3-D Selling – A Growth Guide

What a frustrating and common complaint, heard often by sales leaders and founders during weekly reviews of the revenue pipeline at many B2B firms. As a growth consultant, I hear it again and again, albeit in different forms. To me, it is one symptom of a recurring issue facing revenue teams. A lack of client insights creates stalled opportunities that hold back your growth across lead prospecting, discovery, progressing qualified opportunities, and uncovering new projects at current accounts. Your sales teams can quickly build harmony between prospects and the solutions you offer, simply by tuning in to a deep understanding of their problems and needs.


What’s the diagnosis of what is ailing sales teams? A chronic case of 2-Dimensional selling, which focuses on activity over value creation, accepting surface needs over uncovering deep understanding, and fire drills over compounded wins along the buyer journey. In essence, 2-D selling lacks depth.

Before I jump to treatment, here’s a quick story from my journey into sales. I jumped from consumer marketing at Procter & Gamble and Novartis (great experiences, but found little joy in it), into B2B sales fairly early in my career. In my first sales job, one of my company’s founders was generous and gave me some valuable coaching that helped me break the 2-D selling cycle,  during a break at a conference in New Orleans. Harvey’s guidance: You are pretty smart, but you are not selling smart. Stop focusing solely on what the client tells you to do. Start treating sales like a chess game. Your job is to shape the board strategy and see beyond the one move everyone else is working on. I’ve come back to Harvey’s coaching many times over the years.


3-D selling applies the disciplines of leading with purpose, asking thoughtful questions, and targeting successive wins that, together, help build a portfolio of loyal clients for your business. The three dimensions of successful selling are:

1) Intention – every interaction you have with targeted leads and clients is backed by a clear purpose, a written plan to keep you focused on identifying opportunities and building value

2) Understanding – you are curious and ask a combination of open and confirmation questions to gain a deep understanding of the client context, decision-maker needs, pain points, and expectations

3) Successive ‘Yeses’ – having successive wins with clients along their buyer journey, compounds value and creates strong lasting relationships


3-D starts with three expectations to enforce with your business development and account management staff.

Before every client or prospect meeting, I want you to be able to show me your written call plan. A call plan sets objectives, context, background, client agendas, and desired next steps. It keeps you focused on confirming how the client will get value from your selling proposition.  An added benefit is that your call plan helps you shape an agenda that you should proactively share with your client.

In every client or prospect meeting, I want to hear at least 3 open-ended questions that you follow-up with confirmation statements. Smart questions are open-ended, they are designed to build a deep understanding of the client’s challenges, and they help to fuel the salesperson’s tailoring of benefits to fit the client like a glove. Salespeople need to develop and express a deep understanding of client problems throughout discovery; studies indicate 83% sellers think they do this well, while 69% of buyers expressed they want salespeople to start to listen to their needs.

After every client interaction, make sure you’ve agreed on timebound next steps with the client and have a plan to give them immediate value. You can accelerate your opportunities, and grow dramatically, by multiplying incremental wins throughout the buyer’s journey. Incremental wins come from elevating your client’s understanding, surfacing relevant insights, or even by just helping them to finally make progress on long-standing issues. Go for a series of ‘Yeses’ from buyers and you’ll quickly become the preferred choice when money starts to get spent.

By raising the bar across your team to be intentional, dig deep to understand client problems, tailor benefits, and create value across a series of client ‘yeses’, you’ll reap more revenue from your pipeline and shape a team that nurtures clients into long term, loyal relationships.

Picture of  PETER MEYERS


Peter is an executive advisor, consultant, and facilitator who happily lives and breathes sales strategy and customer experience. With a razor-sharp focus on making sales teams more effective, he combines his creativity, collaborative style, and relentless drive for results. Before Portage, he held VP roles in sales, marketing, and product innovation at LoyaltyOne, Epsilon, The Toronto Region Board of Trade, and Engage People. When he’s not exploring new sales strategies, he’s taking in the great outdoors.

Recent Posts

Ready to take action? Book a discovery session now to get new clarity on your opportunities.