Expand Your Sales Opportunities9 Nov, 2004 By: Steven Power imageSource
Expand Your Sales Opportunities
Unfortunately, for many salespeople in the document technology sector,
closing a sale typically means a brief celebration and then hopping back on the
treadmill to run down the next prospective account. This is understandable.
Compensation programs encourage them to become heat-seeking missiles—always
identifying and striking the next hot target. In addition, sales manager always
quick to remind their salespeople that it’s a 30-day war out there, and the new
month has just begun.
At this point, many salespeople will actively engage in prospecting or rely
on their marketing resources to generate new selling opportunities. As I have
traveled the world working with veteran eagles, I have discovered one behavior
they have in common that constantly keeps them in selling opportunities. They
are religious about conducting account reviews.
Eagles realize there are two reasons for conducting comprehensive account
reviews with clients on an ongoing basis. First, they open doors to new
opportunities to expand their reach within an account. Second, it paves the way
to high-quality referrals.
Eagles understand that the initial sale typically represents only a fraction
of the potential opportunity within each and every account. They know that as
their accounts grow, change, merge, expand into new markets, and even
consolidate, new applications, requirements, and opportunities will arise. They
also realize that their customers are well-connected within their professional
community and represent a deep source of referrals.
Confirm Your Value
So what are the elements of an effective account review?
First, if you cost-justified your original sales proposal with measurable and
sustainable outcomes—ROI, payback, cost reductions and increased
productivity—your account review should validate those outcomes.
Here’s your opportunity, and your obligation, to formally prove that your
product, service and expertise is delivering the promised results. This is why
it’s critical to gather relative data during your discovery process; it provides
a baseline for you to work from. You’ll need to know the client’s current
productivity rates, sales revenues, operating costs, and so on prior to
implementing your solutions, and then measure your effectiveness periodically to
gauge the relative effects of those solutions and confirm your value.
Many salespeople are at a disadvantage in protecting their accounts from
competitive invasion because they don’t effectively measure the results they
deliver. This takes time and effort, but goes a long way toward justifying your
value when contract renewal time comes around, when your competitor gets in the
back door or when your client’s superior wants them to shop around.
From a marketing perspective, look at the enormous potential for developing a
repertoire of successful accounts as referrals. When approaching new prospects,
you can point to these case studies to show the verifiable, sustainable and
tangible results you deliver.
It is important in an effective account review to summarize how your
solutions have helped your client meet the specific objectives that were
identified in your consultative discovery process. How have you helped your
client overcome challenges? Has your solution helped implement corporate or
departmental initiatives? The verification of these outcomes is critical if you
are going to transcend the typical vendor status and position you and your
organization as a trusted strategic partner on an ongoing basis.
Take the Client’s Pulse
You should identify any strategic changes that may present new applications
for your products, services and expertise. Get a good picture of the client’s
plans for growth, consolidation or mergers. Understand any new technology or
business processes that are being considered or currently implemented that may
affect yours. I guarantee you will be amazed at how much opportunity will fall
in your path as a result of conducting ongoing discovery.
How Can You Improve?
Now it’s time to collaborate with your client to establish how you can add
even more value and improve your service and relationship. Here are just a few
questions to ask your client during account reviews:
- What are two or three things we’re doing right?
- How can we improve?
- Do you have a vendor or strategic partner of the year award?
- What are the criteria for winning?
- What are your other strategic partners doing that you think is unique or
- How could we lose this account?
- What do your superiors think about us?
- What concerns do you have about the future in terms of our relationship
or ability to fulfill our promises?
- Would you recommend us to your professional peers?
Go After the Referral
This last question above is the perfect segue to one of the main
reasons you’re conducting the account review—to gain referrals. You’ve
validated your value, collaborated on how you can help the client go forward and
learned how you can improve. At this point, if the account review has been a
love fest, you’ve earned the right to ask for what you staged at the point of
sale, and that is, a couple of referrals.
Again, if you’re tired of constantly jumping on the prospecting treadmill,
burning out on your sales career, or questioning when does it get easier or how
long can I keep doing this, master this process for win/win account reviews.
Don’t expect this to be less work than prospecting, however. It’s not, but I
guarantee that the results will be, by far, much more rewarding.