Like most clichés, “it’s easier to sell to someone who’s already buying from you,” contains a grain of truth. Yet, account management also know, as “farming,” is typically a passive activity.
Provided their account base doesn’t have a large amount of churn annually account managers are largely left alone by their managers, which means a massive amount of money is being left to come in via hopium instead of proactive activity.
Shifting to a proactive account management approach supports a consistently full funnel with less time and money spent on new client acquisition.
Unfortunately for sales leaders their account management ranks are typically populated with, to borrow from Marcus Cauchi’s book on channel sales, “Tim, Nice but Dim,” who has “great relationships,” but is afraid to ask about opportunities for expanding a current client’s investment in his company’s services and terrified of asking for introductions because “it’s not the right time.”
A proactive approach to account management requires a sales professionals with a mindset that they represent their company to their clients instead of the other way round and who view account management as a way to support both their company and their client instead of as a way to get their emotional needs met.
We encourage leaders who desire a proactive account management approach to create an activity plan, which Sandler clients call a “cookbook,” around a combination of the following activities.
- Touch calls – a professional touch call sounds something like, “purpose of my call is to touch base/check-in with you around what’s happening with you and your business this week and how we did in supporting you last week.” In a previous business our primary competitor used this strategy to essentially lock down their largest accounts who felt very well supported and uninterested in exploring alternatives. Notice that this isn’t, “hey ho ya doin’? What’d ya get up to on the weekend?” As a client in the same previous business said, “I don’t have time to ‘chat.’ Tell me some new information or offer me a service that will help me or don’t call.”
- Introduction gives – account managers who give introductions to their clients that don’t necessarily have a direct payoff to the account manager elevate themselves to “trusted adviser” status faster and create stickiness with their clients. Careful not to force an introduction give on a client. When a client shares a problem that the account manager could potential solve with an introduction saying, “have you already got a solution for that or would you be open to an introduction?” reduces the pressure on their client to say, “yes.”
- Introduction asks – it’s estimated that only 20% of a client base will actually refer just because, 20% will never refer because of their own head trash, but 60% will if asked and the introductions from that 60% could be with 3x the revenue they are currently providing.
- Alumni reach outs – talent (client contacts) moves around. By proactively reaching out to alumni, usually via social media, creates opportunities to win back lost business, win net new business easier or expand a current client.
- Expansion calls – typically triggered by information gathered during a quarterly review or from client news posted on social media, an expansion call *isn’t* a pitch, which account managers tend to fear because they don’t want to be “pushy.” Instead an expansion call involves the account manager attempting to expand a client’s investment by exploring a new opportunity (e.g. client just opened up a new office in a separate city, might they want to add the video conferencing services their account manager’s company offers.)
- Quarterly reviews – also known as CESARs (Chief Executive Semi Annual Reviews – the decision maker regularly) proactive quarterly reviews reduce potential for competitive attacks and create opportunities to not only expand the client’s current mix of products or services, but to also discuss introductions both ways, testimonials and case studies. Best practice is to hold quarterly reviews at the client site (or, of course, via video conference) so they remain a business focused event instead of a social call over lunch. Lunch after is perfectly acceptable <grin>.
As the Sandler Rule goes, “a winner has alternatives. A loser puts all of their eggs in one basket.” Proactive account management involves *many* proactive activities done on a consistent, regular business.
A proactive account management approach may require some hard personnel choices up front and a commitment from the sales leader to keep their account managers accountable to being proactive, but the payoff is a funnel that remains consistently full whether through expansion business or introductions.
Until next time… go lead.