When prospective clients approach us regarding our account planning and development training programs, one of the most common requests we hear is the desire for their sales team to strategically sell and expand existing accounts. Sales leaders and business owners alike share with us their frustration over the lack of penetration and relationship development within their key client accounts. They ask us, “why is it that our competitor has 40 consultants on billing with ABC company yet we only have two and we can’t seem to sell outside of the HR department?” This is a legitimate question and concern.
Over the years I have found that to truly “dominate” an account and become the incumbent vendor AND trusted adviser, you can either take the difficult path or the less difficult path. The less difficult path offers you some help in the form of an account champion. To really go deep and wide in an account and win big deals, you need an account champion or coach to guide you along the way.
Here I share with you, why you need to develop account champions.
What is an account champion or customer coach?
These are people who want to see you succeed. They want to see you win and make the sale. These people are typically internal employees but they don’t have to be. I once had a great account coach who was my consultant-a project manager who I placed. Account champions or coaches can range from the CEO to the receptionist. They may be part of the decision making process or they may not be involved in the decision at all. But they will guide you through the sales process and help you navigate the account. They will provide you with the information you need to win the opportunity.
A few ways in which an account champion can help you include:
- Identifying the key decision makers and their personal/business agenda
- Verifying your data and your knowledge of the opportunity/account
- Facilitate introductions for you to the decision makers
- Tell you who your competition is and who their account champion is
- Share with you what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to leverage them
How Do I Develop an Account Champion?
It's real simple. Simply ask. As a general rule, people are compassionate and want to help other people. You just have to ask for help. Tell them you want their advice, or could use a suggestion or their expertise and knowledge for your situation. This of course strokes their ego as well. But you have to ask.
A Few Words of Caution
When it comes to developing an account champion you have to ask yourself a few questions:
- Are they sharing this information with everyone or just me? And if just me, why?
- Are they pretending to be my coach but really just telling me what I want and need to hear? Remember, savvy business buyers don’t want sales people to walk away from sales opportunities. They want ALL sales people to think they have a legitimate shot at winning. This is how they get the best deal.
- How much internal equity do they have? Does my coach have credibility throughout the organization?
- Is my coach the right coach or the best coach for this opportunity/objective?
There are number of steps and action items that sales professionals must execute in order to properly develop key accounts and strategically expand their “wallet share” within existing accounts. But having a coach in your corner looking out for you and providing you with the critical data and valuable feedback makes the process and likelihood for success so much better.