Key Account Strategy: Four Factors that Determine Success

Posted on 11/01/2008 in Key Account Management

"In business or football, it takes a lot of unspectacular preparing to produce spectacular results."

- Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame Football Player

Success factor #1: Have you identified and built a relationship with the highest-level decision maker?

You cannot win a big sale at a key account if you don’t have buy-in at a senior level. Similarly, you are most at risk if a senior decision-maker at one of your key accounts is replaced by someone else. Key account managers in STAR’s workshops consistently have stated over the years that they are most likely to lose a piece of business when a senior decision maker who is one of their advocates leaves. Don’t let this happen to you.

Success factor #2: Have you prepared a compelling value proposition to support your recommendation?

Key accounts reward suppliers who can help their bottom line and/or increase their revenue. Otherwise, they aren’t likely to be motivated to change. You can learn how to quantify and present a compelling value proposition in STAR’s Selling On Value Workshop. The best sales professionals do this well, and use fact-based selling by citing and highlighting quantifiable financial impact such as ROI and payback for the customer.

Success factor #3: Have you anticipated and prepared a response to the most likely client objections?

You must be prepared to overcome more objections when you sell to key accounts, for two reasons. First, major buying decisions at key accounts will be made by multiple decision-makers. Each decision-maker may raise a valid reason not to buy from you. Second, key accounts will compare your offer to several of your major competitors. Your sales strategy must take into consideration where you are vulnerable relative to a particular competitor. 

Success factor #4: Have you developed a negotiation strategy that takes into consideration concessions that the customer is likely to request?

As cited in STAR’s Sales Negotiation Workshop, you shouldn’t be surprised if a key account asks for some concessions during the award and post-sales phases of the sales process. Average sellers tend to concede too much, too soon, whereas successful negotiators are skilled at responding to concession requests and adversarial tactics. In last month’s newsletter, we talked about the advantages of using a sales team at a key account. If you opt to use a sales team, the entire team must be good at negotiating.

If you or your sales team are interested in developing a sales strategy, STAR’s Key Account Management workshop teaches the skills and concepts to do so.


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