Contacting Key Sales Accounts -4 January 1, 2008Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers, Managing Sales Accounts, Sales Metrics.
Tags: account management, sales contact, Sales Metrics
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“I haven’t seen or heard from my account executive in over a month”
“I’m not sure who handles my account there”
“The other company seems very interested in helping us”
And a few you never want to find yourself saying:
“I haven’t heard from them in a while”
“Oh, that account…it’s dead”
“When I have time, I’ll give them a call”
It never ceases to amaze (and disappoint) me how often businesses fail to maintain even an adequate level of contact with sales accounts vital to their business. Some wait until the phone rings. For others, it might only be an infrequent level of contact. Either way, it’s more hit or miss, than purposeful contact management.
The Big Dogz have made a science out of superior contact management. They don’t leave anything to chance and just wing it. The good news for you is that most businesses fall on their face when it comes to maintaining the right level of contact with a customer.
That should spell o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y to you.
How often should you follow up on any sales account you have? Many books have been written on this subject alone. In my opinion, there are two key considerations:
1. How frequently does the customer want to be contacted? Ask your customer directly. I’ve always made it a habit to ask that question and in almost all instances, the customer is very clear about how often they want me to contact them. If they want you to touch base with them once a month, then you’d better be sure and do it. Don’t ask this question if you don’t plan on following the answer.
2. What is the value of this account and how does it perform? If you’re a small business owner, you can’t be everywhere. You can’t visit all your customers with exactly the same frequency. So, you need to prioritize your customers in a way that allows you to maintain a level of contact that fits those customers needs.
There is no ‘formula’ for evaluating the performance of an account. But there are some things to think about.
First, you need to determine how you are going to measure ‘account performance’ in the first place. Account performance is defined as how a particular sales account provides inputs that meet your set business goals. Inputs are those things that contribute to the measurable success of your business. For example, some common inputs are sales volume, profitability, longevity, frequency of sales, and new business referrals. Let’s break these inputs down a little further.
Every customer that buys your products or services contributes to your sales goals. Some customers contribute more than others. What percentage of your business is from this sales account? How do they stack up against your other customers? However, sales volume alone is not a good way to prioritize customers. Which leads me to the next input.
Everybody loves large accounts. Big accounts naturally seem to demand more of your time. But are those large accounts profitable? It’s entirely possible (and often happens) that a large account provides great sales but contributes poorly to your profitability, or in the worse case, makes you lose money. I do NOT advocate dropping an account just because it’s marginally profitable. The right thing to do would be to figure out why it’s marginally profitable and fix it. I am saying that you need to understand what level of profitability (or loss) that account brings to the table.
Longevity is an interesting input. Are they a long time customer? What value do you place on a customer who stays with you rather than jump to the next competitor who offers to save them 5cents more? Or what about the new account that is buying a lot of product or services? You’re always going to have a range of customers with some new, some old. My point here is that longevity does count for something.
Frequency of sale is a measurement of how often they buy your goods or services. Once per year? Every other month? Every day? When you look at frequency of sale, you have to look at sales volume at the same time. Your customer may order only once per year but it might be the biggest order you get all year long. Keep frequency of sale in perspective with sales volume contribution.
New business referrals are another key metric. How many new customers have been referred directly from this customer? If you don’t expect your customers to refer new customers to you, you’d better think again. If your business is exceeding the expectations of your customers, you have every right to expect that they can and will help you find more customers. So, you might have a customer who doesn’t contribute as much to your sales volume but they refer a lot of business to you. They are worth their weight in gold. Even if they are unprofitable.
How much contact time should you spend on a customer? The answer is not easy as you can see. However, by asking the customer what frequency of contact they want and understanding their performance contribution to your business, you’ll be in a better position to prioritize them.
How Do I Keep My Key Sales Accounts? – 3 December 8, 2007Posted by David Dirks in Managing Sales Accounts.
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What are you doing to insure that they stay at a distance from your key sales accounts?
Here’s a scenario that plays out more than you think: You’ve got a great customer account. They order from you exclusively and regularly. They’ve been a key account for a long time now. You know the family. You know the kids. They are solid customers. Then, one day you wake up and they are gone. Vanished. Went over to ‘those guys’. How can they do this to you? For all you’ve done for them over the years. Special pricing. Immediate delivery. Twenty-four hour servicing. How could they?
