As sales consultants we encourage all sales professionals and sales managers to use our 3 C's Method to develop and then implement an effective sales strategy. It is a practical and intuitive way to create a sales strategy that will win more sales for you and, best of all, it doesn't take long to do.
What are the 3 C's?
Customer, Competitors, and Company (your organization) are the three key factors that you should address in your sales strategy. Let's begin with some examples for each factor, share some common mistakes, and then we'll conclude with the ideal sequence that you should follow.
Factor #1: Customer
This is the most essential factor because the more that you know about the customer, then you are in a better position to assess two things: 1) Is this customer worth winning? and, then assuming that it is worth winning, 2) How can we capitalize on what we know about this customer to win the sale?
To do this well requires that you become proficient at asking as many relevant questions as possible. Here are two examples of questions that you might ask: What is most important to this customer when selecting a supplier? Who is involved in the approval and decision-making process?
The two most common mistakes that average sellers make regarding the "Customer Factor" are to, first, not ask enough questions and, second, limit themselves by not identifying all the decision-makers and influencers, which means that they don't get all the necessary input. For example, perhaps you spoke with the purchasing agent and technical person but didn't speak with the users in the plant or facility.
If you're interested in learning more about high-gain questions, we have several resources such as this earlier blog titled Ten Powerful Sales Questions as well as our for-purchase online module titled Questioning Skills.
Factor #2: Competitors
You cannot develop an effective sales strategy if you don't know who you are competing with. After all, customers don't make decisions in a vacuum. They are always going to compare your product/service and company to other alternatives.
This means that you must ask additional questions to the customer such as: Who are your currently buying from? Who else are you considering? What do you like about your current supplier? What would you like to improve?
Then, after you've identified the competitors, your sales strategy must address two things: 1) What differentiates us from this competitor? and 2) How can we overcome any strengths that this competitor can offer the customer? To win the sale, your company and product/service must exceed what the customer has been receiving from the competitor. Otherwise, there is no compelling reason for the customer to switch.
Although it sounds obvious to do everything cited above for the "Competitors Factor," many salespeople don't gather and utilize information about competition. They give a standard sales pitch to every customer and fail to customize their strategy to take advantage of what they do well relative to a specific competitor.
Factor #3: Company
The third and final factor is your Company and more specifically, any relevant information about the products and services that you hope to sell to the customer. Done well, you highlight the benefits and value that you can provide. For more information on this, our blog titled Are You Proficient Selling Value provides suggestions and also has links to other value selling resources.
There are three mistakes that you need to avoid when talking about your company: 1) Information Overload - don't talk too much about your company and product; instead, limit yourself to your two or three strongest reasons; 2) Link what you are saying to the customer's needs; in other words, what you learned for Factor #1; and, 3) Highlight those things that differentiate you from the Competitors.
What is the Ideal Sequence to Use for the 3 C's?
We purposely listed the three factors as #1: Customer, #2: Competitors, and #3: Your Company, because this is the ideal sequence to follow. Average sellers do the opposite and tend to focus too much on the third factor, which is why they often talk too much about their company and product. You'll have much more success if you focus more time on the other two factors. In a phrase, be customer-focused, not company-focused.
If you're interested in more information on the 3 C's, we teach it in several of our workshops and also use it in our 1-on-1 sales coaching. Contact us if you'd like to learn more.
Consider these two extremes: 1) A salesperson doesn't plan at all for an upcoming sales call; and, 2) A salesperson is required to fill out a lengthy pre-call planning form that attempts to address every possible contingency that might arise during the customer conversation.
As a former sales manager, I'd prefer choice #2 over choice #1 because sales calls usually go poorly if a sales professional doesn't do any planning. However, choice #2 - what we'll call 'over planning,' for short, also has its downsides.
As such, we at Peak Selling have developed a 1-page Pre-Call Sales Planning Form that addresses four essential things that should be considered when planning for a sales call:
- What are your goals and objectives for this customer? (goal is the long-term desired outcome, objective is what you want to accomplish on this sales call)
- What are the critical actions that you should take during the sales call? (beginning with how to open the sales call, then transition to questioning and presenting information)
- What are the likely objections and how will you respond?
- What follow up actions or next steps will you recommend?
All of the above four categories are important but if you had a very short amount of time and could only plan one thing, you should always do #1 - set clear goals and objectives for the sales call. This allows you to stay focused during the call on what you need to accomplish to make it a successful sales call. To say it differently, when you set clear goals and objectives, you ensure that you are making purposeful sales calls.
If you'd like to receive the full-length Pre-Call Sales Planning Form, contact us and we will send it via email.
All sales professionals encounter a dip in sales results. For some, it causes a drop in self-confidence. What can you do to rebuild your confidence? The answers vary with each person, but a good starting point is to "Trust the sales process."
