When managing top-tier accounts in consolidated markets, it’s critical to work strategically to close more deals. Unfortunately, in large markets controlled by a small number of companies, such as automobile manufacturing or medical devices, this can be riddled with challenges.
Losing a strategic account represents a monumental loss and you may find yourself banging your head against a wall, asking where you went wrong or if you missed early warning signs. Meanwhile, your leadership expects you to initiate a top-to-bottom review of your strategic account management plan. As you know, it’s much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one—as much as 25 times more expensive.
Fortunately, preserving your highest-value, strategic accounts in consolidated markets does not have to be an exercise in luck and happenstance. There’s no need to break into a cold sweat every time your back-and-forth email exchange suddenly becomes a one-way street with a high-value customer. In these situations, many sales teams make very common—and very preventable—mistakes. By being aware of these mistakes, you can learn how to minimize their impact. You can also develop a rock-solid strategic account management strategy that will inject consistency and confidence into your approach going forward.
Let’s explore the top three mistakes that strategic account sales teams make in consolidated markets—and the best practices you should implement to maximize your success:
Mistake 1: You Lack a Process for Recognizing Signs You Might Lose a Customer
In these situations, it’s natural to begin looking for early-warning indicators you missed that your deal might head south. Maybe you obsess over a change in the frequency of communications, or you latch onto recently discovered information about a massive corporate restructuring initiative at your customer’s organization.
Without a process in place, your guess as to what happened is as good as anyone else’s.
What to Do Instead:
Develop a systematic, methodical approach to recognizing these signs. Create a weekly or biweekly schedule for yourself to check on what’s happening with the account, and review these questions:
- Have there been any changes to corporate purchasing policies?
- Is the organization about to go through restructuring or a reorganization?
- Are they actively acquiring another company?
- Have there been any changes to policies or regulations that affect your customer’s industry?
- Which of your competitors do your customers engage with, and for how long do you expect these interactions to continue?
With these regular checks-ins, you’ll keep your ear to the ground about changes that could dramatically alter your customer’s interest in your product or service. The earlier you recognize these changes, the earlier you can adjust your strategic account management strategy.
Mistake 2: Your Value Proposition Loses Its Relevancy
Typically, you start the sales relationship with clients by listening to their needs and presenting a value-based solution; you move through the sales funnel with these customers because your value proposition resonates with them. But deals with strategic accounts can take months to close, which means the value proposition you offer can change. You need a process for keeping your value proposition relevant throughout the sales process and beyond the close. Your value needs to be realized as the client begins using your solution. You need continual adjustment if you want to retain and grow accounts. It’s possible that the value proposition that hit the mark in a previous deal may not be right for the next opportunity.
What to Do Instead
Develop a process for periodically and regularly revisiting the core value proposition that you brought to your customer. Ask yourself:
- Is the customer still aware of my value proposition?
- How can I be more explicit?
- How can I reinforce or expand my value proposition in a way that will optimally resonate with my customer?
- What might be changing in the customer’s industry or organization?
- Am I still offering a mutual benefit to my customer, or increasingly is my value proposition beginning to sound self-serving?
- How can I improve my quality of service?
- How can I improve the customer’s satisfaction level with my company?
Ultimately, it’s your job to reach out to your customer at regular intervals to reinforce the value in continuing to work with you, even if the deal will take a year or more to close.
Mistake 3: You Lose Your Human Touch
Nobody buys from a glass building, right? People buy from people—this is the human element of every business transaction, even multimillion-dollar, global transactions. Yet it’s so easy to lose that touch, especially when dealing with a multinational company over months or even years. Behind a customer’s corporate culture stands individual people with their own needs and emotions.
The biggest success stories in this space are built on years of trust and anchored in genuine, human-to-human relationships. It’s our job to remember that these customers are human beings with real emotions and treat them with respect and empathy.
What to Do Instead
Develop systems and processes for ensuring you treat the people at your strategic accounts as, well, people, not as numbers on a forecast spreadsheet. When it comes to long-term strategic account management in consolidated markets, emotional investment in the people you sell to pays huge dividends:
- Connect with your contacts on a human level.
- Understand their needs, wants and preferences.
- Periodically check with them to show that you care about these aspects of their lives.
Strategically managing your high-value accounts can sometimes feel like a maze, but when you apply consistency and standardization to your approach, you can feel confident in strengthening your chances of closing the deals you’ve worked hard to get.
The key ingredients to strategic account management in consolidated markets are:
- Establishing processes for consistently recognizing early-warning signs of trouble ahead;
- Keeping your value proposition relevant and optimized;
- Maintaining a human touch with the people in the account
Ready to create a long-term roadmap for your most strategic accounts in consolidated markets? Miller Heiman Group has developed an industry-leading approach that we refer to as our Large Account Management Process; let us show you how to leverage this solution to win and preserve your strategic accounts.