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If you or someone on your team manages a key 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 or the connections being at a tactical or operational level.

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

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

Here Are Three Tips to Get Beyond Your Primary Contact

Ask The 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 conducting LinkedIn research and identifying 2-3 contacts 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. 

Leverage Your Internal LinkedIn Networks

Most salespeople stop at their personal 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 for a while, they’ll have connections you can leverage. We’ve conducted social selling workshops where we discover that most salespeople have not connected with the executives within their own company! We aren’t suggesting you connect with the Chairman or CEO on the first day on the job, but make sure to establish a LinkedIn connection with the senior people in your business unit as soon as possible. 

Leverage The 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 management team member 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 your executives into the right sales situations, not just sales leaders, can accelerate a deal cycle and strengthen competitive positioning.

These three tips are a starting point for getting beyond a primary customer contact and should be part of an account planning and relationship strategy.

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