Today’s guest post is by David Hibbard, coauthor of SOAR Selling: How to Get Through to Almost Anyone (The Proven Method for Reaching Decision Makers) and founder of Dialexis. Join him at the Sales 2.0 Leadership Conference in Philadelphia on November 16.
Many top sales earners have big egos. Ironically, however, the salespeople with the biggest egos can crack most easily if they lose a big account.
Years ago, my partner and I trained a very successful contract furniture dealer that carried a world-class manufacturer’s product line. The request was to teach their salespeople how to ramp up their prospecting and reach decision makers on the telephone using SOAR Selling. We were told in advance that approximately 15 salespeople would be in attendance – of which several were very experienced and had been in the industry for years.
After about two hours of initial instruction, one of the experienced salespeople in the class raised his hand and said, “I’m not trying to be rude, but I want you to know that some of us don’t need to prospect like rookies any longer.” He rocked back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. I’ll never forget the arrogant image. In response to our follow-up questions, he reminded us that he was the top earner. Later, we learned that he was earning upwards of $200,000 (and this was 15 years ago). He stayed for the duration of the class but he was clearly disconnected.
Months later we were asked back to the dealership to do additional training. We learned that the top earner who had spoken up during our previous training session had fallen to the bottom of the sales rankings. Why? As it turned out, he previously had a lock on a Fortune 500 client that was providing him with 90 percent of his revenue. For whatever reason, the well ran dry and he lost the client.
Here comes the part you may not believe. At the end of the day, he offered to give us a ride to the airport. On the way, he broke into tears, apologized for his arrogance, and told us that he had no idea how to prospect. He said he was embarrassed by his behavior and didn’t know what to do next. It was a humbling wakeup call for him and emotional for us as well.
At the end of the day, no salesperson should take any account for granted. Here’s a list of the realities that can cause a customer to end your relationship at any time.
- The competition slips in unnoticed and uses a better value proposition to take the account away.
- The key relationship being held by the salesperson ends with the retirement of their buyer.
- The key contact passes away.
- The key contact gets fired or moves to a different role.
- The key account stops producing due to a leadership decision to shift direction.
- The salesperson or company does something that causes a conflict of interest and the account is dropped.
You probably have insurance of some kind – for your car, home, or health. Yet you probably don’t spend a lot of time anticipating a major crisis. The same is true for your major accounts. You probably don’t anticipate a crisis with your customers. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need insurance to insulate yourself against the possibility that something might go wrong.
So, how can salespeople protect themselves? The only insurance for loss of a major account is consistent prospecting. All you need to do is make at least one strategic prospecting call per month to an enterprise target account. If you follow this practice for 12 months, our experience shows that you’ll very likely end up with at least two new enterprise accounts. That’s a big return for a small investment of your time. And think about it this way: a single, strategic call per month is much easier than the anguish of losing a big account!