Opportunities to grow your business with a major account come in three different modes: Respond, Shape, and Create.
When salespeople respond to an opportunity, the customer has already identified the issue, the solution, and the expected outcomes. Now, a provider is sought. This is the most reactive style of account development. The scope and budget are usually already set. Pressures on both price and competition are often high. By no means should a salesperson ignore such opportunities. Flexibility is a key element of business. Salespeople should be able to respond as well as initiate. However, responding is not the best way to develop and grow a business relationship.
High-performing sales professionals tend to focus more on shaping opportunities. This is where salespeople help the customer in defining the issue, the most likely outcomes, and even possible unintended consequences. This is a much more proactive style of account management— one where salespeople may be able to preempt the competition. And even though some opportunities might initially appear to be “respond” situations, if you have a different opinion or broader view, you might be able to shape a respond opportunity in new ways.
The third selling mode is the most ambitious and creative. Here, salespeople create an opportunity. They bring forward insights to challenging issues that are not even on the customer’s radar but will likely have an impact sometime soon. This is the most proactive style of account » Continue Reading.
It’s common for sales leaders (and salespeople themselves) to look to their large, strategic customers year after year to sustain or drive increased revenue performance. However, the availability of options, decreasing customer loyalty, higher expectations and constant competitive threats are making forecasted business from your best customers anything but a certainty. All too often, account growth strategy and plans are isolated events and are missing one critical component – the buyer.
An enterprise-wide, customer-centric approach to working with strategic accounts is a mainstay of sales organizations that understand that markets change but that customers are always relevant. Because the business environment in which your customers operate has become more challenging, salespeople need to increase their proficiency in identifying and meeting needs to have credibility as a trusted advisor, one who helps the customer decide how to buy and doesn’t just sell.
4 FACTORS AFFECTING ACCOUNT GROWTH STRATEGY (1) Renewed Emphasis on Price
Price has always been important in business. In today’s environment, funding is scrutinized. Customers feel like they should look longer and harder to justify why they are buying a particular solution at a specific price. As pricing pressures increase, more and more firms find customers trying to “commoditize” the solutions that suppliers offer.
(2) Greater Complexity
The business environment has become increasingly complex. An IBM study of more than 1,500 CEOs cited increasing complexity as a major challenge to the managerial and leadership ranks » Continue Reading.
The sales meeting ends. Now what? Fist bumps in the parking lot, of course! You and your team crushed it. Or did you?
During the Regroup stage of the team selling process, you have an opportunity to play yet another role, what I call the Reorganizer. This involves getting your team realigned after the sales meeting and setting the stage for more and even better work together in the future.
See if you recognize any of these common occurrences after a meeting or pitch:
Your team members scatter to the winds for other commitments. You talk it through in the car on the way to the airport or your next appointment. You assume your team members are clear on their roles in the follow-through plan. You have no opportunity to give or receive feedback about how the team performed. REORGANIZE FOR NEXT STEPS AND CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Reconvening the team following a sales meeting or pitch accomplishes several things: a) it facilitates follow-through on client expectations, reinforcing commitments made during the meeting; b) it creates a feedback loop that allows team members to share with one another how to improve individual and team performance in future sales outings; c) it avoids repetition of the same mistakes and gives the team the chance to replicate high points that were hit; and d) it sets the stage to re-recruit colleagues for future team sales opportunities.
Regroup meetings — a.k.a. » Continue Reading.
Oh captain, my captain. This chapter’s title may trigger images of a captain’s hat, a pipe, turtleneck, and pea coat. Okay, wrong kind of captain. We’re talking now about how to captain a selling team in executing an effective sales meeting or pitch.
If you can snap out of the ship captain daydream, we’d like you to consider a different picture. Imagine instead a point guard during a basketball game. She is responsible for handling the ball, running the plays, passing the ball to the player who is in the best place to score, and rescuing the player who is trapped in a corner.
Leading a sales meeting may be less exciting to you than skippering a ship or playing hoops. But being your selling team’s captain during a sales meeting or pitch is just as important. Every team needs a leader, a point person to captain the effort. Without one, the team loses its agility. Customer meetings can take all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, including:
The meeting starts late, and you have less time than expected. The customer stakeholders who show up are different from those you planned for. The interests of the decision makers changed or conflict with those you were told about. The technology for your on-screen demo isn’t working. Members of your team freeze, become defensive, or talk themselves into a corner. LEADING AN EFFECTIVE SELLING TEAM
Where’s that ship captain when you need » Continue Reading.
