Show Your Differentiation

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Show Your Differentiation

May 15, 2018 by Mark Maier

What sets you apart from your competitors?  Lee Salz states it is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of who you are up against and posture your strengths accordingly...

"Executives and salespeople often use the expressions “customer service” and “account management” synonymously, but with little context. They rarely give thought to the differences between these two important functions. Yes, customer service and account management are functions, not people. While you may have customer service and account management teams, there are roles others play in delivering those services. 

Let’s define those expressions. Customer service occurs whenever a client asks you for something. They call your call center or send an email with a request. In other words, they are looking for you to be responsive. Buyers cite the customer service experience in terms of “responsiveness,” and that evaluation is not limited to the customer service department.

Account management is the proactive set of activities you deliver to your clients. These are the actions you take to provide meaningful value to your clients beyond what you sell. Rarely, do I find companies with documented account management strategies beyond a basic A,B,C classification by recognized revenue. 

Executives preach the importance of account management, but no one defines it or formulates a plan to do it methodically. Most importantly, companies miss out on the opportunity to differentiate themselves through account management. That differentiation can help you win more deals at the prices you want!

Here is how you can turn account management from meaningless jargon into a sales differentiation opportunity.

The first step is to define A,B,C classifications, but don’t limit the analysis to recognized revenue. Recognized revenue is one aspect, but also consider potential revenue and strategic account as another look at your client portfolio. 

You may be doing a smidgen of business with an account, but if you deployed a conquer accounts strategy with them, they could become your largest client. If you only look at recognized revenue, you wouldn’t have this account on your radar screen or serve it properly. 

Other accounts may be strategic. Due to their name or a particular solution you deployed, this client is tremendously valuable to you and should have a more robust account management experience than recognized revenue supports. 

But what account management experience will you provide? Again, these are proactive actions you will take to retain and grow your portfolio. Once you have ranked your clients, define the account management experience for each of the A,B,C tiers. Look for every opportunity to provide meaningful value and differentiate yourself. Address aspects like:

• Executive sponsorship – A member of the executive team is tasked with developing relationships with key members of the account

• Number of in-person meetings per year – Based on the ranking, determine how many times you will visit them and for what purpose

• Number of business reviews per year – These are meetings to review the account’s performance and update on new initiatives in your company

• Number of invitations to corporate per year – Purposely inviting them to your headquarters to meet for a defined purpose

• Focus group/advisory board invitations – These are sessions to discuss new products, services, etc. It gets them engaged with you and strengthens the relationship

• Reports provided – Keep in mind that anyone can email a report. Want me to experience meaningful value with you? Analyze the report. Tell me what you are seeing. Ask me questions based on the data, make recommendations, and help me make informed decisions. You know more about your world than I do. Share your expertise, so I have the best solution I can have for the dollars I’m willing to invest.

• Newsletters provided – These can be done easily with online tools. They keep clients informed of industry happenings, not just solicitations. Provide value that helps them in their roles, not just selling your wares!

Based on your business, your account management options will differ. The key is to define an account management experience by client classification that allows you to deliver meaningful value. During prospect meetings, talk about how you provide account management – in ways the competition does not. Account management could be the differentiating factor that wins you the deal at the prices you want!

From first contact to contracted client, look for every opportunity to provide meaningful value through sales differentiation. In the comments section, share your account management best practices and how you use this as an opportunity to differentiate yourself."

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