If you want to get a great start in the new year, focus on how you can deliver unique value to your customers. There is a lot of talk about “adding value” for customers. Why is this so important and how can you do it?
Adding value enables you to set yourself apart when customers have a hard time distinguishing between alternatives. It can be the key to winning your first business deal with a new account or building a stronger relationship with an existing account.
Creating and implementing strong territory and account plans is an important part in this endeavor. Effective account management increases return from strategic accounts by 145%, according to Actify’s Account Planning Book of Evidence.
Here is how you can add value:
1. Be an indispensable resource.
In each communication, share creative resources and/or unique insight to help solve their issues. Provide links to white papers, expert opinions, case studies, user guides, set up guides and consulting services.
2. Be proactive.
Poor account management may be costing more than you realize. Some of the critical effects may go unnoticed until it is too late, costing you in many ways, including:
- Missing important opportunities in strategic accounts or, even worse
- Losing important accounts.
- When customers leave, 68% of them do so because they felt poorly treated.
- You’ll spend up to 5 times more to win a new customer than it will cost to retain an existing one.
John Reighard, who has been a very successful sales leader, says that territory and account management is central to success. He has earned $90,000 per month and has led sales teams to greatly out-perform expectations and their peers. See the short video. https://youtu.be/43TcozQlYaY
Today, the big focuses on having insight into your customers’ issues and how you uniquely solve them to drive your sales efforts. This is what the “Challenger Sale” model (by the Corporate Executive Board) is all about.
Likewise, if you focus on strategic accounts, you need insight into how well your team is working with these accounts in order to optimize your results. Having a scorecard enables you to carefully evaluate your key account strategies and use of sales enablement resources to ensure you are getting maximum return on your sales efforts. Keep in mind that there is a huge cost of chasing the wrong deal and wasting valuable resources that could have been used elsewhere. Also, good account planning ensures that your team is driving their sales efforts by insight into the customer’s situation- with the support of key players in the account.
We have developed a scorecard designed to help you do this. It is called the Strategic Account Management Scorecard. It measures a sales organization’s effectiveness compared to Best Practices in six critical categories:
Success in selling to your most important accounts requires a team approach. Whether you classify customers as “strategic, major, key, target, or focus,” your probability of success in meeting your goals with an account will increase substantially when you assemble a team of supporting resources to supplement the work of the Account Manager. The Account Manager and a supporting cast of sales, technical specialists, and other internal and external resources working together will result in the greatest return from your relationship with your important customers. The customer’s cross-functional decision teams will find value from this approach too, as the “right” resources are applied to addressing all business issues related to a purchase from all impacted groups.
- Anticipate needs as they evolve in the account- based on new technology and product capability, needs and their marketplace. This makes you a true business advisor vs. a vendor.
- Touch base regularly with the key people in the account. This way you can “feel their pain,” and help them produce the key business results they are responsible for.
- Understand top management’s strategic initiatives and create aligned goals. Get input and agreement from key people in the account and jointly pursue those objectives.
- Always look for opportunities to expand your presence in the account, for example upsell or cross sell products, penetrate into new business units and influence new key people as a way to improve sales results.
- Create a strategic account plan based on trends in the customer’s industry and your product/ service technology. Include your goals, strategies, target opportunities and action plan.
- Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Leverage your competitive advantages. Respond to threats from competitors, new regulations, technology…
- Have a clear value proposition that describes how your solution meets their needs. You must understand their needs and the criteria upon which they will judge what meets those needs.
- Have a relationship strategy for how you will leverage each of the key people in the account. Focus on helping them achieve their business results and personal agenda.
- Identify the key members of your account team (internal and partner resources) and what they will do to help you win each target opportunity.
- Share information across your team quickly so you can identify issues and opportunities and course-correct promptly.
- Use your network to generate introductions from credible sources; enabling you to connect with people who would otherwise be unreachable.
- Track the activities of key opinion leaders, industry journals, etc. Sharing the ideas of people with real insights is the easiest way to sound smart and add value.
- Help them justify the investment via ROI analysis, testimonials, references and case studies. Although they may want to go with your product/service, they need to justify it to themselves and then to their management. Your job is to help them do this.
- Make your strategies broad enough to have a significant effect over time, yet focused enough to produce measurable results in the account.
- Make your tactical plan specific; who, what, when, how. The tactics must be clear to anyone who is implementing them.
- You must have clear metrics so you can measure how you are progressing toward your goals… and if you need to course-correct.
- Use your plan to engage the critical people needed to implement the plan, for example your management, other internal functions, partners and customer sponsors.
- When managing meetings between the customer’s and your organization, use your plan to identify your meeting goals, an agenda to meet those goals, who needs to attend and what each person will contribute… including from customer and partner organizations.
- Track progress against your goals, strategies and action plan. Fine-tune as needed. Focus on the high impact tasks and avoid getting overwhelmed by the many low impact tasks.
- Perform strategic account reviews, including win/loss analysis, identifying common errors across the team, sharing best practices and enabling learning to improve sales effectiveness.
- Have your plan readily available in your system of record, i.e. your CRM. This makes it much easier to access it, implement and fine tune.
- Conduct quarterly customer business review meetings. Review the value/results you have delivered in that quarter, half year and year. Review progress toward joint goals. Get agreement on a joint tactical plan. This results-orientation attracts attendance of higher-level management.
- Actively create and utilize success stories, case studies and testimonials to demonstrate your impact on results. Use videos - so people can sense the enthusiasm and sincerity.
- Measure your team’s use of their account plans by including it as a measure in their performance reviews.
- Encourage the use of account plans and account management by sharing success stories and best practices across the team.
How many times have you sat in a territory or account review and heard great sales strategy after great sales strategy being proposed only to find out a month or two later that none of those strategies are actually implemented? We all know brilliant strategists who, because they do not implement their strategies, do not produce results. How do you ensure that strategy will turn into appropriate action to produce the desired results?