Without practice, what are your team’s chances of success at a high-stakes sales meeting?
If the stakes are life and death, like they are for the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, the question is not whether, but how much you should practice. Flying multiple 22-ton jets at speeds up to 500 mph, and with as little as 36 inches between them — side-by-side or upside-down — the stakes don’t get higher. Pilots must have a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet-flight hours. On top of their individual proficiencies, the squadron practices as a unit on roughly 120 training missions prior to its first Blue Angels performance.
A group sales meeting or pitch is neither a show nor a life-or-death moment. Yet, the stakes for a group sales meeting are high enough that you’ve asked others to contribute to the effort. Your “pilots” all bring individual proficiencies, but how much practice do you generally do as a unit prior to an important customer or prospect meeting?
PRACTICING FOR A TEAM SALE
Practice is about application with the intent to improve. Successful selling squads practice together not because a manager tells them to; effective teams practice as a group because they realize:
Without it, they have a random chance of winning, and they’d rather stack the odds. Feedback is essential to strengthen individual contributions and the team’s performance. Repetition reduces anxiety for all » Continue Reading.
Ever been to a mess of a sales meeting or pitch? Perhaps you have seen the following happen:
Moments before the start, the salesperson is crawling around under the conference table searching for the dongle to hook up the projector. Everyone is present and accounted for, but the pitchbooks are MIA. The pitchbooks arrived, but one of your team members didn’t. Presentation materials include typos and mistakes.
Playing the Organizer role for a selling squad is, in my experience, one of the heavier lifts for most salespeople. It takes project management skills, advance planning, attention to detail, and patience. Did I mention these things are a challenge for many salespeople?
Organizing a selling team engenders confidence among your colleagues, and for customers, it creates the look of a focused and cohesive team at a sales meeting. Being a strong Organizer will also enhance your ability as a Recruiter for future selling team efforts. Not to mention avoiding 11pm runs to the UPS Store the night before a pitch, or embarrassing mistakes during a customer meeting.
5 WAYS TO ORGANIZE YOUR SELLING SQUAD
So, regardless of how organized you generally are, how can you play the Organizer role successfully for your team? Here are five best practices to help:
Share information: Great Organizers facilitate information-sharing among team members so that they all have information that is current and that will help them perform their roles at the » Continue Reading.
Creating an effective selling squad is the first step on the road to winning a group sales meeting. Building the right team can help you advance an important sales opportunity or retain a key customer. Assembling good people onto the wrong team can be costly — to budgets, to your company’s chances to win other opportunities, and to your own reputation.
Putting together great selling teams requires you to play the role of Recruiter. And, as a recruiter for a team pitch or sales meeting, you are faced with three basic questions:
1. How Many? 2. Whom? 3. How Will You Ask?
For meeting attendees, the easy answer to the first question is: you should bring a comparable number to the customer stakeholders who will be attending your sales meeting. For example, to meet with three decision makers from a buying organization, you might aim for a selling squad of three. Taking too few people risks being unable to address significant areas of interest for the customer. Taking too many can cause your customer to question individual competency and cost structure.
There is a subtler answer to this important question: limit participants to those who will play a significant role in your sales meeting. What does significant mean? At a minimum, each member should be addressing capabilities or answering questions for 10 minutes or more during the meeting. By setting this threshold, be » Continue Reading.
Team selling today is no longer required just for blockbuster business-to-business sales pitches. Whether you are in consulting, investment banking, or technology or are a financial advisor, home remodeler, or lawyer, pivotal meetings with clients and prospects now often involve more people — on both sides of the table. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, “…the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today.”
Significant technology advances in recent years have enabled customers to gain information about their options faster, and without you. In addition, economic instability, geopolitical concerns, corporate scandals, and public relations blunders have created mistrust and heightened attention to risk and return on investment. Clients now arrive at meetings and calls ready to give all their stakeholders a voice and wanting to look behind the curtain to the people in your organization who will own the work after the sale.