Key Account Management is a very complex and comprehensive process that generally addresses what happens after the sale. What we want to explore today is how we can leverage social selling in order to assist us in achieving our goal of breaking into major accounts. Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
It is also important to note that, while any major account opportunity will certainly warrant comprehensive preparation and planning, the basic concepts that we will discuss should be applicable to any sales opportunity.
I have had the good fortune to work with a number of major accounts during my career and these experiences have taught me a few things …
- Most of my competitors wanted to break in as much as I did. Go figure.
- Major accounts tend to be more faithful to their existing vendor until … they fall short.
- You need to be a recognized commodity before your competitor falters or a need arises. Your chances of showing up at just the right time are nil!
- You will have to be substantially different, in some manner, in order to garner their attention and their consideration.
- Referrals to a major account are like a Wonka Chocolate Factory Golden Ticket. These enterprises place a very high value on recommendations from trusted partners. Secure these.
Finally, it is much more preferable to create your own opportunity than it is to answer a cattle call for new proposals. In fact, the only cattle calls I ever answered were the ones that I had a substantial part in defining.
Do your account research and do this before you engage. I want to know who, what, when, where, and why. This is also a part of the pre-qualification process. While this may be a multi-gazillion dollar company, will they buy from you and would you even want them to? You need to build a dossier, a target buyer (account) persona.
I am not a huge “tool guy” but, whatever apps you choose will be even better if you use them. There are several social selling business intelligence tools that I would encourage you to deploy. It is important that you become familiar with these prior to the actual engagement process. Here are a few that are free to low-cost …
- Your website – Social selling is attraction as well as outreach. While it is obvious that your company needs a website, you need one too! A properly crafted LinkedIn profile can serve this purpose and it also includes an integrated (think customer education) blog.
- Owler – Get up-to-date news on your target accounts.
- Google search – A good Google search will uncover news and most social profiles in one pass.
- Google Alerts – Similar to Owler, you can set up alerts for people, companies, and topics.
- Social networks – Presences for you and your company need to be established, and maintained, but only where your target customers are found.
- Mention – Among other things, Mention will track mentions of … you.
- A good CRM and a Social CRM would be even better – A CRM is not a simply an electronic Rolodex. It organizes your notes, your pipeline, your calendar (including reminders), and your next steps!
CRM, while extremely valuable, is notoriously neglected/rejected by salespeople because (fill in the blank). If this is you, you are costing yourself sales! There are several CRM’s, including Zoho and HubSpot CRM, that can be yours for FREE!
Next you will need to plan your offering and this may differ for each account. You need to have clarity regarding …
- What can you do for them?
- What is your value proposition?
- WIFM – “What’s in it for me?” They will be asking themselves this question as they consider the possibility of your services.
It is critical that all of the aforementioned steps be completed prior to moving forward. You get one chance to make a good first impression. If this opportunity is squandered due to your lack of preparation … this failure lands squarely on your head.
Social selling and social networking are highly dynamic. What you see today may be entirely different tomorrow. This fluidity means that it is incumbent on you to stay on top and up-to-date on everything that goes on with these accounts a well a those people who are associated with them. Be on the lookout for ….
Trigger events are something that might happen within a business that could create an opportunity for you. Examples might be … new offices, hiring, people leaving or moving, a new product introduction, or new funding being secured. These are also events that you can refer to during your approach.
Your social selling tools will help you to monitor for these in a variety of ways …
Social clues – What are they talking about and who are they talking to? However, as there can be an awful amount of noise on the social networks, filtering these, where possible, is a must. This can be accomplished via search and/or lists on most of these platforms.
Profile updates – These updates can reflect a variety of events including work anniversaries and new jobs. Now, if my primary point of contact at company “x” was just promoted up or demoted out … I need to get on top of that … now! There are two opportunities here.
I can follow that person to their new department or company. However, by that same token, when somebody new arrives in a company or a department, they are often keen to make their own mark in their new territory and … if you aren’t proactive … that might be somebody that they worked with previously like … your competitor.
Who are my contacts connecting to? – I don’t know about you but, I want to know who my connections are connecting to. This might spell opportunity or it might be a five-alarm fire drill if that new connection is your key competitor.
Earlier I said that one thing that we have in common with our competitors is that we all want to break into the same major accounts. While that might be true, wanting and doing are two different things. At least half of your competitors will be either too lazy or too intimidated to actually take any action. More for the rest of us.
As previously stated, given that the chances that an opportunity might present itself when you aren’t looking is high, you must be the first name that they think of when they begin to think of viable alternatives to their current, soon to be past, status quo. Begin to build relationships early and there is no such thing as too early.
Your efforts should be personalized, memorable, progressive, and sincere. Educating your prospects with quality relevant content is critical. Finding them opportunities to sell more of their services, is a home run! I am a believer that, if you act like you already work for them, you will soon be doing just that.
Here are some suggestions …
Connect only with right people who match your persona – What do we have in common (commonalities) and who do we have in common (potential introductions)? These can be powerful icebreakers and rapport-builders.
Leverage your common connections – Many people on LinkedIn are no longer exposing their connections to anyone. However, whenever you search for people who match your criteria, or visit specific profiles, be sure to note that your common connections will be exposed regardless of that individual’s privacy setting.
You can also try some different approaches …
- Probe for minor openings – I always liked the question …“I get that you are happy with your current supplier but, nobody, even us, can be perfect. If they could do certain things better for you, what might those be?” or …
- Crummy opportunity approach – “Give me a little crummy rush job that nobody wants or nobody can get to just so that I can show you what we can do.”
- Become an expert in an area that your competitors avoid – My background was in the electric sign industry and my specialty was securing code variances that nobody else thought could get done or were even willing to attempt.
- The “keep your current vendor honest” approach – While major accounts have been known to test their existing vendors on price from time to time just to ensure that they are not being taken advantage of. This can present an opportunity for you. Of course, this can also be used on you.
I have found that larger accounts were often among the easiest to secure. Because they want to work with companies that are stable and large enough to service their needs, it tends to keep the riff raff out so … go get ‘em!