5 Tips for Building Stronger Relationships with Your Most Profitable Accounts
The number one way to grow revenue is to sell more to existing accounts. That requires your sales reps and account managers to develop strong customer relationships with your organization’s key clients.
Join Marcia Neese, Regional VP of Sales, and Drea Douglass, Director of Talent Management Consulting, as they walk you through the 5 tips to help your team build stronger customer relationships—and tap into the growth opportunity of your organization’s most essential accounts.
In 19 hyper-focused minutes, we’ll cover:
- How to prioritize accounts so your team members are spending their time and energy in the right places
- The communication strategy top-performing sales reps use to make buyers feel comfortable and trusting
- Why “not selling” can lead to improved sales in the long-term
- The fatal flaw most reps make when building a relationship with key accounts
Read the Full Transcript of the Briefinar Below:
Drea Douglass: Thank you for joining the Briefinar. We’ll get started shortly.
Drea Douglass: Hello and welcome to Briefinars For Sales Leaders. We promise to be brief, bright and bring it all to you in 19 minutes. Remember that we’ll be sending out a recording after the presentation so you will have access to it. Today, we’re going to be giving you five tips to help your team build stronger customer relationships and tap into the growth opportunity of your organization’s most essential accounts.
Drea Douglass: I’m joined today by Marcia Neese, regional VP of sales. Marcia brings over 25 years of experience in account management, sales, sales management and recruiting to The Brooks Group. We’re lucky to have her on our team.
Marcia Neese: Thanks, Drea. I’m glad to be here today. This is definitely a topic that I’m passionate about. Having been in business and business sales for over 25 years now and I’m excited to share with y’all what I’ve learned. Whether you have a dedicated account management team or your salespeople play both roles, you need to make customer relationships a priority.
Drea Douglass: Why is that?
Marcia Neese: Well, Drea, because selling to existing customers is the number one way to grow your business.
Drea Douglass: Now, that we understand the why, we can jump into the how.
Marcia Neese: We’ve outlined five tips your team can use to build stronger relationships with the accounts that represent the most potential. Let’s quickly list those tips out and then we can dig into each one a little bit deeper.
Marcia Neese: Become a subject matter expert. Establish relationships with multiple stakeholders. Next, provide value frequently and consistently. Engage in a structured and responsive way. And the one that I find the most important is prioritizing relationships.
Drea Douglass: Marcia, tell us a little bit more about tip number one, becoming a subject matter expert. What do you mean by that?
Marcia Neese: Oh, yeah, sure. It’s not enough for your team to just be an expert in your business and product offerings. They really need to be experts in their client’s industries and businesses. To establish trust with a client, your reps need to fully understand the challenges they’re facing, the competition they’re up against and what their customers expect from them.
Marcia Neese: Your reps need to become experts as a vital part of the accounts business strategy. Understanding account’s current processes and strategy can help the reps suggest better solutions and strategies to help the client reach their goal.
Drea Douglass: Excellent. Well, how about tip number two here, establish relationships with multiple stakeholders.
Marcia Neese: Yes, very important. Customer relationships are critical to maintaining and growing key accounts, but relationships with single individuals in the company are a lot weaker than those with multiple people within the organization. Teach your salespeople to identify all the key stakeholders, influencers, the champions and the decision makers by actually mapping out the decision making unit.
Marcia Neese: We want to encourage them to build relationships with more than one contact. Relying on communication with one time contact is horrible. It’s a fatal flaw. Many salespeople and account managers make this. When salespeople strengthen multiple relationships, they protect the account against the risk of one person leaving the company or changing positions while strengthening their own standing within the organization. I personally had this happen. I had, believe it or not, two internal advocates with two different companies leave, and I can’t make this up, within two weeks of having conversations and almost finalizing programs. Luckily I had mapped out the accounts and built multiple relationships so I didn’t have to, number one, start all over again or, number two, not even have an opportunity to be a part of the client or the program itself.
Drea Douglass: Your only contact doesn’t just go walking out the door.
Marcia Neese: Right.
Drea Douglass: But when they do walk out the door, of course then maybe even consider reaching out to them in their new organization. That’s an extra tip for those of you listening.
Marcia Neese: Yup. Good point.
Drea Douglass: That’s not necessarily in here. But that’s definitely something we do here. When someone leaves their organization, finding out where they went and reestablishing contact, just a friendly, “Hey, I saw that you left. Congratulations on your new role. Very excited for you.”
Marcia Neese: That’s a whole other lead, a whole other prospect for you. It’s that easy.
Drea Douglass: The last one here is to remind reps to tailor their approach based on the contact’s behavior style and area of focus. With practice, they can learn to quickly recognize what kind of personality a contact has and whether they should, for example, either get straight to the point during a conversation or provide more detail or engage in small talk, et cetera. Not every buyer likes the way that you prefer to communicate. As a salesperson, it’s your job or your sales reps’ jobs to develop that skills. We call that interactive flexibility, the ability to identify another person’s behavior style and to adapt yours to best communicate with them in a way they prefer to be communicated to.
