When you look at a key account company for your business, and then look at the various members of the account, you can quickly see the necessity to have your top executive team involved in the contact process at a high level.
Don’t leave the contact process to just one person in your business, particularly with the larger company accounts. Get multiple people from your team involved at different levels. Certainly have one key account manager as the point of main contact and coordination, but recognise the need to have your top people talking to their top people.
The higher the level of contact that you make with a key customer the greater the amount of information that is likely to be gleaned. They say that information is a valuable resource and that is very much the case in Key Account Development and Management. Capture and interpret information from all of your clients and start a master file on your database so all members of your account team can be made fully aware of critical information and current orders. Develop a sales attitude to match the needs of your Key Accounts.
Here are some ideas to help you with your client contact:
- Put a member of your team into the clients business for a week to see what they do and how you can help further with their business processes.
- Seed some ideas into the client’s processes where you can identify advantages for them. A simple graph or a set of statistics may be all that is required to attract their attention.
- Many clients will have priorities that are complex and driven from their business model and plan. Every six months or so look at your performance indicators for servicing the client; ensure that you are meeting their business needs and expectations.
A well-managed key client will lead to more new business, other orders and potential referral business.
It may seem a bit strange but you can use stories of ‘failure’ as part of your sales pitch. By ‘failure’ I mean situations where other clients and prospects really made the wrong choices and suffered as a consequence. That simple illustration can help your current clients see the advantage of fresh new ideas and perhaps the recommendations made as part of your sales pitch today.
Clients don’t want to make mistakes. A ‘failure’ situation is actually something that can help your current clients move ahead in a positive way and in doing so avoid any poor decisions.
So here are the rules to the process:
- Tell stories from the market and provide real life facts and information.
- A failure situation is actually a valuable lesson to someone. Your current clients may appreciate that knowledge.
- Make connections between your current clients situation and the ‘failure event’ so they know that it is relevant and real.
- From the failure you can work up recommendations and alternatives. Every client likes to have a few alternatives to consider.
- Put yourself in the solution and in the story. Show the client the timeline to progress as you see it and break it up into stages of action. Small simple steps are the easy way to move through a problem.
It is fairly easy to pitch on a sale situation if you follow these rules. It is simple sales logic. The client doesn’t want to make a mistake; they will listen to you. You become the solution process. The depth of your recommendations and solutions will help the client move ahead. That’s how you can close on a sales pitch.
What is the value of a client to you in business terms? What does a high value client look like and where are they located? These are simple questions but they have a lot to do with where you can take your sales career. When you know the answers to the questions you will know how to build client collateral. That can then give you the foundation for better sales over time. That then leads to market share.
I like to call this ‘client awareness’; it comes from a close alignment with your clients and in any business this can be done quite easily. Here are some tips to help you do that effectively. It doesn’t matter if you work alone or in a large team of salespeople; the relationships with clients always come back to the individual.
The tips for building ‘client awareness’ are best summarised in this way:
- Start your day with client contact activities. Spend 3 hours interacting with your clients and prospects. The best way to do that will be by prospecting and by using a good database that feeds you information from the last contact cycle.
- Sell and service ‘upstream’ from current contacts. From your current clients there will be other levels of business to achieve or position for. Ask the questions at the right time and get to know the people upstream from your current clients and contacts. In major companies and corporations, relationships extend across cities and state boundaries. Have you asked the right questions to understand who the people are upstream? They will be managers, buyers, product controllers, sales managers, CEO’s, and similar key people. What can you do to get to know them?
- Understand the client experience and how it can be improved; this is especially the case with VIP clients. What do you do now to monitor your customer experiences? Can you create a ‘secret shopper’ strategy to see how a customer is treated in the business?
- Communication and timely responses are simple business practices, so don’t forget to do follow the rules accordingly. Many clients have stories of ‘being forgotten’ or ‘neglected’ in a sale or customer service situation.
- Know the clients business to a high level as well as all the people involved. It is remarkable just how relationships can frustrate a business deal. Without the ‘up line’ and ‘down line’ contacts under control, you will find the sale process slower and tougher. Whilst you may think you know the ‘key decision makers’ for a deal, understand what impact could occur through others involved in using or consuming your products or services. Your products and services will be assessed in a number of different ways by each of the stakeholders.
- ‘Seed ideas’ that can help the client move to a new level of results and service. One simple idea can open the door for better product or service coverage and performance.
- Bridging your ideas to the next level with new products and service – it is surprising just how much value the client can get from a simple display or product update.
- Benchmarking – this should always occur with clients in similar businesses and market segments. In this way you will know what you can do across client requirements and market segments.
- Tracking and measuring all aspects of the customer experience will help you see performance issues and changes. Over time you will want to find those problems before the client finds them.
- Comprehensive questioning of the client will help you drill down on the right information that affects your products and services.
- Keeping your promises on all orders and services will always be important.
