Winning Larger Accounts: A Big Fish Story
Fishing, it would seem, is not as simple as one would think. Sure, you could grab the gear you have collecting dust in your garage, lazily toss a line from a dock into a backyard stream, and eventually, you may grab a bite or two on the line.
But what if you decided that, today’s the day everything’s going to change? Today, you will elevate your fishing game, and set your sights on a larger, more productive body of water – say the Atlantic Ocean, as an example. Using your same technique, you head down to the shoreline with your trusty rod and reel and rubber worms, cast your lines into the deep blue – and, well, you can almost hear the fish laughing at you as they swim by.
In the business world, there are times when we, too, are interested in a bigger fish story – winning larger accounts, from a more fertile pond, representing a potential harvest that can propel our revenues manifold. If we want to avoid the misfortunes of our sad-sack angler -- who may not be eating anytime soon – it’s clear that changes will be required.
More than just a larger boat, or a better-stocked tackle box – this effort will only succeed with an investment in stronger angling skills – transformed in mindset and armed with the strategies needed to bring in the whoppers.
At The Brooks Group, we spend a lot of time helping to instill confidence in sales professionals – leading them through a training process that often has them challenging their existing sales conventions. This confidence, at times – whether motivated by a changing marketplace or the insistence of the leadership– can prompt an organization to set its sights on larger accounts. If successful, the company will be rewarded with larger sales, larger reorders, a higher product volume, with less work than servicing a lot of smaller accounts.
This evolution, too, is easier said than done. You’ll be battling against incumbent vendors and larger competitors, and struggling to scale your sales methodology while trying to find the right decision-maker to approach.
So how can you fortify your sales professionals to go fishing with the big boys (and girls)? Here are four steps that are critical to helping your team start winning larger accounts:
Know What Powered Your Past Successes
Clearly, you have some existing accounts that loom larger in your book of business. Look at these clients, and ask some key questions: Why did we win this business? What was our value proposition? How do we service this account? And will they be a reference? Understanding what resonated with your current big fish is a good first step. Undoubtedly, any of the larger prospects you approach will want to know these answers – but they’ll also want to know if you can scale. Likely, the real answer is a Catch-22 situation – you have to scale to win the $1 Billion account, but you can’t scale until you have the account in hand. That’s when your greatest existing success stories – for example, a company that grew from $2 Million to $4 Million while allied with your product or service -- can be your best allies.
Know What Needs to Change
If your sales pros are used to calling on smaller accounts, they likely don’t engage in an account planning process. To believe that your team can start calling those large accounts in the same manner as they were calling on the follower accounts is a guarantee of a closed door and a return to Square One. A good sales plan for large accounts includes a detailed understanding of the people – and roles – that you’re trying to approach. It may require that you need to engage your CEO to approach the CEO. And, critically, it requires an ability to work more strategically. As an example, I once worked with a mid-tier telecom company that wanted to offer a free trial of a piece of equipment to a larger prospective client. The decision-maker rejected the offer, noting that it would cost his multistate $10 million just to operationalize a test of this new equipment. In your exploration of larger accounts, you’ll likely encounter several layers of management, all of whom will have a different expectation of the strategic value you will bring. Matching the needs and wants of the prospect with what you offer to each decision-maker on this large account requires a next-level sales mindset.
Know the Buyer
I once worked with a medical services company that had outstanding relationships with the nursing staff and had no trouble selling their products to these individuals. However, healthcare reimbursements and purchasing have changed in the wake of the Affordable Care Act -- significantly affecting the selling paradigm. Today, marketing new services to medical personnel now involves committees, purchasing departments, logistics, and supply groups – all who have a role in the buying decision. Now, the sales pro had to learn to sell on the carpeted parts of the hospital. As you start to scale to work with diverse decision-makers, understand that you’ll likely be talking less about functional benefits, and more about the ROI. You need to understand how the potential account makes money, and how you will either make them more money or save them on the expense side of the ledger. In the example of the medical services company, certainly, service excellence is important. But if you come in with an understanding of how it will improve patient outcomes and extend lives, you’re more likely to make the sale.
Know Your (Sales Professionals’) Limits
Understand that winning larger accounts is a substantial change in the way your sales pros will plan and carry out their job. The days of asking them to call upon 150 accounts in 30 days are over. As part of this evolution, it’s critical to figure out the right number of touches for your business and give them the time to research, prepare, and gather the intelligence necessary to winning larger accounts. As a member of executive leadership, it’s critical for you to alter your goals – and compensation plans – to support your company’s loftier aspirations.
Casting your lines in a bigger sea requires a top-to-bottom commitment to change. For more than 40 years, The Brooks Group has partnered with sales organizations around the globe—helping them to hire, train, coach, and develop salespeople and sales managers to reach maximum performance levels.
If we can help you set your team up for consistent sales success, let’s start a conversation.