Julie, tell us about your journey as a Key Account Management Professional and how do you help companies achieve growth through focusing on their strategic partnership with the key account?
I went from a local market rep to a key account sales rep working with Fortune 500 companies and quickly realized I needed to acquire a new set of skills to be successful. Multiple decision-makers with different definitions of value, longer selling cycles, and fierce competition require strategic thinking, strong communication skills and the ability to engage different types of people within the organization. I discovered that much of the advice in the area of presentations, in particular, had been passed down from the eighties – well before prospects were armed with smartphones! So I researched how we process and absorb information today and developed a methodology for applying that knowledge to high stakes conversations that have been adopted by several Fortune 500 companies.
My firm focuses on helping sales reps develop and deliver presentations or demos to key decision-makers or stakeholders in a way that communicates value, differentiates them from the competition, and keeps the sales process moving forward. Because buying cycles are typically long and often, multiple decision-makers are involved (some not even in the room) we help ensure your message is memorable and can be easily passed on throughout the organization.
When is the right time for businesses to start looking at their client relationships in the more strategic manner?
Now. Having multiple touch points and multiple contacts within an organization require strategic thinking. But even smaller clients are expecting a more customized approach to their business. Unless you’re in a very transactional sale, the days of cookie-cutter presentations and canned demos is over. With increased competition and the blurring of lines between many solutions, a rep that isn’t tailoring their message to an individual prospect is often wasting his or her time.
What are the biggest obstacles you see businesses face toward becoming more oriented toward servicing & acquiring a deeper understanding of their strategic accounts?
- A culture of “quantity over quality” in business development and a tendency to rush to present or demo before reps have a good understanding of the account.
- Not having a good discovery process in place that helps salespeople gain the information they need to deliver a solution that resonates with their audience as well as helps to move them through the organization.
- Standardized presentations or demos that lack the flexibility to easily adjust and tailor to a particular client or stakeholder’s interests.
Software is eating the world & account management could not escape! Do you feel there is a need of having specialized platforms or software for strategic account management?
It’s important that the team is on the same page, so having a platform that team members can quickly and easily access and share information – that gets used – is critical. Since most reps are frustrated with their CRM, just adding another software solution without addressing the core issue can just exacerbate the problem.
Will such tech platforms become ‘a must have’ for account managers and their leadership or do you feel it constitutes ‘a nice to have’ capability?
As quickly as things change today everyone on the account needs access to real-time information. It’s definitely more of a “must have” than “nice to have.”
What is your one mantra for growing strategic client relationships?
“They can’t buy from you if they can’t remember you.”
Focus on creating memorable customer experiences at every step along the way – or be prepared to lose the deal to the vendor who does!
Would you like to share an interesting business book you have recently read and what was the key takeaway for you?
The Experience Economy written by Harvard MBA’s, Pine and Gilmore first released in the 90’s, predicted that the companies who were more successful at creating a memorable buying experience would outperform their peers in the future. Well, the future is here, and they’ve been proven correct. The authors also point to elements of performance: acting, improve, storytelling, etc. as being the means for creating that experience, areas which I draw upon as well for creating memorable presentations and demos.