box I1, Open Question, Explore Impact

Box I1

Salesperson: Besides yourself, who else in your organization is impacted because the new account revenue targets are being missed? And how are they impacted?

Buyer: Well, I know our salespeople are frustrated because they’re challenged with hitting their quotas. It tends to bring morale down.

Box I2: Control Question, Explore Impact

Box I2

Salesperson: If the new account revenue targets are being missed, is that causing your overall revenue goals to be missed?

Buyer: It really is having a huge impact.

Salesperson: Have you seen profits affected because of this?

Buyer: Our profits have been stagnant, but at this rate the overall profit targets of the company will be missed.

Salesperson: Do you know what the profit margins are here at TGI?

Buyer: Approximately 20 percent.

Salesperson: Which person in your organization is going to be most impacted by missed profit targets?

Buyer: That would be Jim Smith, our VP Finance.

Salesperson: Have the declining profits had any major effect on the value of your stock?

Buyer: Well, as you can imagine, we’re all shareholders here. The earnings per share have slipped, but I’d say that the declining profits have affected us more in our ability to grow our business.

Salesperson: Who is looking to grow the business here at TGI?

Buyer: We all are, but this is really the initiative of our CEO, Susan Brown.

Box I3: Confirm Question, Explore Impact

Box I3

Salesperson: So, from what I just heard, it sounds like your salespeople are frustrated with the effort it requires to hit their quotas, the VP Finance is challenged with hitting his profit targets, and your CEO is finding it difficult to grow TGI’s business. It sounds like this is not just your problem in sales but a companywide problem. Is that correct?

Buyer: Bill, I can’t disagree. You seem to have a real handle on our issues here at TGI.

Having established the cost of doing business today, positioned differentiating capabilities, and explored Steve’s pain and the impact on others at TGI, Bill can now confirm his understanding of the total situation at TGI.

Box C3: Confirm Question, Visualize Capabilities

Box C3

This summary here attempts to establish a new reengineered buying vision. Notice how it’s structured: “When you called, you said you needed [A = original vision]. But you also said you needed [B and C = additional capabilities]. If you had all these capabilities, could you [address your goal]?” Also, note how the salesperson ties back in the value established.

Salesperson: Steve, I just want to confirm our conversation here. So, when you called, you were looking at e-commerce to give (A) your customers who want to place orders the ability to view inventory levels, place an order on their own, and have it allocated and confirmed over the Internet. You also said you needed a way to (B) allow customers to answer their own questions by clicking on a FAQ Web menu or a Help option that would connect them to the appropriate person in the company. (C) You also wanted your customers to be prompted to submit referrals in exchange for discounts or promotional items when visiting your Web site. If you had all three of these capabilities, could you regain what appears to be a total of $7 million in new account revenue [including value of Capability A]—actually surpassing the shortfall that you shared with me earlier of $5 million?

Buyer: Bill, I really do believe that we could.

There you have it. You’ve taken a competing vision and learned all you can about it, and then you reengineered it with your most competitive differentiators.

However, before leaving the subject of vision re-engineering, there is one more important topic: Requests for Proposal (RFP) and Request for Information (RFI).