Today’s post is by Chris Cowan, chief sales officer at MHI Global. He leads the sales efforts for MHI Global’s North American business, including enterprise teams, inside sales, the channel business, and the government sector. He is responsible for setting strategic direction for the sales and client management efforts across a diverse and global client base ‒ working with them to improve sales performance, customer experience, and leadership and management efforts.
Numerous studies have decisively demonstrated that growing revenue from existing accounts can be more profitable and efficient than generating revenue from new accounts ‒ even if it’s the latter activity that captures the lion’s share of excitement. So, it makes good business sense for organizations to put as much effort into retaining and growing existing business.
We’ve found that the best approach to protect and grow your client base is sitting down with your customers and having an honest discussion about the relationship and how your company engages theirs. A discussion that isn’t tied to selling them anything, but that covers how they view you and how you view them. It’s a powerful and common-sense concept, yet it is one that is so rarely practiced or promoted. That’s a shame. It’s also a missed opportunity. At the end of the day, collaborative relationships with customers help drive winning results for your organization and better outcomes for your customers.
What We Have Here Is a Failure to Collaborate …
World-class sales performers drive results through strong customer relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. The six most common customer relationship challenges are:
- Losing a significant quantity of key strategic accounts
- Lacking an integrated approach when working with multinational clients
- Failing to collaborate with the customer on strategic, long-term account planning
- Lack of information and insight regarding the client’s strategic objectives
- Shifting revenue mix from “net new” focus to “annuity revenue”
- Falling short of engaging senior buying influences
What is needed is collaborative engagement and a development process between customer stakeholders and the sales organization ‒ being “Relationship Ready.” But what, exactly, does being “Relationship Ready” mean to you?
- The ability to cross-sell and upsell
- A closer alignment with an account’s business direction and strategy
- Expertise in forming strong relationships and establishing an open dialogue with customers
- Confidence in reduced competitive pressure
- The ability to protect and grow sales revenues
You can sell your products and services to your customers, but, if you don’t know how to connect and collaborate with them, they won’t come back. Keep in mind that it’s not just what you sell ‒ it’s how you sell. And that has two major components:
- The value your customer perceives you are bringing to the table ‒ your relationship
- How you engage and work with your clients ‒ your process
It’s also not about just “putting in the time.” After all, time is a luxury in short supply for busy sales professionals and businesspeople alike. Be respectful of it by:
- Establishing a clear “why” for the sales call in advance
- Listening to the customer ‒ really listening and uncovering explicit and implicit needs
- Losing the “pitch first/ask questions later” approach
- Completely understanding the customer’s issues before proposing a solution
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: The most important decision we make as salespeople, managers, and leaders is how to connect with our customers. The mark of success in any world-class organization is the ability to offer proven solutions and methods to clients and prospects that solve customer needs and eliminate pain-points or conversion hurdles. It all begins with the decidedly low-tech, time-tested practice of sitting down and having a frank conversation with your customer. The result is a mutual vision of the future about how your organizations can work together to create the highest-impact outcomes.
True collaboration is extremely powerful and will deliver superior results for both your customer and you. Are you ready?