This will make me sound old, but I’m worried we might be overlooking a basic business principle. My concern stems from my visits with top executives and integration companies who, like me, worry that their management team and sale leaders aren’t building new contacts within their key accounts.
A business owner told me last week that his key contact (internal champion) at a large medical facility is set to retire, and they have no real relationship beyond that person. They locked up the account through that single relationship for 20 years. That’s a great ride, but now the new IT and facilities group appear reluctant to form a tight bond with his sales team. A new set of business rules suddenly emerged.
Another member conveyed that her best customer won’t return calls since the new CIO and IT director came onboard. They say they prefer a more “traditional” vendor-supplier relationship. Almost weekly now, I hear about situations where end-users have standardized on a vendor solution that involves a manufacturer having a direct relationship with the technology buyer. We have to make sure we are out in front of – or driving – this change.
The reason I might sound old here is because I feel we may be falling into a trap of overusing technology as a replacement for relationships. Over and over, I hear about situations where we are communicating more than ever with our clients – and when I ask how that works, it all comes back to sending emails. I believe that email is a great way to document a conversation, but it’s a horrible way to have one. My other concern is the reluctance to just pick up the phone … I know, I’m old school.
For years, we taught a class called Creating Zippered Relationships. The idea was that, at every level, we match up key employees throughout the integrator and client’s team to establish communications and build relations at multiple levels. The companies I speak with have broken zippers. They didn’t see it as a priority, and became over-reliant on using email to communicate. So how can you tell if your zipper is broken? It’s simple … on each key, target, or strategic account, find out who has personally met the major influencers and how often they are in contact.
We now have a new year-round sales program where we teach integrators the value of having a strategic account plan for each key client. It covers these basic concepts, and a whole lot more. –Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director
Image by David Castillo Dominici