Provide More to Your Largest Accounts

A reader writes, "A sales rep just closed the biggest deal in our company's history. This is a high profile client and the largest one we've ever worked with. I want our company to rise to the occasion and prove to this new client that they didn't make a mistake in doing business with us. How should we go about this?"

Caught up in the excitement of closing a major account, many companies forget to ask, "What do we need to do to retain them? How should we interact with them going forward to ensure we keep their business?"

To answer your question, I'm turning to Lisa Magnuson, author of "The TOP Seller Advantage: Powerful Strategies to Build Long-Term Executive Relationships" and Founder / CEO of Top Line Sales, a company focused on helping Sales VP's develop and close their largest prospects and retain and grow their most important existing accounts.

Suzanne: First of all, why should we treat our largest account differently than our other customers?

Lisa: Whether you're a small company, mid-sized company or work for a large company yourself, if you land a "whale size" customer they will expect more. More resources, more attention and support, and more expertise.

Suzanne: How do you determine what "more" looks like for your biggest customer?

Lisa: I recommend that you analyze and rank your top customers and then determine the support investments you're willing to make for each level. For example, your top tier (which might only include one account) could qualify for:  a dedicated account manager, an executive sponsor from your company, and access to all top-notch resources.

Suzanne:  What are the risks to doing nothing?

Lisa:  The risks are great. Just a few include:

  • Putting your company at risk with a disproportionate amount of revenue tied up with a small number of customers without a pro-active account management model to retain those customers. 
  • The embarrassment of your competitor snatching the account out from under you.

Suzanne:  I know that you talk about pro-active account management structures in your book. What are these and why are they important?

Lisa: A proactive account management framework, co-developed with your customer, is essential to drive desired results. At a minimum, the joint development of a shared plan (i.e., partnership plan) should include several elements:

  • Alignment of goals, priorities, mission, and vision - the objective of this part of the plan is for each party to share their goals, mission, and vision to identify their shared vision, mission, and goals.
  • Rules of engagement - this is developed to agree on the points of engagement (i.e., who, what, where, and when). In other words, how will you work together?
  • Relationship plan - the purpose of this part of the plan is to identify the who's who from the customer side and the supplier side to align like roles within both organizations. The relationship plan can include a primary contact and secondary contact if helpful.  It's important to include executive relationships in the plan.
    • Meeting cadence - the benefit of outlining a meeting cadence is to have regular communication and progress towards goals and priorities:
    • Monthly Status Meetings - cover immediate opportunities and issues with day to day contacts
    • Quarterly Review and Planning Meetings - review the plan and priorities with day-to-day contacts and other interested parties or stakeholders
    • Annual Strategic Visioning Meetings - strategic planning to review accomplishments and set direction with executive sponsor

Lisa adds the following advice, "Putting the correct focus and investments around your biggest account will always pay big dividends."