Trust the Sales Process
What do we mean by "trust the sales process," and how can this help you to rebuild your confidence? A loss of confidence often causes a salesperson to start to do things differently. Two examples would be to rush through the opening of the sales call because of nervousness, or try to close too soon in an attempt to improve results.
Focus instead on the sales process that you've used successfully in the past. Each step in the sales process is like a link in a chain. If you do one step poorly, it weakens the entire chain, and your sales results will continue to suffer. By focusing on the sales call process that applies to your business, and doing each step in the sales call process as well as possible, you should see your sales results improve.
Here are two additional resources if you want more information on an effective sales call process:
- View our free online module titled How Selling Has Evolved for a summary of the critical selling skills that are needed today to make successful sales calls. For example: selling on value and team selling.
- Your sales call process should address what you do before, during, and after each sales call. Because pre-call planning - what you do before the sales call - is so important, read Are You a Sales Professional or Well-Paid Tourist for some advice on the three most critical tasks to do when planning.
Most sales professionals will admit to not dedicating enough time to sales call planning. However, it doesn’t have to take long to plan. Which of the following three critical sales call planning tasks do you still need to work on?
Critical Task # 1 in the Planning Stage: Identify your goals and objectives
What is your Sales Goal (long term) or desired outcome for this account?
What is your Sales Call Objective (short term) or what you want to accomplish at the next sales call?
Critical task #2 in the Planning Stage: Identify the decision makers and influencers
Are you meeting with all the right people? Are there additional people influencing the decision making process? Make the mistake of failing to identify and gain access to all the decision makers and you miss out on important sales opportunities.
Critical task #3 in the Planning Stage: Prepare the appropriate resources
What and Who do you need to bring to the sales call? Would a product demonstration help? Should you bring a technical expert or upper level manager?
Successful sales professionals follow a roadmap to effectively plan and conduct sales calls. Our 12-part Essential Selling Skills online training series teaches a 6-Stage Sales Call Process and the critical tasks for each stage. Visit Essential Selling Skills online training for more information. Module 2 Stages and Critical Tasks of Selling and Module 3 Pre-Call Planning go into more detail on the 6-stage process and how to successfully plan for sales calls.
As a former sales professional and sales manager, I saw firsthand for myself and my sales team how important it is to do pre-call planning well.There are three critical tasks that should be done before every sales call – we call these tasks the What, the Who, and the How, for short.The first critical task is referred to as the "What” of your plan, meaning: What specifically do you want to accomplish on this sales call? Have you set clear sales goals and sales call objectives?This is the most important step because it ensures that every sales call should be purposeful. A sales call without an objective is a visit. You are a sales professional, not a well-paid tourist, so don’t make visits!The second critical task of your pre-call plan is the "Who” of the sales call. Your sales goals directly influence who should be at the sales call. Who do you need to speak with, either on the phone or in person, to achieve your sales goals and objectives?At the risk of stating the obvious — you can’t accomplish your sales call objectives if the right customer contact isn’t at the sales call.The third critical task is the "How.” After you’ve set your goals and objectives and scheduled an appointment with the right person(s), then you should plan and organize what you will say and do during the sales call.Depending on the specific customer situation, you might plan some (but not all) of these factors:•How to open the sales call•Questions to ask about the customer’s needs•Benefits and differentiators to highlight about your company and product/service•Likely objections and how you will respond•Actions/next steps that you want the customer to takeSales managers interested in helping their salespeople to plan more effectively for sales calls, might wish to purchase the Pre-Call Planning coaching kit.
Why is Pre-Call Sales Planning So Crucial?
What can be more fundamental and important than pre-call sales planning? A wasted sales call is a lost opportunity.
What Elements Should Be Considered in Pre-Call Sales Planning?
The pre-call sales planning process doesn’t have to take long, nor does it always need to be written down, but it should address these 4 core elements:
- Your Sales Call Objective: What specific results or actions do you want to accomplish with this customer at the conclusion of this sales call? Your objectives need to also take into consideration factors such as "what can I do to strengthen the business relationship with this client” and "what can I do to help this customer during these difficult times?”
- Critical Questions to Ask the Customer: A few good questions must always be part of your sales call planning process. "What has changed since our last conversation?”, "How can we help you?”and "What are you finding difficult in your business today?” are some examples. .
- Benefits and Value to the Customer: What benefits will you highlight about your sales solution? Can you offer the customer a new or different product or service that will provide value? When you do some pre-call planning on benefits and value statements, it helps you to avoid the mistake of feature dumping your way through a sales call.
- Possible Objections: Depending on the product or service that you intend to highlight during the sales call, you can probably anticipate the most likely objections. How will you respond? What is your fallback plan if the customer says no?