John Corr answers your top five questions on how to focus your investment in strategic account management when pursuing complex high-value engagements.
“I can guarantee that your investment in time in reading the answers to the following key questions will help you deliver an immediate performance improvement in your strategic account management. Bottom-line you will enjoy greater revenues sooner than you thought possible with a great deal less effort J
My very best wishes for your future success and prosperity” John.
Q#1: What’s the biggest mistake in strategic account management? (And how can we avoid it?).
Q#2: What’s the one thing we should do first when it comes to strategic account management?
Q#3: What have you done differently that has resulted in success?
Q#4: Give us 5 quick tips about strategic account management?
Q#5: What’s the easiest thing I can do right now to see results in my strategic account management?
#1 What’s the biggest mistake in strategic account management?
Put simply, the biggest mistake I see is too much emphasis on the attributes and capabilities of specific individuals at the expense of not having a powerful and straightforward sales process and model. The most effective strategy for increasing your overall revenues boils down to systematizing the decision making, priority setting and behaviour of high performers across the bulk of your sales organization.
Clearly having high-performing sales people and motivating them is an asset to any organization, they are going to deliver for you come what may (perhaps you have a bigger issue keeping these “rainmakers” than improving their performance. Let’s be frank, the performance improvements in your star performers are likely to be marginal.
And at the other end of the scale amongst your 10%-20% of poor performers – you should try your best but you’re unlikely to “move the dogs out from the kennel”.
The greatest impact on your overall revenues can be achieved by lifting the performance of the 60%-80% of “core performers” in the middle who constitute the bulk of your sales people. Improving “core performers” can increase your overall revenues by 10%-30%.
There are a number of complicating factors when pursuing high-value opportunities that stand in the way of adopting a successful sales process:
· Organisations put in place processes which are too complex and bureaucratic and nobody has the time and energy to consistently apply the effort required for a needlessly time consuming paper-filling exercise.
· The information loaded into the process is then used to beat the contributors over the head with. When you get your current opportunities accurately assessed for value and probability of success, this can be the cause of painful criticism of individuals either for their lack of success, lack of imagination or failure to make timely progress. This can lead some individuals to exaggerate how well they are doing or in many cases people just stop entering the data or using the process. In the first instance, you suddenly have unexpected collapses in your forecast revenues – or you “fly blind” hopeful that somehow you are going to make the numbers. This factor is probably the number 1 factor that undermines the return-on-investment many organisations make in CRM.
· The “herding cats” factor. Can you get people to do what they should be doing? Many high value engagements can not be “sold” by sales people. The client is looking for business or technical specialists – who for one reason or another – they find sales disciplines hard to follow. (I’m currently wearing my running shoes and exercise clothes. I know how important it is for my health and energy but have yet to embark on my daily run with the cold winds and rain outside. There’s always a gap between “Knowing something and Doing something!”).
· It takes a great deal of sustained effort to secure high-value sales – it’s not like selling bread and milk at the supermarket. On high-value sales, it may take between 3 to 12 months to see an opportunity through to closure. It can be difficult for managers to coach winning behaviours when they themselves lack clarity on what (and when) they should be emphasizing different behaviours.
#2: What’s the one thing we should do first when it comes to strategic account management?
You want to avoid the hounds chasing too may trucks before they get exhausted! You want to be able to eliminate time being spent on low-probability opportunities and reinvest this time against more promising opportunities earlier in the sales cycle.
You can carry out a rapid scan of each of your target clients and the target opportunities and score them against value, stage in the sale and probability of a successful outcome. The last part working out a realistic appraisal of the likelihood of a successful outcome is one of the key improvement areas that more effective sales management techniques can bring.
One of the most powerful techniques is applying a rigorous assessment process based on a formalized scorecard to each of their potential opportunities. Some organizations build their own based on sophisticated statistical analysis of their win/ loss databases of sales opportunities. However, this can be difficult to achieve as even organizations with sophisticated CRM systems find they are tracking the wrong things, so that no correlation can be found between what’s been recorded as being done and eventual success or failure.
For those of you who would like to download a ready made scorecard based on industry best practice – you can do so from http://www.closequarter.co.uk/kamscorecard.html.
