Written by Hamish Knox
When looking at growth through existing clients many salespeople take a linear view, which boils down to “sell them more stuff.” That’s okay, but that's a limiting view that reduces opportunities to both grow through existing clients and create clients for life.
In Sandler’s Enterprise Selling Program program a tool that supports growth through existing clients is which asks how you can leverage existing customers in five ways.
Partnerships and alliances
Before you can leverage any of those five you have to open up your new client’s mind to that discussion. If you skip this step you’re likely to damage your rapport with your new client and could send them looking for a new vendor.
Opening up your new client’s mind to having discussions happens after your initial sale is closed (documents signed, implementation dates picked, etc.) in the “Post Sell” step of the Sandler Selling System(SM).
Salesperson – Prospect, look forward to working with you on this project. May I share one of our best practices with you?
Prospect – Sure. What is it?
Salesperson – our best practice is to sit down with you at least once per quarter if not once every couple of months to review how we’re working together and come up with actions plans for serving you better if we identify gaps between your expectations and our current service. Are you okay with that?
Prospect – totally makes sense to me.
Salesperson – great. Let’s be sure to get out our calendars and schedule the first of those meetings before we part ways today. Another component of those meetings, if you are satisfied with your service, is discussing how we can grow our businesses together. For example, I might know someone in my network who could be a potential client for you and you might know someone in your network, internally or externally, who might be a potential client for me. There may also be other services we provide that didn’t apply to you today that I feel might be relevant to you in the future. Are you comfortable talking about making introductions and other services that might be a fit for you in the future at our check-in meetings?
Prospect – as long as I feel like I’m getting what you promised me, happy to.
Salesperson – thank you. Let’s get out our calendars and book that first meeting. When would you prefer to meet?
This conversation is much gentler and more nurturing when spoken that when in print. Also, “meeting” doesn’t necessarily mean “in-person,” especially if the geographic distance between you and your client is great. As long as you can see your client – in person or via a video conferencing tool – then your review meeting will generate better results than a conference call because you can pick up body language cues that might indicate your client is less than happy with your service.
In that scene you probably noticed that the salesperson didn’t ask for an introduction or more business now. That would make them a pushy salesperson. Instead they opened their client’s mind up to that conversation next time.
Leveraging to work smart instead of hard to grow your business through existing accounts means considering:
Your Customer’s Customer – asking yourself the following questions will enable you to leverage your customer’s customer
To whom does my customer sell? You may be able to sell to them via introductions from your client. When I worked for SAP we used this strategy to create and maintain a relationship with companies that came to us via and agency or consultant. We made our agency client comfortable by including them in all conversations with their client while also getting their buy-in that agency/client relationships tend to end and we would like to maintain a relationship with their client when their relationship ended whether that was 1 or 100 years.
When did I last give my client a referral? Give your clients referrals to their ideal prospect and you will have a client for life because they see you not just as a vendor, but as a partner in their success.
Organic growth – doesn’t mean that you are selling more directly to the same person/group who first bought from you. To effectively leverage organic growth ask yourself if you are “3 wide and 3 deep” with each of your clients. If the number of accounts you manage is greater than 20 apply 3 wide and 3 deep to your top 20 first.
Going 3 wide and 3 deep means that you have been introduced to your primary contact’s direct boss, the person immediately below them in the company organizational chart (may not be a direct report) and two of their peers. You can also apply 3 wide and 3 deep to each department of each client organization.
With a great number of contacts and a greater number of relationships you will uncover organic growth opportunities that your primary contact may not even know about.
Partnerships and alliances – ask yourself what do your clients buy that either needs your product/service to run properly or your product/service needs to run properly. For example, an IT service provider could partner with a IT hardware provider or a telco to joint sell, joint deliver or share leads.
What’s critical with effectively leveraging partnerships and alliances is that you have a solid agreement up front, what Sandler calls an Up Front Contract, to get as much as you give. A partnership or alliance is only effective long term if it’s a two-way relationship.
Family tree – if you’re selling to a satellite office you might be able to sell to the home office and from there sell to other satellites. Also consider your client’s value chain, not just the downstream, but upsteam as well. For example, you sell to a company that buys packaging for its products from a packaging company (upstream) and sells their packaged goods to distributors (downstream). Both a potential introductions for you from your satisfied client.
Alumni – sometimes we are blessed with clients for life. LinkedIn has made leveraging alumni exponentially easier. Alumni can also work backwards and forwards as they might be open to saying good things about you to their successor (backwards) and bring you into their new organisation (forwards).
By taking a non-linear view of your existing clients you could create clients for life and grow your business smarter instead of harder.
Until next time… go sell something.
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