Losing a key account can be a painful experience. The threat of lost income, shattered relationships, as well as a huge revenue gap to fill, will put the fear into even the most seasoned of sales professionals.
However, the downhill path to a competitor is often very similar. And through careful observation, we can open our eyes to the subtle hints and clues that signal things are not as they should be.
In this blog, we share with you some tell-tale signs that an account is on the way out… and what you can do to stop this from happening.
The number one sign that a customer is going to leave is ongoing negative feedback. If your customer is reaching out to customer service and seems more and more disgruntled, this is a sure-fire indicator that your product or service isn’t meeting their needs, or that their needs have changed.
The silent treatment
When an account is on the way out, contact with you and the company may dry up. They may miss scheduled phone calls or call backs, stop engaging with you online, or stop responding to personal emails.
Review meetings are important with any key account. However, if customer requests a review meeting out of the blue it could mean they are experiencing reservations. Make sure you bring along the account history, figures and performance stats to demonstrate the value you have provided them in your time working together.
Account history requests
Sometimes an account will ask you to send them details of the account history and performance stats via email. This could signify low confidence in the value you are providing or an indication that they are considering a switch of supplier. Use this as an opportunity to visit the client to understand their concerns.
New service requests
Listen out for new requests from your customer. If they start enquiring about services/innovations that you are unable to provide, this may be a sign they have had a recent meeting with a competitor who can provide the service.
Watch out for small goodbyes. Maybe your customer stops ordering a certain product or service, or reduces their order volumes. This is a sign they could be trailing another company or have changed supplier for a specific product.
Finally, social media can be a great way to find out how your customers are feeling. Closely follow your key accounts. Look out for customers who re-tweet or like competitor products or services. Keep your eye on your competitor LinkedIn and twitter accounts. Are they commenting, liking and sharing your customer’s posts?
Prevention is better than cure
Ideally you don’t want to experience any of the above tell-tale signs you’re losing a key account. It is a lot more effective to be proactive, rather than deal with issues when they occur.
Here are some ideas to build a portfolio of satisfied accounts, and prevent issues from happening in the first place.
Map your customer accounts
Don’t make the mistake of only having one contact in the organization. The ideal account is where you are in a solid position of trust with multiple people within the organisation
Map your key accounts. Who are the decision makers? Who are the influencers? Who are the end users? And very importantly, what level of relationship do you have with them? In addition, include other key stakeholders from your company to strengthen peer to peer relationships.
Deepen your relationships
Have a look at the list below and score yourself 1-5 based on your relationship with each of your key accounts.
- I know about their goals and long-term strategy
- I have a good track record with them
- I am in contact with them regularly (not just to sell)
- They contact me regularly
- I continually add value and share insight with the stakeholders
- They accept new products and price changes with no hassle
- I have been to more than 1 of their offices
- I have more than 5 good contacts within their organisation
- I know personal details about them (family, birthday etc.)
- I know who is the latest competitor in their industry
- I know how that competition is affecting their business
- I am familiar with their industry trends and challenges
What areas are you strong? Where can you deepen the relationships?
Schedule 90:90 meetings
Instead of usual firefighting and update meetings with your customer, 90:90 meetings are an opportunity for you to meet your customer every 90 days for 90 minutes to discuss long term goals, strategy, and future opportunities.
Invest in them
On average, it costs 7 times more to acquire a new client than it does to retain an existing one. It is common to spend a lot of time and money finding new business, whilst neglecting what is already there. Instead, invest in your key accounts. Take them to lunch, invite them to an event, send them marketing materials and check in regularly to make sure they are OK.
Building strong relationships with, and providing value to your key accounts is integral to long term success. Prevention is better than cure, so ensure your customers are satisfied by investing in deeper relationships. Finally, keep your eyes open for tell-tale signs and when you see them, make it your priority to find the underlying cause of the issue and ensure it is fully resolved so you don’t lose a key account.