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.
As a professional salesperson today, you have the opportunity to be proactive or reactive when it comes to your marketplace and the tasks of the day. The choices that you make will have a major impact in the levels of business that you create.
Top salespeople in any industry are highly proactive and like to retain control of the things that matter in their business. Normally those things will include:
- Selective prospecting
- Client contact systems
- Contracts or orders
- Referral business
All of these things are important when it comes to growing market share and strengthening the personal profile you require as a top salesperson. If any of these five things are neglected, the results that you achieve are likely to be lessened.
So the key issue here is for you to be proactive in all the things that you do. Here are some ideas to help you:
- Use your time well and control it through an effective diary system. Don’t let other people make appointments for you. Their priorities will be different than yours.
- Understand the three or four things that are critical to the success of your business day. Ensure that those issues are merged into your diary activities every day. Get those things done before you attempt anything else. Remember the proactive approach will bring you better results.
- Place some priorities in contacting key clients on a regular basis. Those key clients or key accounts will be responsible for 80% of your business income. Strengthen the relationships of every possible opportunity.
- Understand the seasons of prospecting and sales. In your industry there will be times of the year where sales or more frequent and customers are more receptive to placing orders and signing contracts. Optimise your prospecting activities for those times of the year.
- Your existing high quality clients will be opportunities for future new business and referral leads. Ask the right questions at the right time.
- Help your clients succeed within their business and with their business requirements. In that way you will be bringing a level of value to your clients that will be hard to refuse.
- Always be networking when any spare time is available.
It is not hard to be successful in any industry when you understand that true success is built from proactive and not reactive base of control.
Have you ever come across a salesperson that really seems to have ‘their act’ totally together? You know the type; they are obviously successful in converting more prospects to clients, and the market share for that salesperson is strong and forever growing. They sell more and earn a very good income.
In any industry you can be a ‘good salesperson’ or you can be a ‘great salesperson’. Greatness doesn’t come easily; you have to work very hard for it and to keep it. The difference between the two salespeople is largely because attitude and action. Great sales people have a system of thinking and action that constantly focuses them on the right things that must be done. That then helps them build the momentum on the business that they require. They move ahead with a plan and focus of high quality.
Now it should be said that many of us want to be ‘great’ at what we do; the question is do we have the required mental stamina and the drive to work really hard on ourselves and improve our skills and knowledge. We all have choices.
Many things have been written about the mental concept behind ‘selling’ but not all of us ever do much about it in an consistent way. Discipline is the key. A well-known ‘business’ writer Og Mandino in the 1960’s and 1970’s put together some very well written simple stories around the process of discipline in sales.
If you are new to the ‘sales profession’ or if you are struggling with the processes that come with the job, may I suggest that you source out a copy of ‘The Greatest Salesman in the World’ by Og Mandino. It tells as simple and yet powerful story; not only that, it continues beyond the story to give you some specific tools to shape your thinking and action.
If you are new to the sales profession, welcome to a great and exciting career! That being said it is time to take the action needed to build your sales business and income in a big way; it is a personal thing and you have the keys to the process. Start the ‘engine’ and build your massive sales success.
Why Do People Need You?
When it comes to selling your services or prospecting today, you really should know why people would need what you have to offer. That knowledge helps you frame prospecting conversations and questions. You can ask good questions like:
- I am calling to see if you have any issues with your stationery costs that may be lifting costs for the business.
- I am calling to see if you are struggling with photocopier operational costs in your office structure.
- I am calling to see if you are having issues with car parking costs for the staff.
- I am calling to see if you are struggling with sales team performance particularly with reaching budget.
- I am calling to see if warehousing costs are a frustration to your business and if you’d be open to looking at other premises in the local area.
- I am calling to see if you are having issues with business insurance and if it is impacting performance of the company overall.
Specific questions like these help you identify pressure points and frustrations for customers and prospects.
So why do prospects and customers really need you? Answer these questions:
- What can you provide?
- How is it done?
- What is your point of difference?
- What is your benefit to the client?
- How can you improve the situation for the customers that you serve?
- Are you really different when it comes to comparisons with other similar suppliers?
- What advantages do you bring to the customers that you help?
- How are you better than your competitors?
- Why should a prospect or customer listen to you?
Taking these questions you can easily phrase some targeted questions that help your prospecting conversations and connections. Unless the client or prospect has a genuine need or interest there is no need to take matters further. Frame your questions so you know if the customer is a clear match for you.
