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.
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.
When you are a professional salesperson, the contact time that you have with the client is both critical and compounding. It is the way in which you can grow your market share and sales. That being said you can create a set of standards to give greater quality to the meeting and telephone contact that you make with all of your clients.
You can set those standards in all of the following:
- Identifying future needs for your services
- Ensuring that established business is progressing
- Checking that previous business arrangements and current service levels are at the levels that encourage ongoing business
- Seeing if the client wants more help or information in using your services to better result
- Asking for referral business and leads
Asking the right questions with the client will help these situations. Not only that, they will help you identify any client relationships that are under pressure or threat.
In closing a client connection there is one ‘golden rule’. It goes something like this:
‘Mr. Client, thank you for talking with me today. Is there anything else that I can help you with?’
When you ask the question, the response will likely give you more information and perhaps even another item of business that you can help them with. It is such a simple question and yet so relevant to the client meeting or contact process.
The simple question is perhaps one of the most important. It sends the right message that you are interested in helping. A good client relationship is built on trust and communication. Start to use this question as part of your client meetings and discussions.