Today, selling to enterprise accounts requires more than charisma and a handful of closing techniques. Customers are coming armed with more information, they may be more open to receiving presentations from your competitors, and they are constantly on guard against “being sold to.” This represents a shift in the buyer/seller relationship. The winners coming out on top in this new selling landscape are the ones that cultivate enterprise accounts.
What Exactly is an Enterprise Account?
Most salespeople think, mistakenly, that enterprise accounts are the largest accounts in one’s book of business. This is not necessarily true. Enterprise accounts might not be those huge dollar accounts. But they are also not the customers you sell to once and never hear from again.
What makes an account an enterprise account is a mix of factors:
- How reliable is the account?
- How loyal are they?
- The degree to which the account “runs itself.”
- How large is their budget to pay for enhanced security, support, user interfaces, dedicated account managers, additional products, etc.?
- How complex is the account’s organization?
- How influential is the account within their industry?
Enterprise accounts, then, are part of the “long game”—they represent the most revenue provided over time for the least amount of hassle. (The technical term is that they “maximize lifetime customer value.”)
Landing an enterprise account does not occur overnight, and even when you do land that account, special care must be taken to ensure the account remains an enterprise account. This takes keen enterprise account management skills.
How to Manage Those Enterprise Accounts
What kinds of skills? Salespeople who are successful at managing enterprise accounts do the following:
Add value. Traditional salespeople sell products; successful salespeople solve problems by finding and meeting unmet needs. Get to know your account and the customer’s pain points, form a close partnership, and work in their best interest. The account should almost consider you to have become another employee of theirs. Products can be had from the competition, but if you bring additional value to the table, your account won’t even notice that the competition is there.
Aim for lifetime customer value. Those that manage enterprise accounts well do not continually drive for the next close. They think about the lifetime value of a customer. This sometimes means doing extra research to unearth unmet needs or warm a client with only a small current need. The idea is to find and nurture leads that will become steady streams of no-hassle business in the future.
Aim for the “no push sell.” A big part of cultivating accounts with maximum lifetime customer value is perfecting the “no push sell.” Before customers open their wallets, they want to know that the company they are buying from understands them and the issues. They want to feel heard. And, more and more, they want to drive the customer-salesperson relationship. Successful salespeople thus adopt a “no push selling” mindset in order to maximize customer lifetime value. Your attitude should not be one of “selling”, but rather, you should consider yourself as “providing solutions.”
Have a plan for before and after the sales call. Managing an enterprise account really does take hard work and planning. For each sales call, a good enterprise account manager spends some time doing a five-minute “pre-brief” and a five-minute debrief. Spending that extra 10 minutes on each call saves that much time and more by helping them stay focused and informed. Sending a pre-call agenda and a post-call recap can also be very helpful to keep focus and avoid misunderstandings, respectively.
Handle objections. All salespeople handle objections to one degree or another, but the successful manager of an enterprise account sees objections as a place to start a conversation. Customers often object out of a lack of knowledge, a warranted concern, or an unstated desire. Unearthing the source of the objection can often lead to a fruitful discussion that, itself, brings up new opportunities.
Mastering these skills takes more than reading a few paragraphs worth of advice, however. To see how these steps work in more depth, we recommend signing up for a free trial and viewing our video series on Managing Enterprise Accounts that covers:
- Value Added Selling
- Customer LIfetime Value
- No Push Selling®
- Pre-Call Planning
- Five-Minute Debrief
- Finding Unmet Needs
- Selling Benefits
- Handling Objections
- No Push Close
- How to Succeed with Relationship Selling
- 4 Quick Tips to Uncover Your Customer's Needs
- How Sales Reps Can Overcome 'Fear of Change' Objections
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 1, 2016 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.