I’ve had the privilege of speaking with account managers and sales professionals from around the world. One of the biggest challenges I see often is the challenge of managing multiple agendas of contacts, influencers and stakeholders.
Many account managers and sales professionals will look at their CRM and see 22 different names of people, 8 different sales opportunity and 14 different conversations of customers telling their story.
This may look like a good thing from the outside but for many account managers they will do one or more of these four things.
1. Fall into a state of confusion and not know what to work on (fail to follow up).
2. Just get on and continue speaking with everyone with no real strategy.
3. Work on multiple different needs simultaneously and create 8 different proposals.
4. Overload marketing, service and finance department with requests that are not consistent or lack thought around resource and support.
We can constantly fall from what I call the F.E.A.R. in sales (False Engagements, Appearing Real). If you're a sales manager you’ll know about this first hand. If you see yourself in any of these four categories don't worry you're not alone.
It can feel overwhelming with many different conflicting priorities and potential demands from your company and customers. Even with the best CRM in the world you still need the ability to know how to get answers that really matter to move your customer conversations forward.
I want to share a truth with you that I hope will liberate you to approach your conversations differently and take you out of reacting and into strategic thinking.
Here it is: What is unseen by most is that for every business there will be a common thread, a specific problem or need expressed that is experienced by people and departments right across your clients business. Sometimes they won’t even see the connection. Your real job is not to find 15 different needs but first look for the common problem/need that you can uniquely serve and help them solve it. This way you can serve multiple people through the lens of solving one problem and deliver it uniquely for each person.
Example: take Skype.
Before Skype's launch in 2003 there was very little option for communication tools in the virtual space. Most services out there for video conference services were super expensive and not available to the public. With the internet and connectivity still in its infancy there were underlying wants and needs from the business community and the public.
Businesses wanted to reduce cost to customer visits but still personalise the experience and maintain relationships. The public wanted to see their grandchildren living in another country, connect with their long lost friend or feel closer to their spouse who travels. In other words the underlying theme was they both wanted connection.
Skype fulfilled that need and quickly sky rocketed as the number one video conference platform for public and business use. Ebay and Microsoft both thought that fulfilled need was worth billions.
What is your potential 'billion' need that your customer may not notice but you can spend time to see? You may offer 15 different services but that doesn't mean anything if you don't find the one driving emotive and root need that is impacting your customers decisions.
How do you find the root problem/need/opportunity?
Here are 3 simple activities to consider to help you before picking up the phone to your next customer.
Get to know why, what and who is impacting the decisions your contacts are making. These are very subtle questions but powerful. If you don't already know the answers, start by writing out 4-5 questions to help you draw out those answers and listen. Example question: How will decisions around this need impact you and your department? If you know what the context is for your customer you can better understand the root cause of the decision. Is your client targeted to cut costs across the business, or increase profit margin on every customer transaction. You have to find out.
Get to know who else might be impacted and the result they want. Does the context of where your customer is effect other departments and employees in the same way? Are people expressing similar challenges but in a different environment. Are you speaking to them about similar needs but a different result? All this information will help you to get a broader sense of the root problem, needs, and concerns and identified people/departments you can also approach.
Evaluate the common themes. Make note of your conversations and put them down in three categories.
· People (who is saying what and why)
· Pain (what are they saying/themes)
· Position (what is the context in which this is happening)
Put this into a simple spreadsheet/word doc. You'll immediately begin to see the trends and opportunities more clearly. The power of this is you can go back and verify these findings with each of your contacts. You're value, contribution and insight when you do will elevate your image and status with your customer. I'm pretty confident you'll find most will agree with what you've found. You'll then have hit the holy grail of customer growth opportunity. Why? you can then maximise the potential value of the proposal to your customers business by creating a group centred proposal with a budget across multiple departments.
Take out 15 min and walk through the process again. This is a process you can use immediately and impact the quality of your customer conversations. Simply take action.