By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

sales tips for prospecting within your customer baseMost everyone in Sales appreciates how difficult it is to secure new clients. Challenges in closing new accounts can include the need to:

  • Establish relationships with new people
  • Prove your capabilities
  • Establish credibility for your company
  • Negotiate new agreements
  • Displace an incumbent that suddenly will do anything to save the account

In Business Development Workshops we define “prospecting” as getting Key Players that weren’t looking (people with latent needs) to share goals that can be achieved through the use of the seller’s offering. There is no mention of whether that Key Player works for a client or a prospect. In either case you are uncovering new opportunities.

When working with existing clients few of the barriers listed above apply. Advantages include:

  • Win rates for securing add-on business should be significantly higher.

  • Sales cycles are likely shorter than when working with new accounts if for no other reason than there is an existing agreement in place.

  • Incidents of “no decision” are also likely to be less frequent.

Sales cycles with new accounts are somewhat analogous to dating (early discussions), getting engaged (a committee agrees to evaluate your offering) and getting married (making buying decisions). At some point after the honeymoon (implementation), things settle down into a different rhythm. Contact with key executives over time may become more limited. If and when Key Players leave the company, sellers may not establish relationships with their replacements. Ultimately, incumbents can become vulnerable to being courted by new vendors lose accounts.

Painting with a broad brush, some clients may feel they’re being taken for granted. In some cases they are. Part of that may be due to an underlying attitude that if clients have requirements, they’ll contact the seller. A few years ago I spoke with an SVP of Sales who had recently visited a satisfied long-time client. During the call, the executive indicated he recently made a buying decision for an offering. The SVP asked why his account rep wasn’t asked to bid. Painfully, the client said he was unaware they competed in that space.

As this story indicates, it’s dangerous to wait for clients to call you with new requirements. As an incumbent vendor sellers should focus on taking Key Players within their customer base from latent to active needs for add-on offerings. In some cases, the seller may gain access even higher levels than were contacted in securing the initial order.

My suggestion is to be as concerned about the org charts of clients as you were when courting them as prospects. An active plan to bring potential business outcomes that can be achieved with new offerings can minimize the times you may be caught asleep at the switch and either lose an opportunity or worse yet a client to a vendor who courted your client.

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