January 21, 2019

A Proven Way To Be A Better Sales Account Executive

If you are an account executive on the sales team of your organization, no doubt you live and die by a few key factors. There is one opportunity, however, that sits at your fingertips as something that could change the way you sell. In turn, you might end up with both higher customer satisfaction and quotas.

But initially, let’s review those core factors of an account executive.

First, there is your funnel. If things are looking a wee bit bleak concerning your pipeline, not only will your boss be hovering over you as mosquitos do in the heart of summer, you’ll feel a gnawing sense of panic as the days and weeks progress in the quarter without any movement.

Second, there is account planning. Fail to pay attention to the sales cycle of your customer—be it where they are on the renewal stage or otherwise—and you can kiss goodbye the likelihood of President’s Club happening this year. Account planning might be boring, but it’s necessary.

Third, there is product knowledge. Oh oh. The product team changed things again. Maybe the partner updated the stack again. Now there’s more to learn, and more to pitch. “I can’t believe everything is new again,” you might mutter to yourself. Better start reading the updated user guide or signing up for the latest sales training offerings. I know. You’d rather sit for a root canal, but that will have to wait.

Fourth, there is Salesforce, or whatever CRM tool you may be using. Spending time in the CRM is sometimes as welcomed as an underwater sneeze. So many fields. So little time. So boring. But the bosses above you want it filled out regularly. Better carve out time on the weekend to make sure it’s current. It looks like you’ll have to forgo binge-watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix.

Each of these factors makes up life as a sales account executive. There are others, of course, but a good portion of your time is spent making certain each of these key areas is being addressed. You’re just going to have to—as my wife often says to our children—“suck it up buttercup.”

There is an opportunity lurking in the background of these never-going-to-change activities that you may want to consider.

Whatever it is that you’re peddling, stop selling features.

Instead, start building a relationship with your customer that focuses on the bigger picture. Then offer up a solution that is more than what you sell. Bring to the customer a value-add proposition that is more than your products and services. Bring to them a vision, a bigger picture.

What is the bigger picture? It’s the customer’s current pain points and future long-term plans. It has almost nothing to do with what you’re selling. (Okay, it might have a little to do with what you’re selling.)

As an alternative to pitching the latest features that come with your products and services, engage in a conversation with the customer that discusses all facets of their business, their issues, their threats, as well as their opportunities. The topics are real, and they may not have much to do with what you are selling.

There are culture, leadership and organizational dynamics issues that need addressing. There are bad processes, silos and bureaucratic nightmares to solve. There are supply chain and partner management problems to fix. There are creativity, innovation and modernization options that need discussing.

When an account executive can strike a conversation with the customer that doesn’t once focus on their product or service features, that is a customer willing to spend more time with you. When an account executive can have a multi-faceted and deeply rooted conversation about real business issues, it’s the customer who then begins seeing you in a different light.

You have become a trusted advisor, somebody not solely interested in meeting your quota or contract renewal schedule.

Not only should you be able to have such a conversation, but you may also have an opportunity to bring subject-matter experts found within your organization to future discussions. Now you look like a true rock star, acting on behalf of the best interests of your client.

When you look out for the long-term success of your customer—aiming to bring value-add options to the table, regardless of what you sell—I find that more often than not that customer not only accepts your proposal (or renewal) they often consider other options that you may bring to the table.

An account executive is never going to change the need to update the funnel, account plan, attend training or spend time in the CRM. There’s some real estate on Mars I’d like to sell you if you think you can.

But an account executive who creates an entirely different relationship with the customer—someone focused on a long-term, value-add affiliation—is one who is likely to be much happier, more engaged, and a lock for President’s Club every year.

You can now binge watch Peaky Blinders.

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