Selling to major accounts, also known as enterprise accounts, is radically different from selling in other spaces. For one thing, the major account selling cycle is a continuous process – continuous because there’s no end to the cycle of selling to and serving large accounts. And the streams of transactions over time between buying and selling organizations constitute a client journey with a distinctive itinerary along a clear roadmap, a roadmap that delivers value on an ongoing basis.
The Sandler Enterprise Selling program organizes the major account selling cycle into the following six steps:
- Territory and Account Planning
- Opportunity Identification
- Solution Development
- Proposing and Advancement
- Service Delivery
Service Delivery, by the way, doesn’t even begin until the deal is sold. Yes, you read right: Service is part of the sales process. There is no “handoff” to another team for service; the service plan is part of the sales plan. So it must be with major accounts. The end of the sales cycle is really just the beginning.
Enterprise accounts are like vast fields of dark, rich, fertile soil, and your selling and serving teams have the seeds of growth in hand. But to grow or even retain major accounts, maintaining high-level client executive relationships is essential. And these relationships must be based on value, as defined from the client’s perspective.
To establish and sustain these critical relationships, client-executive-facing events are mandatory. They must be structured in a markedly different format than most teams are used to. We all know about Quarterly Business Reviews and their many variations. Far too often, though, these sessions are planned as, or morph into, small-scale vendor trade shows disguised as reviews. That’s a big mistake. If your real objective is simply to pad your commissions, senior client executives will sniff that out quickly. These are smart people with good intuition and solid business instincts. If you somehow get them to attend one self-serving vendor session, you should know that they won’t be back for a second.
In SES, we follow a different model: The Quarterly Value Review (QVR). The difference in wording is significant. QVRs really are structured on value, both delivered and projected. Their overriding theme is that it’s not about us, the seller– it’s about the client. Most importantly, it’s about how the client perceives the value we’ve already delivered and the value they are depending on us to produce in the weeks and months ahead.
When prepared and executed properly, QVRs attract C-level client executives, and for good reason. If you’re delivering real value on the client’s stated terms, and your regular dialogue keeps those clients aware of your progress, they will want to see you in person every three months. And when they do, they’ll be direct about the what, when, and how of their needs in the relationship. If there are potential obstacles affecting your ability to execute, the people with the power to address those issues will be in attendance and will be eager to help. Could there be danger in exposing some of your organization’s shortcomings in these sessions? Sure. But you’ll strategize with your team and client contacts in advance regarding how to deal with such issues as they surface. You’ll be prepared. That’s far preferable to having those same executives hear about your failures from their subordinates, and without regular contact with your organization.
These sessions also position your organization’s high-level executives to establish ongoing relationships with the client’s C-levels. It’s always easier to work through issues, positive and negative, with people you know. QVRs facilitate that knowing.
Again: Note that selling and delivery are one continuous process, and the Quarterly Value Reviews are where that process is set up and evaluated. There’s no handoff to dread, no “detach with an ax” strategy; the sales and delivery teams are appropriately engaged together. The QVR positions this true “account team” to clearly understand the client’s customized perspective of the value delivered thus far, measured using metrics the client has chosen. The openness of the forum encourages the client executives to share their expectations about how the past 90 days have gone from their perspective, the specific value they expect to see in the 90 days to come, and how they will be measuring that value. Everyone on your account team needs to hear this!
The directness of the client feedback increases your chances of successfully delivering on your current engagements. With QVR, there is no more guessing about what’s really important. Open communication is the best prevention for negative surprises; regularly working the issues together in an executive forum is what partnership is all about. What’s more, the candid communication established in these sessions lays the groundwork for effective real-time communication between QVR sessions.
QVR meetings create a roadmap for the ongoing journey with the client, a journey that consistently delivers value on the client’s terms. By focusing on the details of client value, as defined and measured by the client, QVRs bring client executives back to the table regularly. The resulting in-depth discussions about the value to be delivered in the future invariably lead to new business opportunities. When you do the right thing, good things will happen.
So do the right thing. Focus on the journey, not on a single destination. Change your frame of reference from you, your offerings, and the next deal you hope to close … to the client and the value they need to see and experience in their world.