In today's economy, big and small businesses are seeking every opportunity to win sales through competitive advantages. Smart owners of small business know a sales strategy can create a competitive advantage.
Selling consists of two main functions: tactics and strategy. Sales strategy is the planning of sales activities: methods of reaching clients, competitive differences and resources available. Tactics involves the day-to-day selling: prospecting, sales process, and follow-up.
The tactics of selling are very important but equally vital is the strategy of sales. The advantages are too compelling to ignore.
Competitive Advantages of Strategic Sales Planning
Increased closing ratio by knowing clients hot buttons
Improved client loyalty by understanding needs
Shorten the sales cycle with outside recommendations
- Outsell competitors by offering the best solution
The development of any type of plan begins with research. The insight gained for a competitive advantage comes from the marketplace not from your mind. The approach to use is what I call "Triple-tiered Sales Strategy". Look at your client and the outside influences on their business. Approach all three tiers to understand your customer.
Tier 1: Associations: What associations does your target customer belong to? Contact the membership director and establish a relationship not for selling but to understand their member's needs.
Tier 2: Suppliers: Identify non-competitive suppliers who sell to your customer. Learn their challenges and look for partnering solutions.
Tier 3: Customer: Work directly with your customer and ask them what their needs are and if your business may offer a possible solution.
An excellent example of developing a "triple-tiered sales strategy" is a story of a small accounting firm. This firm decided to target independent truck drivers for accounting services.
The competition for this firm was a big accounting company. This small business approached the truck drivers association and learned that one concern of their membership was receiving financing for a new vehicle.
A discussion with the suppliers of trucks, revealed financing was only approved after the truckers supplied financial statements. The financials were often prepared by a large accounting firm who set appointments on their time and in their office.
The pieces of the puzzle were now coming together. The customer was the last piece of critical information. Truckers were frustrated by the inconvenience of visiting an accounting firm because of the time they spend on the road. The best solution was to bring the accounting service to the customer on their terms and time.
The small accounting office had defined a clear sales strategy: offer in-home financial statement preparation for truck drivers seeking financing through truck manufacturers. All sales leads would be referred from the supplier. This strategy was a win-win for the association, the supplier, the customer and the accounting firm.
The moral of the story is to gain a competitive advantage by looking at both sides of the equation, tactics and strategy. Use the triple-tiered approach to win business and outsell the big companies in your market.