02 Sep 2015

Sales Tips: How to Avoid Pitfalls When Navigating Upward ?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric

02 Sep 2015

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

spiral-stairsDuring sales cycles with new accounts sellers that win the business usually gain access to Key Players within organizations that are involved early and late in buying cycles. The evaluation phase is done with mid and lower levels as they have to learn about the offering, implementation, support, etc. Once the business is won, over time the everyday relationship will be with non-Key Players. Over time there may be no access to them.

As the relationship continues, incumbent salespeople may be blocked in attempts to reconnect with Key Players. While competing for new business with prospects, sellers have an option to “walk” if not granted access. When this happens with customers, that isn’t an option as you may jeopardize the relationship and open the door for competitors.

In my experience as a sales manager, sellers make mistakes when trying to navigate upward within their clients. They ask for access to have one on one meetings with higher levels. Control is important to people and my belief is that lower levels are a bit paranoid about what may be discussed.

Some helpful sales tips for accessing Key Players:

  • A more graceful approach is to ask the lower level to bring you to meet with the executive. It may also be helpful for all parties to allow the lower level to highlight progress made over the last several months.

  • If that approach isn’t successful, a similar tactic can be used when leveraging the seller’s manager, industry subject matter experts or senior executives within the vendor organization. This amounts to asking for meetings involving your primary contact, the Key Player, another person from your organization and you.

  • When asking for access there should be a clearly stated reason for the call and a description of topics for discussion. Key Players’ calendars are full and if/when your primary contact asks for a meeting they very likely will have to justify why it would be time well spent.

  • Another tactic is to set up annual reviews (especially for large accounts) with one or more senior executives to summarize achievements and results in the prior year, learn about any new initiatives for the coming year and determine if there may be further opportunities within the account.

It is difficult to win new customers and I suggest sellers have plans in place to maintain executive level contacts to protect your base and hopefully find ways to grow revenues within your clients.

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