When I first started out reppin’, my (much older) sales colleagues used to talk of landing their “whale of a deal”. Breaking into ‘corporate’ acccounts took up a lot of our idle conversation time. There was often frustration that the highest paid reps would be given named accounts to hunt down, but then spend all bleedin’ year to get one tiny product in worth just a few quid. Surely we’d have been able to sell more into them given the chance. Frustration was further compounded by the fact that the HQ in question often sat slap bang in the middle of my patch too.
Recently I’ve got to enjoy talking with a chap called John. He sells to number crunchers. He was aghast when I spoke to him the other day, that when his guys are up against their main rival, typically when trying to oust their opponent, the prospect often finds it easier to stick with what they know.
He avoids this trap by saying at the end, that’s fair enough, “How about the things you liked from me that you can’t get elsewhere? It’d be a shame to lose out on them, so why not take them, after all it’s only a few quid?” He gave me one example of a small deal that was worth about three grand a year. He missed out on it two years ago, only to use this tactic to rescue about £400. And this year, would you believe, having that toehold in the account has led him to now win it all.
It struck me this was a classic long-term approach of the latest evolution in key account planning. The theory goes that rather than waste interminable hours, days, weeks, months, trying to persuade a central procurement resource to swap from an ‘okay’ incumbent (someone they may not be particularly emotionally attached too, yet their supply is considered “adequate”), better to reach an independent thinking outpost, happy to take on board a part of your product/service, and grow from there. This thinking is also the entertaining them of Jill Konrath’s blog on selling to big companies.