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Four Options To Develop More Senior-Level Account Contacts

This post is the second of a two-part series – Growing Relationships Around and Above Your Key Contacts.

Assuming you’ve completed the research and planning we prescribed in part one of this post series, here are four options to develop senior-levels contacts within your accounts:


1. Peer-to-Peer or Top-to-Top

This approach involves identifying the appropriate senior executive (e.g., CIO) within your company and reaching out directly to her peer within your customer account.

The “pitch” should be something like:

“I’m reaching out to some of our key account CIOs to share recent IT infrastructure decision trends and gauge your interest in participating in a CIO roundtable discussion next quarter.”

This option works well for most CXO roles, but director and VP roles may be appropriate in some industries.

You can use this option as a neutral way to get to a higher level within the organization without following the chain-of-command or talking specifically about your solutions. Your senior executive needs to buy-in, and you’ll need to prepare them well for the interactions. Executive bandwidth is scarce within companies, so the salespeople that are prepared and ask sooner are likely to get the attention.

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2. Network Connection Lever

This approach involves identifying a LinkedIn network connection (yours or someone else in your company) that thinks highly-enough of your company to invest in personal outreach to a senior person in your customer account.

The “pitch” should be something like:

“We just completed a successful transformation of our (fill in the blank), and we could not have done it without the help of (your company name). I understand they are one of your suppliers, so I’d recommend that you carve out a bit of time to share what they did for us.”

You can use this option when you know that your customer is contemplating a significant change, and they may not be aware of how you could help. It also helps elevate the perception of your company from a provider to a trusted advisor. The risk of change is often a significant factor in an organization’s willingness to change, so a first-hand account of your success elsewhere can mitigate their perceived risk of change.


3. Contract Negotiation Trade

This approach leverages a contract negotiation event to compensate for changes to contractual terms.

The “pitch” should be something like:

“We’ll agree to extend payment terms to 60 days and a three-year term instead of four. In trade, we need you to agree that you’ll ensure that your senior marketing and customer service leaders participate in our next QBR and one for each year of the contract.”

It would be best to use this option when you have a reliable negotiating partner that can deliver on the trade. If you get resistance, it might be an indicator that they can’t perform on the trade, rather than an issue with the trade. Don’t pass up this opportunity to explore more options on how to make this work. The bigger the trade you’re giving, the more leverage you have with this option.

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4. The New Person In Town

This approach works only if you are new or the account relationship, and you have not yet engaged individuals that will be your day-to-day contacts. Going directly to the decision-makers or critical influencers is a confident move that demonstrates you aren’t attached to the account for more same.

The “pitch” should be something like:

“I’m your new account manager, and I see that your signature is on our current contract. I know you wouldn’t have signed the contract without confidence in our ability to add a lot of value to your company. I want 30 minutes with you to hear directly what we’ve done well and how we can do better. I’m leading our account team to add even more value, and your insight is the place I’d like to start.”

It would be best to use this option when you are serious about elevating the level of relationships within the account at the outset. Why wait? If instead, you start by meeting your day-to-day contacts, then you might be blocked by them to get to the decision-maker. Managing the account will be a lot more fun when you succeed with this option.

Competitive pressures and the need to sell more to current clients have made it imperative to expand the breadth and depth of account relationships.

These four options require time and planning, but have proven to succeed when included as part of an account planning process.

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