Most of the skills, tactics and strategies discussed so far in this column have centered around selling to new prospects — but a majority of the business you manage is repeat business. Repetitive selling requires different strategies that will enable you to effectively manage the continuous flow of goods and services that create reliable and profitable orders.
There are eight strategic goals of account management, as are eloquently defined in Rick Page’s bestselling book Hope Is Not a Strategy: The 6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale.1 These strategic goals, when approached in this order and adhered to in excellence, present a virtually infallible way to ensure you achieve the holy grail of repeat business — earned trust.
As Page explains, the eight strategic goals for turning opportunity management into account management — or the holy grail of repeat business — are penetrate, demonstrate, evaluate, radiate, collaborate, elevate, dominate, and inoculate.
Penetrate — Account penetration occurs through demand reaction (the prospect finds YOU through the response to an inquiry or request for proposal) or through demand creation. Demand creation means you’ve gained the attention of a powerful sponsor within the organization and they have decided your product or service is the answer. It’s also important to note that the higher your point of entry, the greater your chances of success.
Demonstrate — Can your product solve the client’s needs or pain point? It better — and you must be able to prove it through documenting delivered value and proactively claiming the benefits that your product provides.
Evaluate — How do you know in which accounts to invest time and resources? This is a constant challenge faced by sales managers and account managers. Start by evaluating your past performance and the culture of the client. If they have other vendors where they buy on the partnership model, chances are they are partnership buyers. If they don’t, beware. In short, your best bet is to tailor your sale to the way the customer buys.
Radiate — This is where you start to see the fruits of your labor and begin to see traction building from your first sale or engagement. The key is to find and groom your executive sponsor to share any success with another prospective executive sponsor. A satisfied executive can accelerate your penetration into another department, office, division, corporate office, or even another company through industry or trade organizations.
However, beware that toxic radiation spreads the same way when your product or performance underperforms. In fact, when you fail to deliver what’s been promised to a client, you’ve actually created a sales prevention activity — and unhappy clients take a very long time to forget a negative experience.
Collaborate & Elevate — In order to succeed, you must elevate two elements within the account to achieve dominance. Your value proposition must go from commodity to strategically differentiated, and you must also elevate your personal relationships from rapport to trust.
Collaboration within an account can be summarized as becoming a trusted and valued employee of the client’s company without being on its payroll. Find ways to team with your client through training initiatives, vendor-managed inventories and joint marketing. These strategies box out the competition and further ingrain you into the company.
Dominate — Domination within an account means you’re in control and you’re there to stay. You’ve earned the customer’s trust through consistent performance and the delivery of superior results. The customer has absolutely no reason to go anywhere else.
Inoculate & Integrate — Loyalty is a human emotion. An account cannot be loyal; rather, people in the account are loyal. To stand above the competition, you need to develop individual loyalty to your company, your solutions, and yourself. The ideal situation is one in which you have developed “champions” within the account, who will monitor for competitive incursions or new players and alert you early enough to react to the intrusion.
Earning trust is a work in progress. It’s essentially your brand or trademark, and it’s the most important component for growing your share within an account. You might have developed the most sophisticated sales strategy ever; but if the customer doesn’t trust you or your company, it’s worthless. Remember rapport is essential for the beginning of a relationship, but trust is vital if it’s to grow and succeed.
- Page R. From opportunity management to account management. In: Hope Is Not a Strategy: The 6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2002.
From MENTOR. July 2017;8(7):6-7.