Increasing revenue is among the top three goals of company owners, and while converting new prospects is an easy way to measure the return on investment for a sales implementation, there is also often a larger untapped pocket of potential in the clients the company already serves. The first step to accessing this potential is an account review.
An account review is a regularly scheduled meeting between a supplier and client to review performance and further develop the relationship. On the client side, participants include the decision maker, the purchaser and the user of the product or service. On the supplier side, the sales rep attends and may bring the sales manager, president and/or technical expert. Frequency is less important than consistency. For some industries, annual reviews are enough, while for others, quarterly works best.
Suppliers without an account review process are often surprised when they lose business, and shocked when they discover their competitors are also supplying their client. Clients that don’t insist on formal reviews with their suppliers often find it difficult to provide feedback and tend to drift away when a new, potentially stronger alternative presents itself.
This test, while not scientific, will indicate if your company has room for improvement.
Are the top 20% of your clients:
- Aware of your full range of products and services?
- Single-sourcing from you and confident they’re getting good value?
- Routinely providing referrals and references?
If they’re not, it’s time to find out why.
Questions to Ask Your Clients
- Describe a great supplier relationship. No one enjoys being put on the spot, so if your first question is, “What do you think about me as your supplier?” you will make your client uncomfortable and will be less likely to get an honest response. Instead, open by asking about their ideal supplier. They’ll likely relax and provide a few key points to consider for your offering.>/br> If they give generic answers like “I like good communication” or “I want the lowest prices,” ask them to think of their favourite supplier and draw out what it is that is so great. Questions like, “How quickly do they respond,” “Do they phone or email?” and “How were problems handled?” will help you get the information you’re looking for.
- Tell me about a supplier relationship that isn’t working. As important as knowing what suppliers are doing right is finding out where they’re letting their clients down. Again, you want to put them at ease by asking about their relationships generally, not their relationship with you specifically.However, if a client starts talking about your offering, you must listen and allow them to vent. Remember, you want this feedback so you can improve the relationship. Writing down what they’re saying will disrupt your urge to be defensive and will make them feel heard.
- What are the company’s goals for the next few years? Ask open-ended questions about the importance and urgency of these goals. For example, are they planning to double sales? Are they introducing a new product line? What will the value of accomplishing those goals be? Are these short or long-term plans? Once you have explored the company’s direction, ask about their vision of their suppliers’ part in accomplishing it.
- What challenges do you anticipate along the way? This is the other side of the goals. What will it cost to achieve them in terms of time, money or personnel? Probe using open questions to understand their direction.
- Here’s what others are doing successfully. This is when you get to talk. Avoid telling them what they should do and suggest to them what they could do. Refer to a third party to explain what other companies are doing and see if they want a similar solution.
Your Next Steps and Ongoing Commitment
To close the meeting, summarize what you discussed. Highlight any action needing to be taken to make sure everyone agrees on them and their timelines. Finally, book your next account review meeting. Once you’re back at the office transcribe your notes. Send a follow-up email that summarizes next steps and any commitments made by either of you along with the timelines. Then follow through as you said you would. In advance of the next account review, re-send these notes to get everyone back on the same page and allow each of you to measure progress.