Category Archives: Books

Making the Right Choice: Dive in or Engage with a Market-of-One

Major accounts, be they global or national, require special handling for organizations to develop a deep enough understanding that drives business across the organization. Thinking about the account as a market of one and approaching it from that standpoint by both your marketing and sales team is the best way to uncover, tailor, and deliver value that deepens the relationship and drives revenue.

Typically, an account plan is developed by sales, with some small piece provided by marketing. It typically has an inside-out focus: what your organization has to sell first, and who we are going to sell it too second. The weakness in this approach is directional. It should start from the outside-in: focusing on the account’s market imperatives and business drivers, its goals, objectives and initiatives first. Then moving to step two: thinking about how your organization can provide assistance and value in addressing those factors, and how to message your relevant solutions and capabilities to just those individuals within the account that have responsibility for the initiatives.

Given the mandate to drive quarter by quarter results, the plan for major accounts typically focuses on the here and now – without a full, 360-degree view of what the account could develop into over a longer time horizon, with a defined joint sales and marketing strategy. So many organizations who decide to adopt a major account initiative, create a list of their biggest accounts and just dive into the nearest account planning process.

There are multiple processes and templates available that can help you cobble together a really impressive account plan document. Yet, senior management is often disappointed when they discover that this isn’t really enough to create a sustainable path to long-term growth. The crucial component of a major account strategy is co-development by your account team and your marketing team. Do this piece first, and then review it and refine with the customer themselves.

The real key to reaching and engaging a market of one, your account, is to make the investment of time and effort to craft the right solution set that is driven by customer initiatives – a sales “play” that is customized by a deep understanding of the customer’s situation. To drive it home, there is another extremely crucial input that many account teams don’t take into consideration: the secret sauce provided by marketing. For an approach that really delivers customer engagement, an account-based marketing approach should be included to create a value proposition and story to message directly to the key decision makers, recommenders and influencers for the initiative(s) you are planning to target in the account.

An account plan that is all tactics without a clear cohesive strategy and direction, socialized with and contributed to by the customer, is just a basket of hopeful tactics. And hope is not an account plan that drives deep engagement and revenue. When you have an account plan that is all about tactics, it is also highly likely that the tactics are not connected to each other in a meaningful way. They are almost always short-term in nature (read as “this quarter” or “this year”). The account will just rise and fall from year to year – as opposed to moving forward in a way that fosters both your company and your account become increasingly valuable to each other for long-term success.

Key Steps for Successful Large Account Engagement

1. Go Deep

a. Analyze their market including current state, issues, changes (current and future), and any disruptors on the horizon.

b. Learn how they are currently handling these market/business imperatives. What initiatives are in play to address the most important ones?

c. What are the top 3-5 main strategic objectives/initiatives the account has set for itself?

2. Orient Yourself

a. Conduct a review of the account’s buying patterns and installed products/services to determine trends, pattern and gaps you might fill that directly address the account’s key imperatives and initiatives.

b. What kind of opportunities are currently in the pipeline for this account? More of the same, or are there any new or strategically significant factors that you might build on?

3. Get Personal

a. What key account relationships exist and can be leveraged going forward?

b. What relationships need work or are damaged and need repair?

c. Who are the decision makers, recommenders and influencers for the initiatives you are aiming at? Are you connected to all of them?

d. What new relationships do you need to build within the account to help further the account’s objectives?

4. Gather the Village

a. Define and include all your staff (not just sales and marketing) that will directly impact the account’s experience with your organization and include them in the planning process.

b. Give team members a clear path on how they can participate and where/how you want their insights. You need both their experience with the account, their brains for ideas and solutions, and their buy-in.

5. Plan for Success

a. Give each participant in the account team some advance work/research to bring to the table at a planning event. The work done out of the room has a direct impact on the work that will be accomplished in the room.

b. Invest in an objective facilitator who can get your account team through the process efficiently, and stop you from drinking your own Kool-Aid, or worse yet, spilling it all over your plan.

c. Make sure that the strategy has been fully developed and agreed to, before moving to the tactical elements of the account plan.

d. Include the account’s key players in the process. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the very beginning – but before the strategy gels, get them involved.

