Last week, at our Sales Leadership Intensive we hosted for a packed house of CEOs, Executives, Sales VPs, and Front-Line Sales Managers here at our Training Center at Kurlan & Associates, a question came up about metrics and holding account managers accountable for activities and proactive behaviors related to growth. "How can I create metrics for my people related to growing existing customers that we've had for years -- especially those golden accounts we'd never want to lose?," an attendee asked, adding, "I can see how monitoring these metrics would be great for business development folks seeking new business, but it's not as simple for account managers. What metrics can I use for them?" By the way, this is the kind of fun question that gets a room full of sales leaders charged up like a bunch of astronomers debating whether Pluto is a really a planet. Real geeky sales stuff that I love.
It's interesting that this question was asked. We so often think of pursuing the "new account" as easier to quantify than nurturing existing accounts. But if we think about growing an existing account as simply seeking "net new business," it ceases to look a whole lot different. So I asked the participant, "You probably don't need any of those accounts to grow, right?" He answered, "Haha, you bet we do." And I followed that with, "Well that makes sense, but you probably don't have any attrition with these accounts and they all come back every year without fail." He said, "You're dreaming! That's the whole problem. I don't think my people are on top of this and we're often surprised when we lose an account." Hmm. "So we can get several metrics right from there, can't we?" Now it makes sense. How often are you meeting with your existing accounts to have a meeting about how many other ways you can help them?
One of the ways in which salespeople grow business is by having productive, eye-opening business conversations with prospects that no one else is having. But to have that conversation, they have to first set up a meeting. Here's where there's confusion for account managers. If I get a lead, I can contact that person and set up a meeting. It might take one, two, or 22 attempts, but the conversation gets awful one-sided when the prospect isn't there, so I need to schedule an actual meeting. Seems obvious enough. And when I have it, I can learn what I need to learn by asking questions and discovering compelling reasons for my prospect to make a change from doing what they are doing to doing business with me. On the other hand, for an account manager, I am usually well past that first conversation and we already have a relationship. But, as the sales leader said, these accounts are pure gold. They already know you, trust you, want to do business with you, and they even call you. So how do we leverage that golden relationship for growth?
Introducing the Reset Meeting
When you already have an account, but need to grow it, and further, when you already have many accounts and want to keep them, the best method is to use a Reset Meeting. The purpose of a Reset Meeting is to shift from the normal, habitual conversation and move toward a business discussion that can lead to more sales. The problem is that it might seem like an abrupt change to the prospect to suddenly be talking about growing the account, and more importantly (and problematically) it might also expose a weakness in the salesperson who might not be used to "selling," and is more comfortable in the role of simply keeping the customer happy.
Setting up a Reset Meeting might sound something like this: "Ya know Bob, we've been doing business for several years now and we've had a lot of conversations, haven't we. Along the way, I've always been ready to serve you and your business and I've taken care of your needs whenever called upon. If you're willing, I'd like to set up a meeting with you just to gain an even better understanding of your business so I can understand how to help you even more, going forward. I think we'll need about an hour and a half. Would you be willing to talk about that?"
When this meeting is on the calendar, it is analogous to the first "needs analysis" type meeting one would set up for a new account. And as managers, we can quantify how many of these Reset Meetings our people have set up, giving us a solid metric. It's important to note that this meeting cannot be ad hoc. The customer cannot say, "Yeah, we'll talk about that the next time you come in." It's vital to the effectiveness of the meeting that there is a commitment on the part of the customer to set the time aside to have exactly that conversation.
As with a new account, the existence of a real date and time on the calendar is the first step toward gaining buy-in. Your odds of converting, or in this case, gaining more business, is significantly higher when the customer/prospect commits to having the conversation as defined. "Yeah, sure, whenever..." and "Call me next week to set something up..." doesn't cut it. Those are put-off responses that say nothing about whether this is important to them, or even if they were paying attention to what you were asking.
If we can't get commitment to have the meeting, it's our first red flag regarding either the account's intent or our salesperson's skills. Sometimes, a salesperson is good at account management, but not as good at what we would call "farming" the account or growing the business within an account. Their skill sets and selling "DNA" support account management but farming requires other skills. With farming, we need closing skills and closing urgency which isn't required for account management. We have to stay in the moment. We can't get emotionally involved. We have to be able to listen and ask questions with ease. We can't have too much "Need for Approval" from our prospects/customers, and we have to be rejection proof. How many of the salespeople whom we expect to grow their existing accounts have the requisite skills and DNA to support farming?
For an aggregate view of these traits on your team relative to other sales teams, at no charge, click here. Or if you have a specific salesperson in mind and wonder if they have what it takes to set up and execute a proper Reset Meeting, click here for a free trial of an assessment tool most useful for selecting sales candidates who will be able to perform and succeed in the role, right from the beginning.
The Reset Meeting gives sales managers a good tool for framing the discussion around growing existing accounts while providing the basis for measuring and monitoring activities that will lead to customer growth and retention. Good luck with this tool and let me know how it works for you.
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