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Dealing With The Downward Pressure: Why Account Teams Need To Rethink How They Sell To Their Customers

June 28, 2017

Account teams used to be expected to sell. Now it’s a requirement. Sales and marketing leadership teams know that the best, most profitable source of revenue lies in cross-selling, upselling and renewing existing clients. And they know that the people best positioned to do that are the account management teams. On paper, selling and account management seem diametrically opposed to one another. How can you have your client’s best interest at heart when you’ve got to sell them on something else? For account teams, that creates real pressure. But it’s navigable. Account teams just need to rethink how they approach selling to their customers. Here’s how…

It Starts with Strategy

It should be the goal of every account team to migrate all customer relationships from transactional to strategic. When you’re a strategic partner to your client, you’re doing more than living contract to contract. You’re providing ideas and insights not to sell but to build trust. Tell your customers things they might not want to hear and position your organization as a resource that can help them solve challenges. Ask them questions! (It’s crazy how a question as seemingly benign as “What’s your long-term play here?” can get your client expressing themselves.)

Read more on the power of trust and relationships.

Account teams that are always seen as a transactional vendor will have difficulty selling to their customers. But teams that push for a strategic partnership because they actually care about their customers’ success will see cross-sell and upsell opportunities arise organically.

Don’t Tell, Show

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? (Good thing this article is only 546 words.) The point is this: your are not going to get maximum engagement from your client if you simply tell them about your capabilities or what you’re doing for other customers. You have to show them. You have to quickly get them to the point where they’re thinking (or shouting), “Yes! This is what we need!”

Which is more effective: a long email describing a system design or a visualization of that system accompanied by key takeaway bullet points? The answer should be obvious.

Now if you’re thinking that that takes more effort, you’re right. But there’s a caveat. If you, as an account team, create flexible, evergreen content that any customer can engage with, you won’t be reinventing the wheel every time. So be thoughtful in the content you create and the mediums you use. Better yet, house these content items in a place that lends itself to measurable client engagement. (Hint: Smart Rooms do just that!) The more friction you can eliminate and the more context you can create, the better.

Track Your Success

Perhaps the hardest part of this sort of approach to cross-selling, upselling and renewing with existing customers is convincing your sales and marketing leadership that it’s effective. Investing in the relationship in order to get to the cross-sell, upsell and renewal opportunities might not make sense to them. Telling them that traditional new account generation sales tactics aren’t effective likely won’t fly. After all, it’s how they win new deals. So show them. The more you can track your customer’s engagement and prove that investing in the relationship translated into new deals, the more comfortable sales and marketing leadership will be. Because there’s one thing they won’t argue with: revenue.

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