You missed it. Something changed and you missed it. You find out later that they were being wooed by one of your top competitors for many years now. It’s not that you didn’t know about it. You just didn’t really think you had to do anything about it. You had them for all those years…what more could you have done?
Sometimes, you just lose good accounts for reasons you cannot control. Maybe one of the ‘kids’ is now in charge of purchasing your goods or services. You can’t control everything, all the time.
It’s easy to get very comfortable with your sales accounts that provide the bread and butter for your revenue and profit streams. And that comfort-level is what can kill off a key account.
What does all this mean? You have to get out of the comfort zone and don’t take anything for granted. Don’t assume anything when it comes to key accounts. Always be on the edge. Look for more ways to deliver what they need better, faster, and cheaper. Remember, they are not your family. They are running a business first. So are you and I.
How Can I Increase My Account Sales? – 2 November 15, 2007Posted by David Dirks in Building trust, Keeping Your Customers, Managing Sales Accounts, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Uncategorized.
Tags: account management, account sales, customer service, sales strategies, Sales Tactics
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Increasing your revenues from existing or potential business accounts is key to long term profitability. One aspect that is often neglected is helping your clients solve their most pressing challenges. That starts by asking your client THE question:
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST PRESSING BUSINESS ISSUES/CHALLENGES?
I can guarantee that most business people, regardless of the size of their business, DO NOT ask this question of a prospective or current client.
“But I’m not an expert in what they do?” If that’s your first thought or reaction, then listen up. You may not be able to directly solve any or all their most pressing business issues. However, by asking the question and getting grounded on what’s keeping this customer up at night, gives you a insight as to how you can best service and support this customer.
But that’s not the only issue here. By demonstrating that you are really interested in their business and helping them succeed, you begin to build real trust. That’s the beginning of building a strong relationship.
No, you may not be able to DIRECTLY solve the problem(s) but you probably know someone or something that just might help. I don’t care if it’s not directly related to what you sell or services you provide. What I care about is that you take an genuine interest in their business. You get to know what makes it tick. And you get to know what makes it sick.
The follow-up to asking this question and carefully listening/noting the responses, is to make sure you make an effort to help. It might be someone you know who has the expertise they need. Two months from now, you may read an article that sheds light on one of your customers most pressing needs…and you can send that article to them…in person.
Wow. Imagine what a prospective customer or current account would think? They’d probably faint in finding someone who actually listened to them about what they need help with most in their business and was actually trying to do something about it.
Your competitors aren’t asking this question. You can bet on that. When was the last time some retailer or service provider ask YOU that question? And if they did, bet they didn’t follow up on it either. Only the best execute on this one.
There’s a lot more to this question than meets the eye.
Oh, and your sales…they just come.
How Can I Increase My Account Sales? – 1 November 7, 2007Posted by David Dirks in Managing Sales Accounts.
Tags: account management, account sales, contact management, sales, sales management, small business sales
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There is nothing more challenging that building a business. Many businesses are selling their services directly to other businesses or as it’s called, B2B sales. How would you like to go from selling $1,000 per month in goods/services to an account to $2,000 a month? It’s more than possible.
Some of the best of the Big Dogz have account management down to a science and for good reason. They’ve learned long ago that managing accounts of any size is absolutely critical to their sales and profitability success.
If your business depends on account sales, then you need to pay attention to the next several weeks of my blogs as we take this subject apart and help you to maximize your account sales.
There are several key questions you need to ask yourself and apply to EACH of your business accounts. In each of the next several blogs, we’ll take a look at one of those key questions.
How often do I need to contact my accounts?
In this day and age of speedy communications, there is no excuse for hearing these words from a business account customer: “I haven’t heard from them in a while”. This may sound basic but you’d be very surprised to know how many times I heard that in business conversations.
There are a couple of ways to avoid this situation:
1. Ask the key decision maker(s) at your accounts how often they would prefer having you check in with them. Go to the source. They’ll tell you and you can adjust according to their feedback and your actual experience with them over time.
2. Create a contact calender that allows you to organize you contact time for all your business accounts each month. This insures that you’ll not forget to call, visit, or send something to them each month. By being a bit more disciplined in this, over time it’ll become second nature and part of your business culture.
Too basic, right? Think again. Making sure there is consistent level of contact with business accounts is where, in my experience, most people fall off the cliff.