Drea Douglass: I like to use the old example of walking into a car dealership. We’ve all done that. Sometimes when you walk into the dealership, you’ve got the rep that walks up all happy and excited to see you like you’ve been friends your whole lives. But if you’re one of those folks who’s more of an introvert who doesn’t really appreciate when people treat you like they’re your old pal, you don’t even know them, that can really rub that person in the wrong way. They may go to the dealership down the road or the opposite. Maybe the customer is very bubbly and friendly and informal and they prefer a more informal approach but the rep has that more analytical, detail oriented approach and they don’t pick up on the vibes that the buyer is putting out there. That can really derail their ability to build trust quickly and rapport with the customer. Being able to do that is powerful.
Marcia Neese: Right. Right, yeah. Do you want to hang out with somebody bubbly and full of energy or do you want to get down to business and talk numbers? This is something we have to understand as a rep.
Drea Douglass: Absolutely. All right. Let’s move on to tip number three, providing value frequently and consistently. I really like this one.
Marcia Neese: Yes, me, too. Strong, longterm relationships grow stronger when they’re rooted in mutual value. You want to be sure that your team understands what their genuine value is to customers so that they can set themselves apart from what your competitors are offering. As a rule of thumb, your salespeople should strive to provide value to the customer during every interaction they have with them. Whether your rep is reaching out with a phone call, an email, if they’re going to hit them up on LinkedIn, send them a message, every touchpoint should include something of value to the customer.
Marcia Neese: Just to give an example of how I do this. I use the Google Alerts. It allows me to stay on top of news, anything new coming out with a company that I have set in my alert, it sends it my way so I’m educating myself but also become a strategic advisor and send this information to them. I find it a good excuse to reach out to them, but also not just to reach out and keep asking for sale.
Drea Douglass: Oh, yeah. That’s a great tactic. I personally as a buyer don’t like it when people reach out just with their own agenda in mind. I think that’s a great goal.
Marcia Neese: Just old school. When you’re interacting with clients, you want to refrain from moving straight to your offerings for that reason. To establish trust and be seen as an advisor, you don’t want to be seen as just a product pushing salesperson. Those days are long gone. Your rep should keep a customer focus and not jump directly into what they can offer them. If they’re patient, the opportunity will naturally arise as conversations unfold, that trust is built, the rapport is there and it’ll be received better by the customer that way.
Drea Douglass: That’s a smart approach.
Marcia Neese: We had a question come in and the question is, I’m going to go ahead and cover this because I feel like it fits in perfect here. How do client successes or account managers build relationships with customers post sale?
Marcia Neese: I think we probably just touched on that. But just being able to add value at every touchpoint, just as we described some of the ways we described it, just not reaching out every single time. It’s me again. Are you ready to close? Are you ready to commit? It’s me again.
Drea Douglass: Have you signed that form yet?
Marcia Neese: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I need to close this on my end but making sure that every touchpoint has value.
Drea Douglass: All right. Tip number four, engage in a structured and responsive way.
Marcia Neese: Yes. With those customer relationships that are really nurtured in a structured and responsive manner, they grow in strength and value over time. You want to coach your salespeople to establish a consistent communication cadence so the client feels supported and know what to expect from your brand and rep they’re working.
Marcia Neese: An effective communication process should include scheduled touchpoints as well as responsive communications triggered by events such as client complaints, engagement with content, customer questions and customer celebration such as company awards and milestones even.
Marcia Neese: Your rep should also be conducting regular reviews. Conducting reviews will help them identify emerging needs, build long term relationships with clients and grow the business. That’s what we’re going for, right?
Drea Douglass: That’s absolutely right.
Marcia Neese: As far as the regular reviews that I would recommend that are being conducted, it would be in the following areas. The first will be relationship reviews and that’s meet within a set timeframe after the implementation of your product, service or solution to answer questions, gather feedback and address any concerns.
Marcia Neese: Before I move on to the next two, one of the questions that we did receive, I’ll go over another question, is what’s a good way to systemize referrals or just ask for referrals? Within this review, this was a great way to answer this question because I recommend making it a part of your process. As you know here at The Brooks Group whenever we complete a program we send a survey out and we look for feedback. Once we receive that feedback, everything’s positive, then the system that we have here is simply ask for the referral.
Drea Douglass: Once you’ve established that customer is happy. I think that’s the key, right.
Marcia Neese: Or figure out if they’re not happy, how to make them happy and then definitely know that you feel more comfortable asking for the referral.
Drea Douglass: And then there’s the rep ideally should go confident that in asking for referral because I think a lot of times reps are hesitant or a little nervous about asking for those. If you make it part of your normal process and you put it in the spot where it’s after delivery, after some time has passed, you’ve reached out to say, “How did things go? We saw on your feedback survey that you had a great experience. Would you mind referring us to other folks that you think would be interested in our service?”
Marcia Neese: Good point, yeah. I can see where that’s a lot more valuable than collecting the agreements. And by the way, do you have anyone you’d refer to us?
Drea Douglass: Absolutely.
Marcia Neese: Let the business do the talking to complete when those referrals in the process.
