When formulating a strategy for your sales, the key focus is to develop a deep understanding of the customer. Top-notch salespeople put in their due diligence and develop a comprehensive customer profile. So what do you have to account for to gain a deep understanding of the customer?
Understand their buying process. First rule of (good) salesmanship: it will be difficult to sell if you don’t know how people buy. In order to develop an effective major account strategy you must know who the players are, what their role in the buying process is, how they view you and/or your solution, and a general consensus among the key decision makers.
Additionally, you need to know what the buying process itself looks like; assuming that it mirrors your selling process is a common mistake. You also cannot assume that the buying process is a linear one when dealing with major accounts. Finally, you need to determine whether or not there is a committed budget.
Also, keep in mind that approximately 75% of the time, customers have already made their decision halfway through the buying process. What this means is that many times, salespeople can be doing the right thing but it’s simply just too late. This is why getting a good picture of the buying process is an essential preparation.
Understanding the business environment. There will always be external forces within the business environment that either improve or impede your probability of capturing their business. One of the important roles of salespeople is to be aware of these events in order to adjust their strategy accordingly. Typically, there are three different types of events:
– Business context (e.g. a new competitor emerges)
– Your company (e.g. a new product is introduced)
– Customer (e.g. your champion leaves the company)
In major accounts these changes are constant. A successful major account strategy is one that is never set in stone, but rather constantly reviewed and recalibrated.
Understanding the decision criteria. Most of the time, your solution or product will not be the only one in consideration; competition is always there. So it is important to understand the customer’s decision criteria in comparing you and your competitors, as well as how you match up against them.
First priority is to determine where you stand in the customer’s decision criteria. Objectively speaking, does your product/solution fit into your customer’s needs? How does the customer think of that fit? Oftentimes the two assessments are not in accordance and part of an effective major account strategy is adjusting to these misalignments. Sometimes, a customer has a misperception about your capabilities, and this is a situation when you must help change their point of view. Once you can obtain their view of how your competitor(s) fit with their decision criteria, you can make a proper assessment of your competitive position through the customer’s eyes.