I’m going to tell you exactly how to position your business so that your sales team will never make a cold call again.
The vast majority of our systems integrator members are frustrated because times are changing. Old relationships have faded, new decision-makers are emerging, existing decision-makers are now (at best) influencers, and the procurement process is shifting to an IT-centric model. So now what?
Here’s what not to do: Don’t just demand that the sales guys get out and call on more people. Don’t create an incentive plan based on call volume. Don’t send sales people out to tell the same old story.
Instead, develop plans: a strategic account plan, a target account plan, and a key account plan. For each customer type aligned by vertical market you serve, develop a solution set based on what input you are getting from end-users in that market. Be as specific as possible. You will quickly identify the gap in your existing sales strategy, as well as what it takes to properly influence that client base. People, processes, and technology must align!
Most NSCA members don’t have a strategic account plan at all. Alignment of sales talent has been solely based on churn, trial and error, geography, or, in many cases, response to cyclical interests from clients. Alignment of talent with innovative technology, combined with a process or account plan, is a necessity moving forward.
When the gap is identified, you need to align the talent accordingly and/or find people capable of going beyond the technology you sell to become experts in how those systems improve the business, efficiency, or safety needs of a specific type of client.
Once aligned in account management, you need to conduct a comprehensive technology assessment to find the gaps in your solution set and capabilities (you will also find some things you need to stop doing). This should be part of your annual strategic planning process, and assigned as a top priority for someone in a decision-making role in your firm. A perfect sales strategy is useless without innovation and vice versa. Alignment!
The next step is where the magic happens. Your business has to be in lock step with the needs of each key account you’ve identified. You have to be equally as prepared to accept that level of influence with those accounts you’ve targeted in your plan. Walking into a potential new account without this alignment in that specific vertical is a complete waste of time.
The next step is the hardest part. It takes discipline and time. It takes the owner/president/chief technology guru to get directly involved in reaching the client base in new ways. Videos, blogs, technology newsletters, weekly e-mails with applications of how similar clients used the technology in new ways, stories of leveraging their investments, stories of improved ROI, stories about how upgrades to existing systems created new “business success” for other clients.
This outreach is very time-consuming, but it establishes your relevance and firmly positions your company as a valuable resource. So when you call for that first appointment, the response will be: “Oh, you’re the guys on the video. We love those!” When you do that, you’re received differently. It’s no longer a “cold call.”
This is the major gap that separates companies that are excited about the future from those that are frustrated about all the changes we’re experiencing.
If you want to learn more about this topic, and how to prepare your sales team to act as a valuable resource for your customers, plan to attend our upcoming Integration Business Survival Conference in Atlanta or Phoenix this fall. We’ll be talking a lot more about this topic, and sharing some great ideas on how to get moving in this direction. -Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director