So there are lots of things for you to do here. Get to know your clients in all ways and use that relationship for more leads and referral business. That’s how you will become a top salesperson
In your business currently how do you treat your key accounts? Do you know who they are? Do you understand the value that they bring to you? They are interesting questions. In today’s business world your key accounts are the most important people to work with, followed closely behind by your staff.
What is the definition of a key account? In most cases they will be the small segment of your clients that make up 80% of your cash flow. Although small in number they are the clients that will do maximum damage if they move away or stop purchasing through your company.
Generally they will give you:
- Repeat business
- Growth of market share
- Referral opportunities
- Volume business and sales
Without key accounts your business would quite likely self implode? I am sure you would agree. Whilst the fact about customers is well known, so many businesses have no plan for their most important customers. They simply assign a salesperson or a team to a segment of the customer base. From that point the plan falls right away from the process.
So what do you need to do here? You must create a Key Account Plan. Here are some simple steps to get started in doing that:
- Review your current business to know exactly where the sales are coming from. From that point your database should be split up into clients of different categories and product ranges.
- Determine the levels of business coming in and in what categories. How are sales expected to change in those categories in coming years?
- Exactly what could be considered your core business? What products and services sit squarely in those categories?
- Are there any seasonal pressures on sales and service activities? How are the trends going now in those categories?
- Consider the level of sales for a client that would be considered above the ordinary level.
- Divide your clients into groups and zones. What zones and groups are the easiest to service?
- Review the financial data for each client and their sales activity over the last 2 years. How has that activity changed? What is expected to happen with that activity in the future?
- What are your competitors doing now and what pressures will they place on your market share and client base?
- What threats exist in your market currently and how will that flow through to your business base?
When you answer these questions you have the raw data to move ahead towards your Key Account Plan.
In sales it is wise to remember the factors of ‘reciprocity’. The act of giving freely and willingly has great impact on attracting repeat business and return customers. Clients know when you go out of the way to help them with their situation.
Certainly ‘reciprocity’ will help build your profile, trust, and respect with the customer. Be prepared to do some things for ‘nothing’ understanding that the person you are helping will really value your interest and help.
Consider these questions:
- How long is it since you ‘called in’ to talk to that customer who purchased from you last year or some time ago? Go back through your database to find the people that you can help and support further.
- What could you do for your customers today that would be of value to them? Go and see your clients and customers. Get in front of them at every opportunity when ‘in the field’.
- When the last sale went through, what did you do to extend the value of the product or service? Could you have done more?
- What can you do with your clients today to show them that you really value their business and contact?
It is a fact that people like to do business with those that they trust and respect. It takes time to achieve that profile; certainly reciprocity will help greatly as part of that process.
Find the people that you can help and go out of your way to do so. Over time that will bring you more clients and lots of repeat business. Establish the relationships with the right people that you know are of value to your business and your income.
When you work as a professional salesperson in any industry, the only way that you will achieve a dominant market share and a good income is through putting your heart and soul into the selling process. Over time that will help you with building your business and your income.
Professional selling requires practice, good market knowledge, excellent product knowledge, and total personal commitment. Not all salespeople will check all these boxes when it comes to personal performance and business focus.
It is worthwhile saying that many salespeople are not totally committed to the task and the clients that they serve. They prefer to work the hours of an ‘order taker’ and not a top salesperson. That being the case, it is better for them to work in customer service. Let the front line sales go to those people that know how to encourage the transaction, and value to the customer, and grow the relationships over time.
So let’s go back to the point that top results require a top salesperson with a quality level of focus. Here are some points around which you can build your sales business and your leads and opportunities:
- Most customers and clients don’t want to be an experiment when it comes to placing an order or achieving a result. They like to know that they are working with the best people in the industry with the best product or service capability.
- Providing you have a top quality product or service to supply, most of the upcoming new business that you will generate will come from personal relationships established over time. This then says that you will need a good prospecting model and contact process to implement with all of your clients and prospects. It is a personal process that cannot be delegated.
- It may take three or four attempts at contacting the person before a meeting can be arranged. It may also take two or three meetings from that point onwards to establish a potential sale or order. Consistency and persistence within your prospecting model will be essential to building market share.
- Enthusiasm, knowledge, and trust are key elements to the client and customer relationship. Most of the people that we work with will want to see all of these elements before they share their business opportunities with us. Those salespeople with lower levels of integrity or attention to detail will usually not last in any industry over the long term.
- It should be said that people like to do business with the people they know and trust. Top salespeople rise to the top of their industry due to the levels of trust and the relationships that they have established.
Whilst the process sounds basic and simple, many salespeople overlook the necessity to follow through on the points of establishing new relationships and strengthening trust with their clients and prospects.
Forget about the need to make a sale, and focus on the relationships that you require; the business will come your way over time. Put integrity back into your selling processes.