5. Plan the Work & Work the Plan

a. Develop a targeted value proposition and story for each key initiative you select for the account. A market-of-one means making sure the story that you tell is addressed directly to those individuals in the account with ownership of the initiative(s).

b. Create a campaign plan that will serve up this new messaging with the right set of tailored content assets at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Tailored content with a story that to the key is directed at the right people makes for campaigns that directly impact account activity.

c. Be sure to build in all the steps of an real account plan launch and roll-out, and regular account reviews with a process that drives action and is not a drag on execution.

d. Make sure that the account plan moves with you through the plan period. If you have to dust it off even once, it’s clear that you are winging it again. Go back to the plan – does it need an update or do you have to get everyone back on track – or both?

e. Include plan reviews as a key part of your regular monthly or quarterly business reviews. Is your strategy in tune with current trends and customer direction? Any changes needed? Make sure you weave them in, or rip and replace where necessary.

So instead of just diving in to your major account planning process, consider an integrated marketing and sales approach to really drive account engagement. Finally, don’t just review revenue results to determine if the account plan is working. Look at progression along several elements – in relationships, opportunities, and direct engagement within the account. A 360-degree view of the account’s progress turns into a road map that drives account satisfaction and repeatable revenue growth.

Find out more about what buyers really want in a targeted value proposition to really set the stage for large account success. Download the infographic here.

KA blogMajor accounts, be they global or national, require special handling for organizations to develop a deep enough understanding that drives business across the organization.  Thinking about the account as a market of one and approaching it from that standpoint by both your marketing and sales team is the best way to uncover, tailor, and deliver value that deepens the relationship and drives revenue.

 

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Six New Pitches for the 21st Century

From Dan Pink‘s new book, To Sell is Human

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The World of Sales, Through Pink Colored Lenses

I first “met” Dan Pink via an article he wrote in Fast Company magazine, back in 1997, called Free Agent Nation.  Having just gone out on my own as an independent consultant, this article really resonated with me, on a number of levels.  Not the least of which was his estimate  that 25 million other Americans were doing the same thing – eschewing the normal 9-5-working-for-the-man routine.  I found both comfort and inspiration in Dan’s article.

Around that time, I was heading up the Boston chapter of Company of Friends, a networking group promoted by Fast Company magazine.   I was privileged to host Dan as a speaker on a couple of occasions, and soon realized that this man is a thinker and a visionary, who has a sharp eye for what is going on in the world of business.

Dan’s books and public speaking have inspired millions of people over the years, which is why I am excited to help him announce the publication of his new work, To Sell is Human.  This book is another example of Dan’s vision, this time applied to the sales arena.  Feel free to view the short video below.

To inspire interest in this book, Dan has some great pre-publication order give-aways, which you should read about here.  In order to get these goodies, you must order before December 30, 2012.  Do it.  Stay ahead of the game!

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the To Sell Is Human launch team and will be receiving the goodies above as well as the advance reading copy of the book and a signed copy of the hardcover. I’m not being paid for my review (good or bad) or receiving any other compensation. I’ve paid for all the other copies of Dan’s books that I own as well as those I’ve given away as gifts. In other words, I’m not in this for the freebies and accolades of the fawning masses but because I really like Dan’s books and ideas.

Lisa Dennis

Measure of Success

I am reading an interesting book about building an organization around the customer, called Chief Customer Officer by Jeanne Bliss. She has worked in executive positions for Land’s End, Microsoft, and Mazda, to name a few, and she has primarily been the customer advocate in these organizations.

Her book is very tactical, and instructs people on how to “fight the good fight” regarding dedication to the customer. I had the good fortune to speak with Ms. Bliss on the phone, as I was (and still am) reading her book. She recommends what she terms “guerilla metrics” in measuring business success. These metrics go beyond simple sales goals, and other inane customer service metrics like average length of call, number of calls taken, etc. Her metrics are:

  1. What is the value and volume of your new customers in any given time period? Are you bringing in new business, and more importantly, is it the right kind of business?
  2. What is the value and volume of your lost business, and what are the reasons behind their defections. It is critical to know why customers no longer do business with you.
  3. What is the value and volume of your renewals, or repeat business? What reasons are behind this? You need to know what you are doing right for each customer.
  4. Analyze revenue and profitability by customer group. Sales figures alone do not tell the whole story. If a customer brings in tons of revenue, but requires huge amounts of attention and hand-holding and special treatment, they may not be your ideal client. You want to shrink your most costly customer group, and grow your more profitable groups.
  5. Referrals by customer group. Who is, and is not, referring your business to others, and for what reasons? This is quite possibly the most important metric, in my mind.

These metrics get to the heart of the matter. Is there more business coming in than leaving? If so, why? If not, why not? And, are people sufficiently enamoured with your business that they would recommend you to their friends and colleagues? This is called Trust, and it is the most important asset a business can have.

— Chuck Dennis

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