The definition of business success is growth. Increasing revenue drives most sales organizations. However, there are two aspects the growth formula that are often underlooked; or, at least, underemphasized – client retention and business development in existing accounts.
The most efficient channel for increases or improvements to profitable revenues is maintaining the business relationships you have and leveraging those relationships to offer and deliver more.
Your best customers are your most efficient channel for new business opportunities. Yet, many organizations struggle to create and discover these opportunities. For the most part it is because they have become so proficient at being satisfied with the existing relationship that they fail to understand or recognize how to expand and build on it.
The first place I would look for revenue expansion is with my best, favorite and most trusted clients. Note, I would not be walking in simply trying to “sell them more”, I would be working at discovering how I can become a better resource to them and what else I may be able to provide to improve or enhance their business. Accomplishing this requires a focused strategic commitment to enhancing the relationship.
There are four steps to applying a business development strategy in your existing and key accounts:
1. Build a team and expand your contact base: Sales professionals are very proficient at knowing who their key contact is in an account. Their traditional approach is to strengthen that single point of contact relationship to the fullest. In a revenue expansion strategy that is not enough. Instead of having a lot of connections over several companies, an effective business development strategy requires multiple connections throughout the organization at multiple contact points. A single point of contact or a single contact point from your organization puts all relationships at risk.
A strong business development strategy requires that your organization is connected into your key clients at multiple levels with multiple relationships sources, i.e. your CEO/Owner, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing, or Director of Customer Service, etc. having developed and leveraged relationships in your key accounts at similar valued levels. Multiple relationships, at various organizational and functional levels, through varied contact points provides offers your organizational broader information, influence and insight. This is a very powerful strategic tool.
2. Assign a knowledge holder for your key accounts: You can utilize a CRM to manage data and information; however, like a reporter, every key account requires a knowledge holder. That knowledge holder is responsible for sharing the news of every single conversation with all others leveraging and developing relationships in that key account. Sharing the information in a timely manner enables the team to make prompt strategic moves in that account and enables the team to be more engaged and proactive to news, information, and opportunity.
3. Create a metric and meeting rhythm for the team: Being on a key account team means nothing if people do not know their roles or accountabilities. Every team member has accountabilities to the rest of the team for their role in building and expanding their relationship base in a key account. They are also accountable for gathering and sharing information to the team in a timely manner through the “knowledge holder.” As a result, I would encourage everyone to establish a metric for “new relationships” and “impactful conversations” that is a measurable accountability tool. Also, even if it is only a fifteen minute weekly huddle, all key account teams must connect, communicate, collaborate and strategize on a regular basis.
4. Pay attention to discover and create opportunity: You cannot create opportunity in an existing account just because it is a good idea – nobody cares what you want to accomplish or “sell”. However, as you expand your relationship base within an account and become a more influential valued resource, the potential for the team to discover and create new business opportunities is enhanced significantly. This is the value of a multi-faceted “deep and wide” business development strategy. More conversations, with more people, with diverse perspectives, opinions and needs provides a fantastic opportunity to add value. The fundamental component of this strategy is found in creating a focused, disciplined, and intelligent process with a long-term commitment to its execution and development.
Businesses that grow best, grow intentionally. Intention is the focused, disciplined, and strategic application of a business development process that works. The above business development process works best in your key accounts because you already have a valued relationship with them, you already have access to their team, and they already value what you are providing them. To take this relationship to another level requires the commitment of a team, the productive gathering and sharing of information, and the ability to nimbly and deftly execute a timely growth strategy. Nothing is more productive that growing within an existing account – the trick is coordinating the resources in order to accomplish it.