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Moving from Inside Sales to B2B Key Account Selling

A question I’m often asked by companies who want to increase order size, margins and strategic account focus is:

What’s the best way to move from an inside sales model to key account selling?

Their sales people are typically responding to inquiries and closing orders on the phone for standard products, but not doing much face-to-face large account selling.

Since this is a pretty common scenario for my customers, I decided to discuss what it takes to make the transition from phone sales to big account selling in this post.

Why Make the Move to Face-to-Face Key Account Selling

The main reasons that most companies make the move to key account selling are:

  • To increase order size and margin
  • To do business and secure case studies with high status accounts
  • To increase the lifetime revenue from accounts
  • To make it difficult for the companies competitors to gain ground in their accounts
  • To get a company to standardize on a product or service offering
  • To stabilize bookings by pursuing both new smaller accounts and key account sales

If the transition is a success, the benefits are clear. So what are the challenges?

Cost Effective Travel

Moving to a face-to-face model means travel. The key is to be sure to measure and monitor costs and to get good ROI on money invested. Today, when e-mail, and phone contact are the norm, just showing up can give you a decided advantage. To maximize ROI be sure to take geography into account when assigning accounts.

Long term key account strategy and planning are crucial to ROI. If you have done account planning well, you should be able to schedule your trips well in advance and to take full advantage of fare discounts. Exceptions and emergencies happen, but they should be minimized where possible.

Need to Understand Customers’ Business Needs

In complex B2B sales, reps need to do develop a fuller understanding of their prospects business needs. The deeper their understanding, the more effective and creative the sales rep can be.

Preparing sales people to move to an outboundÂť model is a critical step in the transition. To penetrate accounts at the deepest levels, you need access to a companies executives. Busy CXOs and team leaders will not meet with your reps just to fill them in on their business, even if they like them. Understanding the end customers specific business issues and situation becomes a chief concern.

Reps need to learn to create detailed key account profiles, and to monitor their accounts for changes that will create problems that your offering can solve.

Need to Understand the Large Account Multiple-party Decision Making Process

As the sale moves from a simple transaction to a complex process, the need to understand the account in detail is clear. Sales Reps need to identify and profile the key players that are involved in the sale. This requires the salesperson to learn to ask process questions to uncover who is involved and to ask situation questions to understand the role of each person. Large account sales training that includes extensive role play exercises is an ideal way to help reps to acquire this new and valuable skill.

Need to Move Beyond Benefits and Away from USP based Selling

To achieve a decisive competitive advantage, reps need to move beyond the basics. Unique selling proposition is a way to position your products, but it is also a position that can be difficult to defend over time in a major account.

The best key account teams are the ones that use their keen understanding of the account to craft creative customized solutions that solve problems. Key account Pros fight the urge to talk products and stay focused on the issues faced by their customer. In the highly competitive B2B market, this is the only way to maintain margins and to avoid being percived as just another peddler with a product.

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