|May 30, 2016
Major accounts are not lost overnight, and more importantly, they are seldom lost on just price. When a firm loses a major account, it’s often the result of a competitor’s ability to successfully target and steal the account.
Not so long ago I received a frantic call from the leader of a financial services firm who had just lost their biggest client to a competitor. This account had been with the firm for over a decade, and they thought the relationship was rock solid. The firm will survive the loss of this account; however, the setback will result in negative growth for the next couple of years.
When I first started my career in financial services, I was given responsibility over a portfolio of commercial accounts. I was competitive on price, but this was not enough, as competitors took advantage of my new kid on the block status and picked up several major accounts with little effort.
In order to survive, and more importantly to ensure that I had a job, I needed to quickly develop a new strategy. I adopted a focused attack strategy targeting my competitors’ major accounts.
I considered these accounts low-hanging fruit. Firstly, these accounts were already qualified. Their needs had already been established and they were clones of my very best clients, the prospects I wanted to attract. To get the ball rolling and establish a relationship with these prospects, I created a checklist and crafted some questions to further qualify them.
I enjoyed early success with some quick wins; as my confidence and abilities improved, I was able to turn things around in less than 12 months and continued producing a steady stream of wins along the way.
This strategy served me well for many years, continuing to pay dividends for myself and others that I taught over the medium to long term and becoming a powerful weapon in my selling arsenal.
I regularly conduct a growth assessment for financial services businesses to help identify growth opportunities. During this process I routinely examine businesses’ top 20% clients that are producing the majority of revenue and create an attack plan for the largest account, pointing out how I would attack this account if I were a competitor. This immediately gains the attention of the owner and the leadership team.
Profiting from others’ mistakes
Top accounts are not lost overnight. Your best clients are some else’s top prospects. A high priority for top producers is ensuring their top 20% clients are attack proof. When a client has been with the same firm for some time, it’s easy for the relationship to be taken for granted. Top clients should always be treated like top prospects.
Here are some warning signs that a top account could become vulnerable:
When a prospective client acknowledges or confirms any of these areas, there is a good chance that they are not 100% satisfied with their current provider. A top producer only needs this door to be slightly ajar to turn a brief encounter into a sales opportunity.
Converting the above warning signs into questions is all a top producer needs to do to engage a prospective buyer in a casual conversation during a meeting or networking function to get the ball rolling.
When a top producer discovers that a target account is a good fit, they then leverage their network to research and obtain a brief meeting with the decision maker and to drill down deeper. Occasionally, a quick sale may result, but most likely you will encounter a timing, trust and credibility issue. This means that the relationship needs to be cultivated over time.
Take a long-term view
Top producers think like a trapper instead of a hunter and nurture the sales process over a 6 to 12 month period to stay on the prospective client’s radar screen by providing fresh and insightful ideas, observations, articles, and so forth, which demonstrate their expertise whilst establishing a relationship.
They use tools such as newsletters, article clippings, invitations to workshops seminars, or social events. They focus in on positioning and painting a perception that their firm can provide a much better service than the client’s current provider.
Top producers understand that perceptions and relationships are built over time by adopting a trapper mentality, carefully planting seeds, providing value, focusing on building a relationship, and more importantly, addressing their hot-button needs.
Stealing market share from competitors is a great strategy that, when practiced consistently, will produce consistent organic growth.
To implement this technique, you will need to compile a list of a couple dozen target accounts that represent your best clients. Conduct some light research to discover who’s currently serving their needs. Keep an eye out for the seven warning signs. Craft some good questions and leverage your network to obtain a meeting. Engage in a conversation around their key issues and needs.
You only need two or three wins to have a fantastic year. If you can do this each and every year, your firm will produce consistent, great results and high organic growth.
Of course, these strategies will also prevent you from losing your key accounts.