Fundamentals of Key Account Selling
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Almost every professional B2B sales
person comes to grips with one of the challenges of penetrating key
accounts. Key accounts are different than the ordinary, and require
some more sophisticated skills and strategies. Here are four
fundamentals for effectively penetrating key accounts.
1. Recognize that key accounts are different.
First of all, they are larger, but
that's only the beginning. Their decision-making processes will be much
more complex, and in some cases, highly structured. A product that may,
in a smaller account, only need one person's approval to purchase can
require dozens of people to sign off on it in a key account.
The people have widely different
specialty skill sets, perspectives, and motivations. In smaller
accounts, you may only have to deal effectively with an owner or
executive. In key accounts, the same product may require skillful
communications with an engineer, a purchasing agent, a project manager
and a foreman. Each of these specialties is likely to have a different
personality type, challenging the sales person to adapt.
Because of the size and complexity,
there are a variety of motivations and agendas inside a key account. A
naive sales person can be constantly frustrated because they all don't
think the way he/she thinks.
I can go on for pages on ways in
which key accounts are different, but this is sufficient to make the
point. If you don't adjust your strategies and tactics to the unique
dynamics of a key account, you will be wasting your time.
2. Approach the organization of your time within
a key account like you would your entire territory.
When you look at your territory, you
see lots of independent units we call accounts. You understand that
each has a unique set of needs, budgets and personal dynamics, and that
each offers its own set of opportunities.
When you approach a key account,
think of it as a territory on its own, with lots of units that act like
accounts. These units can be departments, or branches, or plants, or
whatever organization exists within that account. Each one of them may
conceivably have the ability to purchase or move forward the purchase
of your products and services. Each unit, whatever it may be, has its
own unique set of needs, budgets and personal dynamics. And, in many
cases, the purchasing power of one of those units can far outstrip the
purchasing power of one of your smaller accounts.
Just as you would begin your work in
your sales territory by first identifying all the potential accounts,
so too, you begin your work in a key account by identifying all the
individual units, and then understanding the relationships among them.
Just as you would take six months or
a year to come to know the accounts in your territory, so too, expect
that it will take a like period of time to identify and come to know
all of the units within your key accounts.
Just as you would attempt to
ascertain what opportunities there were in each of your other accounts,
so too, you should attempt to uncover the opportunities in each of the
key account units.
While key accounts are more complex
and require some more sophisticated strategies and skills on your part,
the perspective that you take to managing your time in a key account
should mimic the perspective you take in coming to know the accounts in
3. Understand that you gain traction in key
accounts through relationships, leverage, and organization.
If you are going to have influence
in a key account, you must have relationships with the influential
people. Because of the size of a key account, and the natural movement
of people within it, that means that coming to know the influential
people is not an event which has an ending, but is rather a constant
process that never ends. Make a list of the people who should know you,
and update it after every sales call.
Who are the department heads in each
of those units? Who are influencers? The decision makers? Who could be
a champion for you?
Not only do you need to proactively
expand your relationships deep into the organization, but you also need
to focus upward, and come to know those people who oversee combinations
of units, and the C-level people in the corner suites.
There is a fundamental equation in
B2B sales, and it operates just as reliably in key accounts as it does
- Relationships lead to opportunities.
- Opportunities lead to projects
- Projects lead to sales.
So, if you want to increase your
sales, begin with relationships. And, the primary way you do that is to
leverage every question, every positive relationship, every
conversation, and every opportunity to more of the same. Leverage, in
this case, means using something to create something additional. In
other words, you use every conversation as an opportunity to open the
door to more. Assume the attitude that there is always more. There are
more people to meet, more opportunities to uncover, more problems to
solve, and more needs to fill.
In every single sales call, you
ought to ask, "Who else should I be talking to?" Or, "Who should I know
in xxxx department? " If you successfully sell something, that
experience should be leveraged to uncover the next opportunity. If you
meet someone, that relationship should be leveraged to create more. And
so it goes, unending.
Finally, key accounts are no place
for the unorganized sales person. Successfully selling in a key account
requires organizational tools and disciplines that are a stretch for
the average sales person. Imagine all the people who you need to know,
multiply them by the relationships and agendas among them, overlay that
with the account's strategies, needs and budgets, factor in all the
opportunities and the steps in each process necessary to bring it to
fruition, and you'll begin to get an idea of the degree to which you'll
need to collect information, store it, and continually use it. A
sophisticated CRM system is a must, as is the discipline to use it
While these few ideas are not the
whole story, they will get you started in your efforts to successfully
sell to key accounts. Recognize the difference, plan your time as if
each were a sales territory on its own, and apply the weapons of
relationship, leverage and organization to the task. You'll be well on
About the Author
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.
You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-05-22 15:31:26 in Marketing Articles