Communicating Value to Protect and Grow Strategic Accounts
In the first part of this article, we introduced the notion that value not communicated is value not perceived and three basic steps to ensure that the right people in your account understand your contribution:
- Quantify your impact.
- Identify key players who need to appreciate your impact.
- Develop a strategy to communicate your impact to those key players.
We also discussed how to quantify your impact in a strategic account. This article continues the discussion with the next two steps to help you protect and grow your position in the account.
2. Identifying Key Players.
Protecting and growing accounts is based on meeting the right people, building relationships with them, and understanding their challenges and opportunities. These people can either buy, influence buying decisions, or derail buying decisions. It is crucial for you to identify these players, understand their role in the buying process, uncover their perception of you, and, if necessary, shape their perception of you in a favorable manner.
All of this sounds simple, right? Well, according to a report from CSO Insights, 40% of salespeople do not adequately identify key stakeholders. A relationship map is a tool — a visual representation of both the reporting relationships between stakeholders in an account and the political landscape surrounding an account — to help identify key stakeholders in a systematic manner. It is helpful to go through a relationship mapping process by starting with your day-to-day contacts, then moving up and down the org chart to identify and fill gaps, and then moving across divisions with high potential to benefit from the solutions you sell.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can help you with this task. Start by linking to your day-to-day contacts. This will enable you to see their connections and filter the connections in their company. Most people connect to their bosses and their immediate co-workers, and many will connect with co-workers in other groups that share similar responsibilities. With a bit of inference, LinkedIn can help you to understand the organization quickly and begin building the relationship map. If you have a good relationship with your day-to-day contact, they can help you add to and validate your map.
3. Developing a Strategy to Communicate Your Impact.
Once you start building your relationship map, it will become clear who you need to get to know to communicate the impact of your work in the organization. If you have many relationships in a strategic account, then you have more opportunities to learn about their needs and spread the word of your success. There are a few natural opportunities in your strategic accounts to meet key people.
- Personal introductions through your day-to-day contact are the easiest way to spread the word about your impact in a strategic account. These can be simple introductions to co-workers or orchestrated events in a social setting.
- Strategy and planning sessions give you the chance to facilitate decisions and directions in multi-phase projects, and they can help you set priorities for new projects. In many cases, you can add real value for a client by offering to facilitate such sessions or by contributing additional resources that will help the client make the best decisions.
- Kickoff meetings are especially valuable. They draw large numbers of people, making them aware of what will happen and how it will impact them. These meetings also give you the opportunity to ensure that key players are comfortable with the plan. Involving key people in kick-off meetings, or parts of kick-off meetings, also sets the expectation that you will check in with them occasionally over the course of a project.
- Updates, reviews, and progress meetings offer opportunities to report on progress and resolve issues. Executive briefings are similar to updates and reviews but at a higher level. Think of an executive meeting as a meeting before the meeting to surface concerns, seek direction, and build support from key executives. Scheduling an executive meeting is a wise political move, giving you access to key executives and making them more comfortable with you.
- Training sessions give you license to meet people impacted by the change. Lower-level people will often attend the training, but they typically need permission to do so, giving you the opportunity to explain to managers or department heads why it’s beneficial for their employees to attend. Training is also a perfect time to make a good impression on a client. If he has a good experience, he might become your avid supporter.
- Customer education sessions enable you to provide valuable insight to your customers and position yourself as a trusted, expert resource on topics important to them. Often, you can build a good audience in the client organization by offering to help them understand new trends and issues or by sharing new research and best practices. This is an excellent opportunity to bring in a renowned expert or a top-level executive from your firm. Again, it’s about identifying who you want to meet and creating an intriguing event that they feel compelled to attend. If they can’t attend, they’ll be interested in a follow-up activity.
Every event mentioned here is an opportunity to meet key players and prospective buyers. You can ensure that they understand and appreciate the impact that you’ve had on their organization by kicking off any of these events with a quick overview of where they are today and the ways you’ve helped their organization progress.
Strategic accounts are many companies’ most valuable assets, and care must be taken to protect and grow these assets. Invest the time and effort to ensure that the right people in your account understand your contribution. Don’t take this for granted and don’t assume. Value not communicated is value not perceived.
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