In CSO Insights' 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, it was found that more than 10 percent of companies do not carry out any strategic account planning, while a further 24.8 percent said this was left up to each sales person. Yet, formal account planning strategies have been shown to improve business results.
However, adopting a clear strategy for managing key accounts will not just allow you to improve sales figures, it also has the potential to help you retain those accounts in a competitive market and maximize customers' long-term value. Here, we take a look at seven strategies that can help you to achieve better retention rates.
1. Stay in Touch Between Sales
A common problem within sales organisations is that sales reps work hard to make an initial sale, then fail to make contact afterwards. With key accounts, a slightly different problem exists, where reps become familiar with the customer's buying pattern and neglect them in between purchases.
Instead, you need to stay in touch and keep your key accounts updated on developments within your organization and on any new products or services. This could be done through regular emails, for example, or even through social media by sharing carefully selected content that is relevant to your key accounts. Key accounts are more likely to go to the competition if they feel you stop caring once you have their money.
2. Ask For Honest Feedback
If you are losing key accounts, it is important to try and understand why, so that you can fix the problem. Rather than relying on guesswork, the best way to do this is simply to ask for honest feedback.
Send out a personalized surveys and ask what your point of contact(s) like and dislike. If you are in an industry where a survey isn’t suitable, have a debrief meeting following a physical job you carried out for them with a structured question-based document that you can go back to at sales management level. If you lose a key client, get in touch and ask them why they decided to go elsewhere. Once you understand specific problems, you can use the information to address issues and make changes to things like your sales, customer service and negotiation training programs.
3. Anticipate Needs in Advance
Another great way for B2B organisations to improve their relationship with key accounts is to take an active interest in their business and try to anticipate their issues, challenges and needs in advance.
“Begin with understanding the entire context in the account…their business challenges, their financial performance, their business strategies and plans moving forward,” says Tamara Schenk from Miller Heiman Group. “A shared account strategy begins with the customer's goals and ends with how you can help them to achieve these.”
4. Sell Based On Value, Not Price
When negotiating, it is often tempting to do so based on price. The problem with this is that you open the door for a competitor to simply offer a similar product or service at a lower price and take key accounts away from you.
Instead, you should use your negotiation training sessions to encourage salespeople to sell based on value, not price. Most clients will be perfectly willing to pay higher prices if they get more, so consider providing additional value through the quality of products, by offering after-purchase help, or by throwing in relevant extras.
5. Understand Your Competition
If you are operating in a competitive market, your key accounts retention strategy should also include an element of scouting your opposition, so that you understand what they have to offer.
Stay up-to-date with their products and services, keep an eye on their pricing and consider communicating with some of their customers. Once you have an idea of what they do well, things they are not so good at, and what customers think of them, you can adjust your strategies so that your offerings are superior.
6. Implement a Social Selling Strategy
Finally, outside of improving customer service skills, one of the single most effective ways to improve relations with your key accounts is through social selling. Implement some basic guidelines, but allow your salespeople some freedom to create personal brands of their own and share useful, interesting content through social media.
“Write a weekly article,” suggests Ross Beard in a post for Client Heartbeat. “Perhaps you began offering a product that can help save your clients 20 minutes a week or released a whitepaper that provides great insight into employee management. Be consistent with your blog and start using it as a way to build relationships.”
7. Deliver Excellent Customer Service
Finally, the most obvious way you can influence key account retention rates is by delivering excellent customer service. This means investing sufficiently in training to boost your team's customer service skills, so that they can go the extra mile, improve first contact resolution rates and meet customer expectations related to things like waiting times.
According to statistics compiled by Help Scout, 59 percent of customers would try a new company for a superior service experience, while 70 percent are willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent service. In particular, customers want competence, short waiting times and a degree of personalization.
This guest post is courtesy of Monika Götzmann. She is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global customer experience and sales training company. It specializes in providing exceptional sales training courses to provide organizations with sales ready solutions for their employees. She enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to develop better sales and customer service skills in sales people.