It is an efficient and memorable way to convey your offerings. The value in win themes is that they can become a powerful mantra. Effective mantras can span sales opportunities and resonate with the customers’ buying criteria. Connecting with customer priorities is what will make win themes the most successful.


Aligning win themes to customer priorities sounds easy enough. But don’t be fooled. We see constant misalignment due to poor planning, bad assumptions and weak customer insight. The intersection of your offerings and the customers’ wants – that is where you’ll find your win theme and a winning sales strategy.


As a guide to review your sales strategy, access the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook. Turn to the Sales Strategy section and answer the questions on page 342 to evaluate whether your sales strategy is a problem.


Evaluation Criteria Matrix 


In order to help you find this intersection, SBI created the Evaluation Criteria Matrix. Consider it your insight to customer priorities. The benefit of the matrix tool is that you complete it with the customer. Schedule a discovery meeting with the buyer. Request their input on the specific criteria which will be used on the project. During the meeting you present a partial list from the Evaluation Criteria Matrix. Ask if items on the list align with the customer’s thoughts. Request they provide more evaluation points and rate each on a scale of 1-5. From these ratings, you can then create your win theme. Utilize highest-rated criteria to discern where their needs intersect most with your offerings. That will be your win theme.


Creating a poignant win theme message is difficult to do. Not everyone can seamlessly connect with buyers. If it were simple, everyone would have a great win theme. As it is, most companies don’t. There are a number of ways to botch your win theme. Some of the main ones to watch out for are listed here for you.


Win Theme Pitfalls:


  • Inward-out focus – In this case, the theme is aligned to your desired message. It should actually be aligned to the customer’s. It’s the equivalent of talking about yourself instead of listening to others. It’s a turnoff, and customers will pass you by.
  • Jumping the gun – In this case, win themes are developed too early in the sales cycle. The first step to a win theme must be to identify needs and requirements. You could be trying to sell a side of beef to a vegetarian and never know.
  • Too broad and too long – Win themes must have clarity and brevity. Clarity allows you to address specific customer needs. Brevity empowers the message to be remembered and recalled without effort by you and the customer.
  • Too “pitchy” – No one wants to be sold to. It’s uncomfortable and can be annoying. Falling back on vague sales clichés will be another turnoff for customers. Don’t sell – address a need or pain instead.
  • Not tied to your strengths – A win theme, first and foremost, must be aligned with your strengths. You can’t hope to sell a service that you aren’t good at. This should be criteria #1.


Win Theme Best Practices:


  • Convey understanding – Customers want to know that you understand their priorities. If you understand them, you are more likely to help them. This is what they’re after, and what you need to give them.
  • Aligned – The customer’s wants and needs must relate to your offerings. If not, why are you selling to them?
  • Easy, concise, and provocative – You can’t only have a good message. You need a message that makes customers think and relate. It must stick out from the thousands of other messages they see daily. If you’re theme sticks out, customers are more likely to remember it.
  • Socialized – Once you have your theme, you need to spread it. Make it known across various oral and written communication channels (e.g., marketing collateral, proposals, executive summaries, letters, emails, presentations, etc.).
  • Short & sweet – You want to target 2 to 3 word statements. These statements should cover 3 to 4 themes that resonate with the customer.


There are a few “tried and true” categories for win themes. These categories allow you to tap into root customer needs with your win theme. Review the list below and find the category(s) that fits your organization best.


If you want to improve your win ratio, Use the Evaluation Criteria Matrix to pinpoint your best win theme opportunity.


Win Theme Areas:


  • Experience:  Expertise, Proven, Tested, Quality
  • Capabilities: Unique Functionality, Speed, Ease of Execution
  • Trust: Competency, Security, Support
  • Organizational: Strength, Reputation, Familiarity with Firm, Positioning
  • Relationship: Positioning, Partnerships, Commitment, Corporate Alignment, Compatibility
  • Platforms: Methodologies, Processes, Training


Last thought on win themes, remember, most purchasing decisions originate from the “left brain,” (aka: emotional centers of the brain). We will often use “right brain” analysis to justify “left brain” decisions. That said, it’s imperative to locate the heart of customer wants in your win themes. Once you do that, you can then interweave your themes seamlessly throughout your communication channels with the customer. This is where the customer’s priorities and your strengths intersect and interest is truly activated. 


The main thing to remember: You don’t choose your win theme. Your customer does.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job


Sales Revenue Growth