Five Skills for Managing Large Accounts
Large accounts require a careful approach because they often represent a considerable portion of revenue for a company. A misstep could prove costly.
This risk is heightened by the complexities involved in managing large accounts. There are numerous stakeholders, more complex needs and long-term expectations. Managing these connected pieces means committing to five critical skills. Here, we describe those five skills, how to execute each and why they are important.
Develop Internal Communication and Preparation That Drives External Dialogue
A large account often requires effort from several people in the selling organisation. As a result, the buying organisation has multiple conversations with different members of the selling team. Rarely do all of these conversations occur with all stakeholders and sales professionals present. Therefore, the team of sales professionals must communicate with each other to ensure that each is clear on what has been discussed with the customer. Without regular internal communication and preparation, team members risk sending inconsistent messages to the customer — or worse, conflicting messages.
Consistent internal communication and preparation, however, is important for another reason. It demonstrates coordination and solid chemistry among the team members of the selling organisation. If the customer doesn’t feel strong chemistry and team coordination, it will be hard to develop trust in the organisation or the solution. The consistency and fluency of communication during the buying journey is seen as an indication of solution’s effectiveness.
Become Conversant across a Range of Business Languages
A solution deployed in a large account will touch upon various departments within the customer’s organisation. Each of these departments will have different needs and a different language used when discussing those needs. Therefore, the selling organisation must be conversant across the customer’s functional areas. Sales professionals must be conversant in the language of IT, operations, sales enablement, human resources, procurement and especially areas concerned with commercial impact like finance and sales.
Buying decisions are increasingly made by teams. Therefore, sales professionals must be able to compel each of these individuals by addressing their specific needs with terminology that resonates. Without the ability to speak multiple languages, sales professionals risk the tendency of engaging only the stakeholder with whom they are comfortable communicating. As a result, the rest of the buying team is disengaged. These crucial decision-makers are unclear on the value and relevance of the solution.
Form a Holistic Understanding of the Customer’s Organisation
The sales professional must understand how the solution will touch each department within the customer’s organisation. Developing this holistic understanding of the buying organisation means urging the customer to fully explore areas of risk and opportunity. This kind of dialogue is difficult. In many cases, the customer believes that their initial conception of the challenge is complete and accurate. However, as the sales professional explores sensitive concerns below the surface, previously unstated challenges and needs emerge.
Uncovering these areas across the scale of a large account requires assertiveness. The sales professional must be prepared to ask for meetings, pose a variety of questions, and ask the customer to consider a range of outcomes. By addressing all areas of the customer’s business, the sales professional ensures that the solution addresses the full range of challenges.
Demonstrate Relevance in Every Conversation
The customer needs to see that the solution is meaningful at commercial and personal levels. Sales professionals can become more relevant by performing research and staying current with industry trends. Developing a detailed understanding of the customer’s business, however, is only the first step toward becoming more relevant. Sales professionals must also develop the ability to articulate that relevance. Doing so means avoiding the traps of guessing and assuming relevance. Highly effective relationship managers frame customer communications around the customer’s issues, possible actions to take, and the value in doing so using language relevant to the individual.
With this three-part structure, the sales professional first cites a specific and relevant challenge within the customer’s business or industry. Second, they outline the necessary action to address the issue. Third, they detail the value of that approach and the benefits of taking that specific action. The power of this approach is that it uses a transparent approach to demonstrate how the solution is relevant to the customer’s world.
Take Responsibility for Solution Outcomes
Sales professionals are not selling a product or service; they are selling an outcome. The product is what helps the customer reach that end. Therefore, managing a large account means committing to the success of the solution. The customer needs someone who can ensure that the solution is properly implemented. They need someone who can help gauge the solution’s effectiveness.
Taking responsibility for the solution’s outcome starts by proactively identifying issues that might need work once the sale is complete. Signalling these issues early indicates to the customer that the sales professional is committed to the relationship and the customer’s success. Remembering to discuss these long-term factors is easy with a pre-call planner. With this preparation, the sales professional can more efficiently determine what they need to do now to be better at influencing the solution’s outcome later. It is critical to remember that the customer’s decision to expand their business with the sales professional stems from these outcomes.
The Bottom Line
Managing large accounts is about doing many things well before, during and after the sale. It is critical to develop a cadence of regular internal communication and preparation within the selling organisation to ensure a unified external presence. Sales professionals must also use their resources to adopt the different languages among the stakeholders. Doing so allows for multiple conversations in which the sales professionals can develop a holistic understanding of the customer’s business. With a deeper understanding of the business, sales professionals can more effectively demonstrate relevance. Once the sale is complete, it’s critical to monitor the impact of the solution and how well it has met the customer’s needs.
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