Tim Sanders, former chief solutions officer at Yahoo!, just published a new book on sales innovation titled Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges. I’m struck by how many case studies he includes where a team comes together to save a big account that went away due to a misunderstanding or a glitch in services.
It’s common knowledge that it’s five times harder to attract a new client than to keep one going, so your existing book of business is important—that’s why getting fired hurts so much. But according to Tim, not all is lost. If you follow these five steps, you can bring back the account and maybe even double it in short time.
1. Give your client time to cool off.
No efforts on your part will move the needle until their level of anger or disappointment fades. Within a few months, your client will be in a much better head space to consider you again. But don’t wait too long, as likely, one of your competitors might fill the void.
2. Build a team to restore the account.
First, make sure you have the right account executive for this client. Don’t be afraid to move it to someone who is a stronger leader or has a fresh perspective to offer. Have him or her recruit a team of collaborators across key departments that touch the account.
Brief everyone on the situation, including your best guess of why the account went away. Make sure they understand why this client is strategic to the company’s success and reputation.
3. Conduct dealstorm meetings.
Assemble the team and have the account executive facilitate a 1-hour meeting. Spend the first 15 minutes discussing the root cause of the breakup. In many cases, it’s not what you think. Employ the Five Why’s technique to get to the bottom of the breakup.
As John Dewey wrote, "A problem well-defined is half solved." Spend the remaining meeting time creating the “first step back in,” including who will first be approached and what the make-up offer will be. Enforce the dealstorming ground rule that “ideas can come from anywhere.”
4. Leverage your inside champion.
In almost every big account, you have champions who love your service or working with your people. In many cases, it was his or her boss that got upset and pulled the plug on your relationship. Even during the cooling off period, stay in contact with your champions and continue to add value by briefing them on industry goings on.
When your team comes up with an idea to restore the account, confidentially share it with your champion for feedback. You’ll usually find he or she has a lot to offer and misses working with you.
5. Rinse and repeat.
Saving your biggest account doesn’t happen in one step, based on a big idea. It comes back because you’ve done several things right over a short period of time—restoring their trust.
Your team will need to reconvene several times, analyzing what the next problem-to-solve will be, and candidly debating which approach to take next. Patience and process is the key to wooing back your client. Make sure you continue to groom your inside champion by giving constant updates on new products, services or capabilities you are developing.
In Tim’s experience, dealstorming has saved key accounts over two thirds of the time. He’s learned that when the going gets tough, the ambitious get innovative. But don’t expect a single person to come up with all the solutions. By assembling a team of people that have a stake in saving the account, you exponentially improve your chances of winning that account back.
Sales genius is a team sport!
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