For an initial high level scan, a salesperson can assess 10-20 opportunities using this scorecard in 60-90 minutes ready for a review with their peers or manager.
#3: What have you done differently that has resulted in success?
I once took over a situation where what had once been our biggest volume customer the year before had reduced their purchases with us by nearly 90%. If the trend continued for a few weeks longer I guess there would have been no business left to save. The client had a reputation of being one of the most aggressive people in the industry – I must admit before I met him I was expecting to receive something similar to the “hairdryer” treatment that Sir Alex Ferguson has made so famous. When we got together I’d learnt that our service quality had been so terrible that it was ruining our client’s business – we were the cause of them losing customers and substantial revenues due to our poor service – no wonder they didn’t want to do business with us anymore. Over the next 3 months, we turned around the service delivery and they went on to become our best customer again within the year.
So summing up, my advice is to arrange to see one of your major clients who is unhappy with your service and hear from them directly face-to-face what you need to turn the situation around. If you don’t go and listen then one of your competitors surely will. If you act on their feedback, then you have an opportunity to win back a relationship which you will surely lose. More importantly, it can be a wake up call on what you need to sort out for your whole business before the issues become more widespread and life threatening for your business.
#4: Can you give us 5 quick tips about more effective strategic account management?
One of the biggest and most fundamental problems is that clients really struggle to understand what your service to them is all about. Quite often we describe the inner most technical aspects of what it takes to deliver what we offer in such detail that the client struggles to understand what it is they get for their money. And all too often we get tied up in trying to convert prospects who are not really ideal purchasers for what the service that we have to offer. The following great advice is from the guru of Service Marketing, Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing based in California.
Tip 1. Identify your ideal client
Your message will not work for everyone. You need to be clear exactly who your message is for. Who can you help the most? Who do you understand the best? Where do you have the most experience? Think all of this through and develop your message specifically for this ideal client.
Tip 2. Identify a client challenge
What does your ideal client want to do but is finding it difficult to deliver?
What’s missing for them? What are they struggling with? What is confusing or frustrating for them? Clearly articulate this: “I work with these kind of clients who have this kind of challenge.”
Tip 3. Identify a service and outcome
What specific service could you offer to address the client problem and provide a desirable outcome? Keep it simple: “I offer this kind of service and when clients use this service they will get this result.” A service without a promised outcome is a waste of time.
Tip 4. Prove you can deliver the outcome
Find out what you have delivered for a client, how did you “move the needle” specifically – was it on something that really matters to their business? If you can’t deliver an outcome that matters and that can be measured then you are moving into the dangerous world of “Feng Shui” service providers (the client feels good but there’s nothing tangible for your clients to prove you were a great investment to their CFO).
If you need to cut your price or even offer it free to validate the outcome, so be it. But you need to be confident you can produce that outcome consistently.
Tip 5. Use your story as your message
The most powerful marketing messages are simple stories that demonstrate that you delivered a desirable outcome. “This was a client who came to me. They had this frustrating challenge. I implemented my service. These were the results.”
#5: What’s the easiest thing I can do right now to see results in my strategic accounts?
I would carry out the Opportunity Portfolio assessment described earlier. Ask each of your team to sit down for 60-90 minutes and for 2-3 target clients map out who they know (a “stakeholder map”) and a rapid “opportunity portfolio” assessment (listing out each opportunity, its expected value, stage of the sale and confidence score using your own scorecard or our best practice template downloadable for FREE from http://www.closequarter.co.uk/kamscorecard.html.
For the stakeholder map, a simple Excel sheet will do listing out: Person, Job Title, Level of seniority by number of bosses between this person and their CEO, Strength of Relationship (a 1 to 5 scale is sufficient – 5 being Strong 1 being weak).
I’d then ask them to send you the list and then for them to pick 1 opportunity and for you to pick 1 opportunity for review. Simply get together 1 on 1 or even better with the whole team and brainstorm 3 action points for the next week that either strengthen your relationships (deeper, higher, broader) or improve an opportunity (higher confidence score or higher value). Then go do the ACTIONS you committed to!!!
In conclusion, follow these straightforward tips and strategies and I guarantee that you will deliver increased revenues for your business.