Strategic selling: Security in a business crisis
Losing your biggest account. It’s something no organization wants to think about, least of all small companies and start-ups … perhaps to the degree that they literally don’t think about it and are floored when it happens.
To vendors that depend on a few key accounts for survival, it seems like a no brainer to say, “Be prepared.” The fact is, though, things happen beyond our control. Our gravy-train account might merge with another organization and decide, as a new entity, to obtain the products and services we provide elsewhere. Or it may undergo a leadership shake-up, after which the new executive group envisions a plan that doesn’t include us.
In a utopian world, we would have the time and resources to diversify our revenue streams so we can absorb these market shifts, but realistically, we often lean on too few bread-and-butter accounts to stay above water.
One thing we can do today to improve our fortunes in an unpredictable business environment is make sure we have the right type of salespeople on staff to handle whatever comes our way.
Organizations that sell B-to-B and still employ transactional cold-callers or account relationship specialists (hunters and farmers, in other words) in 2017 do so at their peril. After losing a major account, they may find themselves in panic mode, scrambling to bail water out of a sinking boat. Low-percentage, high-volume sales activities like cold-calling aren’t going to bring in timely revenue during a crisis, and pressuring old contacts for referrals without leverage might be even less effective.
Fortunately, there are better, newer sales models to tap into besides hunter and farmer, which are seldom adequate in today’s complex sales arena anyway. Perhaps the model that best fits an ever-changing market—one that reduces the likelihood of losing a big account and provides agility and adaptability if it does happen—is the Strategic Sales model.
Built from extensive, and current, research into the intrinsic strengths, motivations, and job competencies of top sales performers across multiple industries, the Strategic Sales model describes what we at Caliper refer to as a “knowledge broker.” This is the individual who brings the traditional qualities of relationship building and influential communication to the sales interaction but also displays competencies related to organizational savvy, strategic thinking, and high-level business acumen. In practice, the person whose attributes line up with this model should be able to gain a comprehensive understanding of the client’s industry, integrate herself into the client’s organization as a trusted partner, and bring new ideas that overturn convention.
The Strategic Sales model intersects with the issue at hand in three ways:
If your salesperson is a trusted advisor with strong business savvy who provides meaningful solutions and ROI to her accounts, your company is much less likely to lose that account in the first place.
If you are at risk of losing an account thanks to a pending merger or leadership change, champions within your client organization are much more likely to advocate for your strategic salesperson because of the aforementioned benefits she brings.
If you do lose the account, your salesperson’s comprehensive understanding of the industry and the organizational challenges it presents to companies will help her bring superior knowledge and presentational strength to efforts around replacing the lost account. Your organization may still struggle for a while, but new revenue sources will emerge more quickly this way than with cold-calling from a transactional salesperson who doesn’t exhibit a meaningful understanding of prospects’ experience.
The good news is that such sales people do exist (the smart people in R&D could not have built the model without them), and they can be evaluated with a high degree of accuracy using the scientifically validated assessment tools that are currently available. By looking at current sales team members and future applicants through the lens of strategic selling, small B-to-B vendors who depend on key accounts can be better prepared to deal with a variety of challenges.