Salespeople are highly motivated to sell as many solutions as possible to their existing accounts. Yet most accounts end up getting smaller over time, not larger. This is directly related to how the seller fits into the buyer’s process. 70 percent of buyers start interacting with sellers after the buyer has fully defined their needs, according to CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group. That means buyers are effectively saying,“I’ve already done the work to figure out what we need. Don’t try to upsell me or encourage me to buy more than I need.” This “don’t-upsell-me” attitude comes from a long history of sellers not taking the right steps before and after the initial sale to improve their long-term potential in large accounts.
How can a salesperson bridge that gap? Let’s explore three essential selling skills every salesperson should possess to maximize their long-term potential in large accounts:
1. Position Yourself as a Solutions Consultant
As salespeople, we should be reframing ourselves as solution consultants from our first touchpoint, bringing past experience and insights into each solution that our offerings can solve for the buyer. Drawing upon our wisdom builds confidence with buyers, enabling the salesperson to work with the buyer to potentially go beyond what the buyer has determined they think they need. One way to achieve this is to share success stories that your customer will appreciate due to the outcomes and learning experience in those success stories.
Building the level of trust required to reframe the conversation is not as easy as it sounds. According to CSO Insights research, buyers say that 62 percent of sellers meet their expectations. On face value, that may sound good, but merely meeting expectations actually has the effect of making you, as an individual seller, indistinguishable from the rest. The 2018 Buyer Preference Study underscores this point: 57.7 percent of buyers say that one seller is only slightly better than the rest, with another 10.4 percent saying that all sellers are equal. Standing out in the sales process is paramount, and the best way to stand out is through excellent industry knowledge and focusing on solutions to the highest-value problems. You should be aiming to develop and communicate a vision for the future of the account relationship with a genuine focus on demonstrable value.
2. Cultivate a Buyer-Centric Relationship
It may be tempting to think that the easiest way to maintain customer relationships is to sell the customer exactly what they say they want. This is understandable: No one wants to lose an account altogether by taking a risk attempting to upsell and then making a fatal mistake if it doesn’t go well. But the best path forward is to focus on expanding the relationship in a way that enables the seller to be buyer-centric. Traditional upselling, by contrast, is seller-centric.
Being buyer-centric with existing accounts requires excellent account planning. Account planning goes beyond simply renewing existing products or a list of future products to present to the buyer. A real account plan is a living document that defines the goals of the relationship with a focus on actual value.
Sales organizations with a buyer-centric account planning approach see a lift over organizations with only modest sales planning. As documented in the CSO Insights 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report, those with highly effective account planning win 15 percent more deals and have 15 percent more sellers making goal than those with poor account planning.
3. Develop a Relationship Map
As you cultivate a buyer-centric relationship, you will create a vision for the account, starting with research on the structure of the buyer and its decision makers. Then use this insight to develop a relationship map. Your relationship map should focus on how to connect decision-makers with corresponding internal resources who can maximize the value your organization can deliver to the customer.
Based on your relationship map, you want to develop a plan for how you will prioritize opportunities to solve the buyer’s major problems beyond your initial offering. This account plan should also utilize whatever assets possible from marketing, implementation, customer support, product development and sales enablement, etc., to drive the most value for the buyer.
As large account sales professionals, it’s our responsibility to preempt the “don’t upsell me” attitude of many of our customers. The most successful salespeople understand that before, during, and after the initial sale, it’s in their best interest to position themselves as a solutions consultant, cultivate a buyer-centric relationship and develop a relationship map for each customer. These three essential selling skills can have a great impact on your long-term success in large accounts.
We know a thing or two about account strategy planning. Learn about our Large Account Management Process and prepare to take your results to a new level or contact us to see how Miller Heiman Group can help.