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One of the most difficult aspects of sales is overcoming the challenges of penetrating key accounts. There are many ways sales professionals define key accounts, but they are most commonly identified as unique long term strategic connections, which offer the largest return on investment and overall success. Often key accounts can be identified by looking at:
- the strength of the relationship at the present time and how it could develop
- the strength of the company or brand in general
- their profitability, both presently and in the future
The management of these accounts, known as key account management (KAM), is the process in which individuals will manage these accounts, which focuses largely on transforming lesser affiliations into long term relationships.
When paralleled to traditional accounts, key accounts require unique attention and require different strategies in order to foster strong relationships overtime. Here are four fundamentals for effectively understanding and penetrating key accounts.
On the most basic level, key accounts are far larger than traditional sales accounts, which make the decision making process far more complex and structured. Typically, key accounts have multiple individuals signing off on a single purchase, rather than one or two individuals on regular accounts. It is important that those attempting to penetrate key accounts adjust their strategies to accommodate the sheer number of contacts they will be dealing with to close a single deal.
Key accounts should be approached like individual territory accounts, which can include many organizational units existing within one single account. Each unit, department or branch has its own unique set of needs, budgets and personal dynamics and in many cases, the purchasing power of one of those units will surpass one smaller account.
Similar to the techniques one would use to approach a new territory; key accounts require a similar tactic. It is important to identify all the potential contacts on the account and decipher the relationships between them. This will provide a clearer indication of how to penetrate the account from different angles. While key accounts are more complex, approaching them like territory accounts can help solidify your understanding of how each branch of the account works together.
3. Relationship Development
Relationship development when penetrating a key account is imperative. Not only do those managing key accounts need to continually expand their contact base, but they need to proactively deepen each one of the key relationships. Remember, relationships lead to opportunities, opportunities lead to projects and projects lead to sales. If you want to increase sales, begin with proper relationship development. Take each sales call as an opportunity to grow your network within the key account. Ask who else you should be talking to, or who else you should know in that given department. If you sell something to one individual or group in the account, leverage this to uncover more opportunities.
Successfully managed key accounts are indicative of the work of a highly organized salesperson. Tying into relationship development, key accounts need a strong organizational base which keeps track of all the people, branches and budgets within the one account. After factoring in all the processes needed to keep all these moving parts fluid, organization is number one.
Remember, key accounts are an ever developing challenge for salespeople and organizations. By using the fundamentals above, you will be able to begin initial investigations of how to penetrate key accounts. By recognizing their unique identifiers, planning your time accordingly, approaching tactically and leveraging your organizational abilities, you will be one step in the right direction.
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