Warren Buffett once said a reputation takes a lifetime to build and 5 minutes to destroy.
I remember an incident that could have really hurt me in the early days of my sales career on Canary Wharf when I was a Services Account Manager for HP (now HPE 🙄).
You can develop a reputation for creating business relationships that are too 1-sided if you’re not careful and that could cost you dearly at contract renewal time. Like all relationships, business relationships must be equitable to be sustainable.
One time, I was on a day’s annual leave and took my children to our local park in Guildford. Whilst they were happily playing, I phoned a client to chase an order that was going to help me achieve my H1 target.
We’ll call the client Gerard (not their real name). When I got through to Gerard, he challenged me that I hadn’t responded to his call or his email from earlier in the week; he’d been complaining about some work that still hadn’t been done.
Yet, there I was, asking for the next PO. “How does that work?" he said; in fact, he was a little more direct than that but I’m trying to be polite here.
Gerard was, of course, dead right with his portrayal and, in sales terms, this was poor behaviour I was exhibiting (since revised I should add).
Are your sales team exhibiting a similar behaviour, only showing up to an account when they want something?
Unfortunately, this happens a lot in sales. It's short-termism and it’s not good for the profession. We salespeople need to do better for our accounts and for the perception of sales as a bona fide profession.
And it's not confined to smaller companies either. I just finished working with a very large organisation that struggled with the same thing.
They have a salesforce of many, many people selling all kinds of different products to all kinds of different companies and the one common denominator was that customers repeatedly said "I only hear from this company when it’s contract renewal time". Typically, these are three-year service contracts, which means that thirty-three months could go by without so much as a "how are you"?
That's 33-months your erstwhile competitors has to cosy up and treat your customer how they'd like to be treated.
No wonder clients get frustrated that they only hear from their suppliers when the supplier wants something!
So, my question to you is: Are you managing your customers in the same way?
Do your customers only hear from your account managers when they want something from them - chasing a Purchase Order or asking them to provide a happy client reference?
The kind of impact this can have is that your Net Promoter Score ("NPS") gets hurt i.e. customers are less likely to recommend you, and the impact of this is that you’ll get less referral business.
At the coal-face of sales, that could mean an Account Manager doesn’t make their target. However, for the average CEO to miss their number, that could mean a bonus reduction of hundreds of thousands of pounds, possibly even millions when it comes to LTIP (Long Term Incentive Plan) earnings.
Given the current volatility in global markets, capital naturally flows towards more stable investments, so if your sales results are unpredictable, that could impact your stock price and not in a good way. Going back to Gerard, he got me a PO number (he was a decent chap) and I made my H1 number plus hit another performance bonus and qualified for the company’s incentive trip to Venice.
But it could so easily have gone the other way.
5 Top Tips to Enhance the Customer Relationship:
1. Ensure someone from your company is in touch with all customer accounts at least once per quarter - a courtesy or account review call if you like. Look for up-sell opportunities using your technical/market expertise and your knowledge of the client.
2. Forward your client any industry-specific articles you come across online - they may already have read them but you’re demonstrating leadership in that you’re thinking about them and their business. The FT (Financial Times) has many of these and you can “gift” articles from behind their pay-wall for your clients and it's well worth the investment.
3. Invite clients to industry events or online webinars you know are relevant to them. They may not accept the invitation but, then again, they just might and you get to spend time with them that your competition can’t!
4. Ask them for referrals - they may not have any more business for you but chances are they know other people in their industry and could introduce you.
Ask if you can mention their name when making contact for a warmer reception.
5. If you do end up writing any business with their referral, always write a thank you note (as a minimum) to the referring client. If your company allows you to, consider buying the customer lunch by way of a thank you and take extra interest in their business /market.
You could learn something really valuable.
Does any of the above resonate with you? 🤔
Contact us to discuss ways we can develop your sales team's account management skills...and sell more of your stuff.