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Account Management Tips:  Annual Turnover

Annual turnover of Director-level and up positions ranges between 13 – 25% depending on the industry, company size, and length of time in the job. So the probability that your primary customer contact leaves their role in any given year could be 1 in 4.

If you or someone on your team manages an important customer account, eventually, you’ll be faced with pressure to expand relationships beyond your primary contact. Customer relationships are often at risk due to a limited number of meaningful relationships at higher levels, and or the connections are at a tactical or operational level.

While there are many potential approaches to get beyond a primary customer contact, it is rarely a cookie-cutter method. 

Account Management Tips: Four Tips to Get Beyond Your Primary Contact

We help many organizations strengthen strategic account management and planning efforts, so we’ve listed four of the more accessible account planning tips and strategies to expand relationships beyond a primary contact: 

 

1.  Ask Primary Contact For Help

More often than not, salespeople hesitate to ask for help to get to know other contacts, departments, or business units. Asking for an organization chart or for them to explain the organization structure is the ideal approach. An alternative is to conduct a bit of LinkedIn research and identify 2-3 contacts that you think you’d like to meet. You might say something like this “One of our VPs mentioned that they know [Contact Name]. Do you know them or what area of the business they support?” Craft additional open-ended questions to draw out further insight.

 

2.  Leverage LinkedIn Networks

Most salespeople stop at their LinkedIn network, and miss the opportunity to leverage the networks of current and past colleagues. Begin with connecting as many of your company peers and senior-level people as practical. If employees have been in the industry a while, chances are they’ll have connections you can leverage. We’ve conducted many social selling workshops where we discover that the majority of salespeople are not LinkedIn connections with executives within their own company! We aren’t suggesting connecting with the Chairman and CEO on your first day on the job, but make sure connected at least with the senior-most people in your business unit or organization as soon as possible.

 

3.  Leverage Chain of Command

So you have the CFOs name, number, and email. However, you may not have the confidence or experience to lead a conversation with the CFO. Your boss, colleague, CFO, or senior member of your management team might be appropriate to help with the CFO meeting. We’ve observed that only a small percentage of salespeople have leveraged resources beyond their immediate chain of command. Don’t call your CFO directly to join you on your first call without socializing the idea with your boss. Bringing in your executives into the right sales situations, not just sales leaders, can accelerate a deal cycle and strengthen competitive positioning.

 

4.  Balance of Trade

If your company consumes products or services that your customer provides, it’s perfectly acceptable to mention that your company is (or could be) a significant customer of theirs. Quid pro quo is not acceptable under any circumstances. However, it’s common and acceptable to facilitate dialog between your companies. An example of an adequate approach could be: “I understand that you are one of our major suppliers of telephone equipment. I’d be happy to arrange a meeting with our VP of Communications infrastructure, whom I don’t think your salespeople have met. The meeting would allow your salespeople to present the portfolio of services you provide, and discover if there are areas of need you could help address.” Asking for access to others within the customer organization becomes easier with this approach.


These four account management tips are a starting point for getting beyond a primary customer contact, and they should be part of a relationship strategy.
  

One More Account Management Tip: Don’t do anything that could be injurious to the relationship with your primary contact. Check with a colleague or your sales leader first to “pressure test” your approach.

 

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