Marcia Neese: All right, next onto the second suggestion that’s going to be business reviews. You want to conduct periodic business reviews with your customer on a regular basis to asses what’s working well and where we could use improvement. As well as to identify emerging needs and being proactive towards ideas so that you’re part of the solution from the beginning.
Marcia Neese: Lastly, strategy sessions. When a challenge, issue or pain point arises, brainstorm, identify all potential solutions and collaborate with the customer to determine the best solution.
Drea Douglass: I could see how that would really set you up as a rep, as a partner. As opposed to just a salesperson.
Marcia Neese: Right, you’re right there with them. Going through it with them.
Marcia Neese: And by the way, our strategic account management training program goes in depth on how to conduct these reviews with clients as well as other strategies we’ve covered so far.
Drea Douglass: All right, we’re rolling on through. We’re already at tip number five, prioritizing relationships. You mentioned earlier this is one of your favorites.
Marcia Neese: Yes, yes, definitely. As far as the fifth tip, this one’s probably the most important and definitely something that you do not want your reps to overlook. Your salespeople and account managers need to be skilled at prioritizing their clients’ relationships.
Marcia Neese: Building customer relationships and putting in the effort to maintain them requires time and energy. It’s not possible to effectively maintain all customer relationships at the same level. It would exhaust us. To understand which accounts represent the most revenue opportunity and therefore deserve more time and attention, I would suggest having your reps prioritize their accounts based on payoff and positioning.
Drea Douglass: Marcia, can you expand on what you mean by payoff and positioning?
Marcia Neese: Oh yeah, sure. When you’re evaluating accounts, factors relating to payoff, those would include, first would be growth potential. Look at it, is there an opportunity for growth within the accounts or can the account be leveraged to grow other accounts through referrals just as we were talking about?
Marcia Neese: Profitability would be the next. The actual profitability of your existing accounts or the potential profitability of your target accounts.
Marcia Neese: Next in line would be perception of your value. How do your account perceive the value you offer? The higher perception of value the price sensitive these accounts will be.
Marcia Neese: Degree of account maintenance would be next. How much time you spend with these accounts in relation to the amount of business you do with them. You have to ask yourself, are they high touch and low reward?
Marcia Neese: And then lastly, alignment with your business offerings and philosophy. Are the accounts a good fit for your solution and how they do business?
Drea Douglass: Right, exactly. Some accounts may not just be a right fit for your company based on what you’re able to offer or the way that you deliver, your delivery may not be the best setup or logistically it may not be right. Or, quite frankly they may just be too big of a pain to make it worth it to you to deal with them.
Marcia Neese: I don’t want to bring them into the rest of team if they already have complaints from the beginning or something like that. It may not be in alignment. Good point.
Drea Douglass: How about factors relating to positioning?
Marcia Neese: Oh yeah. Those would include how is the rep, your organization and you’re offerings viewed versus how the competition’s viewed? Secondly, how strong are your rep’s relationships with the account. And then last, what is the level of trust with the account stakeholders?
Drea Douglass: Absolutely. Great review there. I think that was very meaty quite frankly. I got a lot from that personally. That’s a lot to think about but if your reps can start to incorporate those principles and asking themselves those questions and having their sales managers ask those questions of them in their sales meetings for example. It’s a great way to set up coaching conversations. If the sales manager or the sales director is asking those questions of their reps, whatever gets asked is what gets thought for from a salesperson’s perspective. They’re looking for the leader to give them the cues for what they should be focusing on. Saving that slide by itself there I think could be of a lot of value to a lot of sales leaders to make sure that they’re keeping those things top of mind for their reps.
Marcia Neese: Great.
Drea Douglass: Okay, back to finish up tip number five.
Marcia Neese: As far as tip number five, it’s a good idea to have your reps do a strategic account positioning reality check. This exercise will allow your sales reps or account managers to determine how they’re actually positioned within the account they consider their key or strategic accounts. An honest assessment will give you and your reps a clear picture of how they stand with an account and what actions they need to take in order to strengthen those relationships.
Marcia Neese: We’ll actually be sending out this free positioning reality check along with a recording of today’s presentation so be sure to keep your eye out for it. Also check your junk mail in case it winds up there.
Drea Douglass: I know, I hate when that happens.
Drea Douglass: All righty. So you want to grow your company’s revenue and we know through research that the best way to do that is by selling more to your existing customers. The key is making sure your sales reps and account managers are managing their key accounts as effectively as possible.
Marcia Neese: I know we’ve covered a lot of great information today and the nice thing about that is that we actually have a training program which you can see right here. Our strategic account management training and it teaches participants a practical system for strengthening client relationships and developing each of their key accounts. They’ll learn to prioritize accounts, position themselves strategically, sell deeper and do it in a way that maximizes their time and your resources. Make sure they’re spending the right time in the right places on those existing accounts.
Marcia Neese: And if you want to learn more about the program you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, right here on the bottom of slide is my email address. I’ll be glad to chat with you. I believe that we had some additional questions come in and I’ll be reaching out to you all to address those questions separately. That’s all we have time for today, so thanks so much for joining us and we look forward to seeing you all next time.