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Managing customer accounts with artful care, attention and skill ripens the opportunity for a deal to close. As sales representatives, you probably have a battery of tried and true tactics that you use to nurture relationships and manage accounts toward sales conversion. But are all your efforts producing the results you want or causing the loss of revenue and client relationships?
Here are 9 mistakes to avoid for superior account management performance:
1. Too much follow-up.
There is a delicate balance between giving the customer the amount of attention they want, and smothering them with too much. Don’t be afraid to ask your client what is comfortable for them. Be sure to let them know when you’ll follow up with them and gauge their response. Be sure that each time you do follow-up with them, you make it count and provide value.
2. The buyer feels sold.
Nobody likes to feel sold. It puts unneeded pressure on a relationship if a person is not ready to buy. The sales person who pushes too hard, too early creates tension, and this can result in an unresponsive prospect or a reluctant buyer. A better approach is to position yourself as a friendly advisor. As much as we all claim that we ‘focus on relationship-building and client needs’ do we really?
3. The customer does not feel understood.
Even if you may have seen the same problem multiple times, the customer wants to know that you care about and understand their specific situation. Using a cookbook approach or a broad stroke brush to describe their problems shows a lack of empathy. Speak in the first person to show the prospect that you can identify with them. For example, “I can understand what you are dealing with...” and “If it were me, I would be looking at this situation differently...”
Ask questions about the obstacle and how it affects the client’s business. Do not just pretend to understand the situation; make sure that you gather adequate information that allows you to actually grasp their concerns.
4. Too much dead air.
Relationships are delicate and require attention, but with the many accounts that you have to manage, you may let a bit too much time pass without a follow-up. A long span without communications can make any follow-up difficult. The perception could be that you are looking for something selfishly rather than coming with better intentions to help. Keep in mind, too, that all the hard work you put into an initial call or presentation could all be undone simply because the prospect doesn’t recall what you spoke about the last time, or worse yet, doesn’t recall you at all.
Be sure to use your CRM or calendar to schedule an appropriate follow-up within a reasonable time for all your accounts. Expedite the delivery of follow-up materials such as information packages, quotes, proposals, etc. by templating or standardizing the process in advance and tweaking as needed for individual clients. Also, as mentioned before, let the client know when they can expect a follow-up; setting an expectation with your client will keep you accountable, ensuring that you deliver on your follow-ups on time every time.
5. Letting competitors outdo you.
Customers that need answers/solutions to problems immediately could easily look elsewhere. Delayed or unresponsive behavior due to neglect or being disorganized can leave the door open for competition to better serve your customers. Always assess the urgency of your prospects’ requests, and make yourself available via multiple communication channels such as e-mail, phone, cell phone, twitter, live chat, etc. Remember, the easier you make it for a customer to contact you, the more likely they will choose you to help them resolve their needs.
6. Majoring on the minors.
It is easy to get caught up in a transaction and forget the relationship. If a customer relationship will mean continued business for months or years, then haggling over money, features or minutiae that can cause resentment is not worth it in the long run. Have a clear picture of the lifetime value of a customer and make long-term decisions on how you will handle any negotiations to build goodwill over time.
7. Placing their own interests above those of the customer.
Selling is based on trust and the sales representative that violates trust, loses sales. If a customer senses that you have guided them to product or service for your benefit more than for theirs, this can compromise your relationship. Avoid this, by always being transparent and ensuring that the customer feels that you are acting in their best interest. Help them with the best deals and go the extra mile in proving you care about their needs.
8. Irrelevant marketing overload.
The advent of automating workflows and marketing messages means more leads in your pipeline. However, if current leads are being bombarded with irrelevant messaging, it may sour their experience.
Customers that are subscribed to unrelated product or brand messages from your company can get confused about the sales person’s positioning. The marketing messages the customer receives should be selective and relevant to the conversations they have had with the their account manager. Systems that ensure that the communication tracks match their interest need to be tightly controlled by the sales person.
9. Lack of expertise.
The customer is engaging a sales representative because that person is familiar with the industry, challenges, and their own offerings. It is critical to continually stay aware of all the current industry issues and share what is happening with customers. With the ease of access to information online, the experienced sales person will expect that the customer will come prepared with tons of information. The sales person needs to help the customer sift through this information and direct them to appropriate statistics, facts, answers that are relevant to their situation Pertinent information should be packaged and proactively provided to customers.
These account management mistakes cost sales professionals dearly, but they can easily be avoided by developing standardized ways for paying attention to all aspects of a sales account. CPSA’s Strategic Account Management course can give you the edge you need to become a strategic partner for your clients.
Growing relationships over time and building trust with accounts make a skilled sales professional indispensable to both their company and their respective customers. It’s a daily choice of paying attention to details, being organized, and being eager to help the customer.
Optimize account penetration and profitability of your key accounts with CPSA’s Strategic Account Management course.
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