When you work as a professional salesperson, your time is your most valuable resource. How you spend your time will impact on your income.
It is a fact that the the greater your success in sales, the greater the pressure will be on your daily activities. For this reason you do need a plan of control.
Here are some tips to help you with managing your business activity and your sales opportunity.
- Each weekend, review the activities of the last week to identify the current opportunities moving forward. They will need to be carried into the next week with the correct amount of focus and commitment.
- Plan the week ahead so that at least 1/3 of each working day is under some form of personal control. In that time frame, you can do the things that are most important and that will have impact on your growth of market share and client connection. When you believe you are under some control, you make better decisions and take the action. That is why at least 1/3 of the working day is so important to your momentum.
- From the previous point, the other 2/3 rds of the working day can be set aside for those reactive issues and pressures that arise each day. Clients, fellow staff members, and managers will impose on your time so move them into the remaining 2/3 rds of the working day.
- Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the day planning the activities that you need to get to. Write them into a written diary as a process of organisation. Prioritise the main and important issues that must be done on that day. This has been proven to be highly effective as an organisational tool in business. The success of the process has a lot to do with how the human brain deals with pressures and time.
- Allow for some slack time in the day where you can relax and regroup. The best time to do this is around the middle of the day as part of your lunch break.
- The circadian cycle is part of the biological clock of human performance. It shows that you have two peaks of effectiveness during the day. The first peak is between the hours of 7.00 AM and 11 am. The second peak is usually between 2.00 PM and 6.00 PM. Use these windows of time to do the most important things in your business day.
- When you get involved in a complex and time consuming issue, it takes about 20 minutes to get deeply into the task and committed to the process. Keep people away from you so that this 20 minute momentum is not broken and reset. After the initial 20 minutes, you are good for the next 2 hours of focus and dedication to the task.
- As you achieve things during the day, cross them off the list in your diary. This single process gives you the feeling of momentum and completion. At the end of the day you will have a number of things that have been crossed off the list. This is a success process and valuable to the mind as you struggle with work pressures.
Don’t equate being busy with being efficient. They are totally different things. In professional selling, efficiency is far more important than anything else. Don’t attempt to do more than you are capable of in the time frames available. Recognise the time has to be used wisely.
In business and in sales today, things change on a regular basis and you need to see that change. For this reason you need a personal business plan and a process to keep you on track. High performing salespeople develop a plan that keeps moving them forward.
Here are some tips to help you develop your business model and plan.
- Once every quarter, it pays to review your market for changes and pressures. Look at the opportunities of change that can provide you with more clients or sales. Compare each quarter to that of the previous quarter. Look for the trends over time. Pay particular attention to the seasonal sales activity and patterns in your town or city. Generally most salespeople have a window of 10 months each year as a core selling period. That is the time frame where you really need to work hard and with focus. That is where your plan will be most important.
- Your product or service will require knowledge, skills, and market updates. That should be an ongoing process of tracking and improvement. The clients that we serve like to see confidence and relevance when we do our sales pitch or presentation.
- Considering the current market and your services, ask yourself the following question. Why do people need you? The best answer to this question will be your unique selling point. The answer that you give needs to be quite specific and all of your marketing efforts should be centered on those facts.
- Determine where you are right now when it comes to market share, clients, sales, and income. All of these things should be part of your business plan and improvement model. Targets should be set when it comes to each of these categories. The target should be realistic and yet also optimistic. Set the rules so that you know exactly where you are headed with your sales targets this year.
- The targets that you set should be established on a timeline given your core 10 months of market activity. If you are starting your selling career in a new area or business, you will need to stagger the growth of sales over the 10 month period. The first three months of the period are likely to be devoted to the establishment of market share.
- From all of the above items, you should be setting your action plan in motion. That action plan will require resources to support the systems that you create. A database will be part of that process. The client connections that you make should be tracked in the database so that ongoing customer relationships can be built. In many respects, the success of a salesperson is largely based on trust.
- On a final note, always track your progress on a weekly basis. In this way you will quickly know when things are improving or slowing down. Your plans and actions can then be easily adjusted. Pay particular attention to your prospecting processes, conversions to meetings, meetings to sales, and customer service. Providing everything moves well, you should have the opportunity for ongoing referral business and repeat client activity.
The results that you get as a professional salesperson are largely driven by your mindset and your actions. Protect and support both of these processes with the right attitude and consistency. Over time you can build your market share and income.