Editor’s Note: In the following blogs, author and speaker Dave Kahle provides a handful of situations reps can walk through to better understand of the principles and processes you’ll need in order to develop effective account strategies.
Keep in mind that you are in it (this job) for the long-term. This is not a six-month job. You’re going to be doing this work, calling on these customers and developing this business for some time. Rarely will you make one sales call on someone and then never see them again. More likely, you will come to know these customers. You can’t expect to sell everything to everyone on the first call. That means you will see them again and again and again. That means that you must view each of your customers from that long-term perspective.
Not all accounts are alike. They are different in their needs, in the dynamics of each situation, in the personalities of the people and the competitive situation that they present. Every account that you call on is somewhat different from all others. That means that you cannot treat each one the same.
Add these two observations together, and it means that you must create an individual long-term strategy for each account to whom you sell.
First, let’s define our terms. Strategy means a series of steps designed to bring your prospect or customer from where they are now to where you want them to be. It’s the long-term view. Realistically, it’s a planned series of sales calls in which each sales call has a distinctive set of purposes, a distinctive piece of education, a person or set of people to speak with, and a distinctive agreement that you’d like to attain. The purpose, the timing, the organization, and the sequence of that series of sales calls is the strategy. It’s the long-term perspective, the big picture, of what you want to do and how you want to do it.
It’s like a football game. In every football game the coach develops a game plan. That plan describes how he wants the team to go about each individual play, ending up in winning the game. The plays themselves are like sales calls. Sales calls are the tactics, but the big picture into which they fit is the strategy. It’s the strategy, the big picture, that we’ll focus on in this chapter.
First, let’s review two basic sales processes . The first one focuses on creating customers, and the second one focuses on creating partners out of customers. You recall that the process works like this: first you identify suspects, and then you turn suspects into prospects, and prospects into customers. That’s one set of sales calls. That’s one strategy to achieve a purpose — to influence someone to purchase from you for the first time.
Then the second part of the overall sales process is to take those customers, people who have purchased, turn them into clients, and finally turn a client into a partner. In terms of the biggest, most basic strategy, you strive to turn every prospect into a partner.
Let’s assume that you have made at least one sales call on a series of prospects. In the course of those first few sales calls, you have discovered some things about each of those prospects.
You have gained a sense for the situation at each account. Now you have to make some decisions. What do you do? What strategy do you follow to turn each prospect into a customer?
Here are some typical situations that you’re likely to encounter. We’ll describe each situation and then discuss an appropriate strategy.
Situation Number One:
Here’s the first one. You visit a prospect for the first time and discovered that right now they have no opportunity for you. “You’re a nice person. We like your company. We just don’t have any opportunity for you at this moment.” That’s a very common discovery in a first sales call on a prospect. What do you do? What’s your strategy?
You must get the prospect to agree on a reason to see you again. Each time that the prospect sees you again, you must try to create an opportunity by completing the first couple steps of the sales call in ever more detail. In other words, you must create an opportunity by understanding this prospect deeper and deeper. Then you methodically present your products to them, focusing on those that you believe most appropriately match their needs. Make sure that you present your most effective or most attractive product. Present that ace that you have that everyone has to buy from you because it’s such a great value.
As you continue to call on them, you strive to extend your relationships into all parts of the account. If you have been working with the purchasing agent, try to see the operational people. When they see you, go back to that original sales call and do each of the steps deeper. Try to uncover an opportunity that they may not even be aware of. While it seems odd, it happens regularly. It is common to hear your first contact say, “No. Everything’s fine. We don’t have any needs. Our current vendors are taking care of us.” But the situation often is different when you gain access to the production area or back where the operation takes place and you talk to some of those people. If you ask questions of them, you almost always find things that aren’t quite right. If you can get to that level and dig to that depth you will discover some of those things, which you can turn into opportunities. If something is not quite right, that’s an opportunity for you to fix it by presenting your product or service.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave’s training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you