Gauger on sales – Too much of a good thing

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Don’t let big account list force you into reactive mode
I feel a little guilty saying this. I have too much business and find myself being reactive to my sales territory. I am afraid that I am neglecting some of my current accounts. Any suggestions?
This is a common situation in today’s economy. Some may say it’s a good problem.
It’s still a problem.
If you have been involved in sales during leaner times, then you know how important it is to retain and nurture the business that you have. Too many accounts can cause sales people to become reactive rather than strategic in approach to their territories.
Here are some ideas:
Are you working on the right kind of business? Sometimes inquiries from new potential customers can seem like a priority. If those inquiries are keeping you from developing more profitable business with your current customers and/or other more desirable potential accounts, refer the business to someone else, either internally or externally.
Don’t be afraid to refer business to resources outside of your organization. By demonstrating that you care about taking care of the customer’s needs, you will reinforce that you are a valuable resource and will position yourself for future business.
Categorize and prioritize your accounts. Define the most desirable accounts and most profitable business for your company. Those should become your priority accounts. Then, rank the remaining accounts according to long-term business potential. Depending on how many accounts you are managing, you may end up with two or three categories such as type A, B and C accounts. As new account inquiries are made, categorize them immediately in order to stay focused on the appropriate actions.
Develop account plans for your top accounts. Type A, or priority accounts, typically are those that reflect the most profitable and long-term business potential. Develop a strategic account plan for each of those including the customer’s long- and short-term goals, how you are positioned to help meet those goals, and a communication plan for interacting with the account influencers on a regular basis. Those accounts warrant the majority of your sales/service time. A general rule of thumb is to spend time in your accounts proportionate to the sales potential.
Develop plans for the existing accounts, or type B and C accounts. If you have determined that those accounts warrant your attention and reflect long-term business potential, then you must communicate with them on a regular basis. However, that does not mean that the communication has to be face-to-face. You may develop a communication plan for all Type B accounts, for instance, which would include methods that you would use to simply stay in touch and receive feedback from the accounts. It is best to get feedback from these customers to see what type of communication they expect and prefer.
Examples may be that all Type B accounts receive the following:
Annual sales visits with review of goals and objectives. Quarterly newsletters. Monthly phone calls. Semi-annual survey and response forms.
Get others involved. Are there others within your company that would benefit from account contact? For example, pairing technical people from your company with technical people within your accounts not only frees you up, but will solidify multi-level relationships. This is also a wonderful way to develop associates who wish to develop a better understanding of your business. A visit, or even a phone call, from your president to the account president sends the message that the relationship is important to you.
Assign temporary responsibilities. If your company is experiencing a growth spurt, you may wish to assign certain individuals to temporary account responsibility. For instance, if your strength is developing new account relationships, you may assign a service person to develop ongoing relationships in your existing accounts.
Do some gardening. Weed out accounts that drain you of your time with little return. No one likes to turn down business, yet the time that you save can be spent to cultivate more profitable relationships.
Marcia Gauger is president of Impact Sales Training in New Berlin.
May 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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