A recent article in the Harvard Business Review stimulated this blog. We strongly agree with the HBR’s assertion that in the new sales paradigm “insight selling”, delivering the right insight the right way, is the most effective approach to a sale. As the HBR article propagates process, I would like to inject some thought on the modularization of this process to make its implementation more easily executable.
It is well documented that every business, during its lifetime, encounters certain revenue plateaus which signal that, in order to continue growing, it must add new accounts, especially true in highly competitive and volatile technology markets. Today most companies disguise this shortcoming through acquisitions, i.e. buying customers to show revenue growth – not a bad strategy but in the long run inadequate to sustain steady growth. An acquisition strategy should supplement the primary strategy: organic growth, if only for one simple reason: winning accounts on your merit keeps your market facing troops game fit.
Undoubtedly, adding new accounts depends on each particular market’s climate and the company‘s position but it doesn’t change the fact that growth has to be accomplished through “right” marketing and sales tactics.
Today the tendency is to rely on massive digital messaging marketing with a conviction that new accounts will reach out to you. You may well get a colloquial “bluebird” but more accounts will be escaping than reaching out to you.
Digital strategy works efficiently in consumer markets, especially with products and services which are easy to understand, but not in most business markets. One obvious problem is its inability to flexibly adapt messaging by lack of information from the account itself. No matter how well you massage your electronic (digital) content, once formulated it becomes a fixed message. While consumer marketing uses Big Data and behavior backed social marketing, in business marketing these tools are not as effective in acquiring new revenue sources.
In the deluge of these “digital” messages too many market facing people abandon age proven business marketing tactics. To gain new accounts they overly rely on branding or technology to carry them but inevitably the market topples on many fronts (not just go-to-market) and they go into swift decline, such as Nortel, Nokia and even RIM.
Generic account segmenting is well mastered by the majority of strategists but what they often lack is dynamic insight on accounts, due to each account’s unique characteristics which can only be gleaned by direct interaction (battlefield encounter) with the organization. How many businesses conduct “dynamic” account encounters well prior to the sales call? Not many! [We all know the consequence of not paying enough attention to the weather forecast when conditions are volatile, as super storms Katrina and Sandy taught us. Your new account needs are just as volatile and the buying patterns can change quickly, even in the most stable accounts.]
So what are the smartest and insightful tactics to win new business accounts?
Finding the answer is in executing these go-to-market actions;
1. Produce a roadway map to develop dynamic and relevant insight about your target accounts,
2. Formulate and test messaging modules to encourage the account to accept your overture and provide initial insight into their needs,
3. Break your sales process into stages based on your offering and leveraging initially gained insight with concentration on perfecting the first stage of the sales process (pre-sale meetings).
Here is a clue how to gain initial (suitability) insight through an illustration in one currently hot industry: cyber security. Not many commercial or government accounts will disclose quickly and voluntarily that they just suffered a security breach. But by supplementing your known data on the account with insight gained through “live” interactions (messaging and response) you can ascertain metrics which will tell, perhaps ahead of the competition, how to rank the target accounts and which accounts are most likely to consider you and why. = A lot of selling efficiency!
As an account consists of groups of people collaborating with each other, initially we can only hypothesize our tactics including messaging. Then continuous “live” testing uncovers and refines what resonates with these groups. You need to test the approach and the messaging in order to elicit a response, ideally an invite for meeting, thus gaining further insight to formulate winning account tactics.
Direct interaction with accounts allow you to sense the particular account’s and its group’s nuances, thus leading to building trust, a vital component in business marketing. Telephonic messaging (or interactive video) is the best alternative to costly and time consuming face-to-face meetings for sales prospecting. You can adapt your offering in situ to the account’s needs, especially when the account does not know you well.
Formulating messaging modules tactics is the Achilles tendon of the majority of strategists, even if they have an excellent and resourceful execution (salespeople) arm. Strategists often tend to overemphasize their solution or service benefits for large industry verticals, and not address the micro-vertical accounts within them, subsequently not resonating well with a particular group of accounts and subsequently lowing new account gain.
Perhaps, because developing account insight can be cumbersome and more art than science, it is not practiced widely. But for businesses which develop account insight and adaptable messaging the reward is more new accounts and a vibrant business life.