“Oh crap. Is it too late to resuscitate?”
Recently, a sales team found out the hard way that a client was pissed about something that happened several months ago.
Unfortunately, they found out because they are being shut out of an enormous opportunity.
They were coming at the opportunity from several angles with several divisions. After a lot of “No” they received some vague insights that the message from the top level is, “Don’t do business with them.”
They are currently trying to salvage the relationship and work their way back into the opportunity.
This happens a lot. A LOT within a sales team. Existing clients drop you or shiny opportunities become untouchable in a painful example of how a misunderstanding or unkept promise ends up in a big loss. In many instances, it comes as a surprise. An ugly one.
The shock is followed by scrambling to save the relationship, keep the business, or get a piece of the opportunity.
What I usually find is that this could have been avoided.
A heart attack could be prevented with a better diet and exercise.
Emphysema can be avoided if you don’t smoke.
People who floss and visit their dentist regularly rarely have gum disease.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I’m not saying sellers are short-sighted but often, salespeople are short-sighted.
We get “happy ears” when momentum is going our way. We begin to take clients and our relationships for granted. Sometimes, our sales process gets comfortable and becomes “transactional.”
We swim along thinking everything is fine but forget to keep assessing the environment for danger – scanning our surroundings for potential hiccups or issues.
Multiple people touch our clients – billing, coordinators, salespeople, production partners … do we check our strategy to make sure we are all aligned with what the client expects? If we’re touching the client at multiple points, how are we being received? Is their team happy, satisfied, or have we had any hiccups?
It’s the “unknown” offenses or repeated irritations that sabotage an opportunity or cause a client to cut us off.
Whether you’re a “one-man band” or a production team that develops business and services clients, there are some “ounces of prevention” that can prevent you from ending up shocked and scrambling.
Here are 3 healthy practices to keep your opportunities and clients from needing to be resuscitated:
Conduct Post Mortems. After a project – if things have gone well. After a misunderstanding. After a failure to deliver or a misstep. Taking the time to gather all the parties together to review what went WRONG often does two things:
- It reinforces what you do WELL and
- It reveals where the client most likely contributed to the problem.
It’s easy to put all the blame on you when the outcome isn’t as promised. I’ve been on MANY of those stomach-churning situations –
A Superbowl ad that ran AFTER the game clock expired
The Thanksgiving commercial ran in January
A printed promotional poster that didn’t make it on time for an important meeting
A printed manual wrong again – for the third time in a row
The invoice charge was incorrect again …
All of these were embarrassing and examples of clients where we continually kept screwing up.
These were incredibly stressful. The client was pissed at me. I was pissed at myself. I was pissed at my production team. I had to scramble to keep the business. I lost the business.
It wasn’t until I started using the “Post Mortem” technique that these instances got fewer and farther between.
In the post mortem, bring together the clients (anyone who touches the work or is impacted by the work) and your team (anyone who does the work, processes the work, or communicates to the client) and start from the top to get to the root cause of the issues.
By bringing everyone together, we could dissect the communication (“Oh, the cutoff date was a typo on your end” or “Ah, the old file was sent, causing confusion and delays.”) and review the processes (“We didn’t confirm with you when we received it” or “We rushed to produce after the cutoff time.”).
Usually, in any catastrophe, mistakes are made on both ends. Reviewing them disarms your clients and gives you both an opportunity to review your processes and discuss how you can both improve communication, handoff, billing, et cetera.
Strategic Account Planning. When you’re in pursuit of business. When you want to expand in an account. When you want to keep the business. Gathering your internal team makes sure you’re all on the same page and share insights as you work to earn the business.
Often, it’s “tribal knowledge” of personalities, bureaucracies, and the client’s 6 – 12 month outlook that help create a guiding strategy of pursuit.
For business development of a sizeable account, take an “Account Based Selling” approach where your messaging and resources are tailored to this one specific opportunity. Most of our blogs and skills training are based up on this customized and personalized approach but for individuals. This is an expansion of the target organization.
For account growth – bring in your partners that could expand the business and review key personalities and positions. Make your plan for HOW and WHEN you’re going to make introductions and bring in partners and answer some key questions:
- WHO are they using currently?
- How will you preface this with the client?
- Why does this work for their goals?
- What are the follow up (FU) and Move Forward (MF) touchpoints and resources needed?
It takes more than popping in with another team member to mushroom account and key business partnerships are more successful when pursued by the team.
To earn large business, you need a smarter plan.
Quarterly Business Reviews. With new accounts. With longstanding clients. Regular strategic meetings accomplish some huge things:
Give you a reason to meet Sr. leadership and other/new team members. Setting the expectations that you’re going to partner, deliver, and review builds long-term loyalty and more “threads” within your client organization. You can make serious headway when you’re “sitting at the table” on a regular basis and not metaphorically picking up orders at the front door.
These meetings also have more structure than the drop-ins or transactional meetings and you can have more future-focused conversations about their upcoming goals or initiatives. It’s sort of like the difference between going through the drive through line vs sitting down for a nice meal. You really get to know what’s happening in the organization and can gain insights that impact how you service the clients or how their business outcomes will impact YOU.
This also helps you protect your position within the client’s organization, and you can discuss any of those hiccups or misunderstandings and how you’ve created systems or processes to ensure things don’t go sideways again. Problems in billing or with delivery don’t always make it to your attention – if you’re not looking for them. They get on other people’s nerves and they will tell other people and eventually, quietly, you will be replaced without ever knowing how much of an issue those seemingly small issues were.
Then, it’s too late to resuscitate.
If you’re a salespro – incorporate these forward-thinking, healthy strategies a part of your sales process. Showing future clients how you will handle any potential issues and be a solid partner.
If you’re managing accounts, these strategic moves will strengthen and protect your account while you grow your relationships.
Healthy living requires discipline and planning. So does healthy revenue and account growth.
Don’t wait to you feel the pain to diagnose the issues!
Until next time, stop hoping and start SELLING!