Ever heard of the “bus-lotto syndrome”?
We ask our sales reps on the regular: What happens if your point of contact gets hit by a bus, or what happens if they win the lotto?
In either case, you lose your point of contact overnight. Months and years of rapport and relationship, gone.
So if that were to happen to one of your reps, would they still be able to hold onto that account?
This unfortunate grim reality is something B2B sales reps need to reckon with on a regular basis. No account is 100% secure. Something like the bus-lotto syndrome could swoop in and take that business away.
If it’s a particularly large account, that could be devastating to your business.
So while the axiom “always be closing” should always be top of mind, you need to add a corollary: “always be prospecting.” Prospecting should be a non-stop effort:
- Considering new business cases for the product to get buy-in from people with different roles
- Hitting the phones regularly and asking for referrals from within the account
- Tracking contacts and job descriptions religiously to see if you can get the direct line all the way up to the CEO
The more you can plan ahead and solidify your account-based selling efforts, the more you’ll be able to secure each account and move your entire organization toward quota.
Here are our tips for account-based prospecting and finding new contacts within existing accounts.
The Importance of Deep Contact Benches
It should be obvious why you, the seller, should want a deep contact bench within an account. But it’s not just you who benefits: it’s also the potential customer.
Having multiple contacts within one account will help you:
- Get a wider scope of the project and the positive impact
- Pull in key decision makers and stakeholders to make a bigger impact and more easily secure the budget
- Turn your value prop into a company solution rather than a business line solution
Most importantly, it’ll keep you from wasting your key decision-maker contacts’ valuable time.
If you understand the flow of how things work within the company, you don’t have to hound the same contact again and again when they can’t answer your question.
And if you happen to get on the phone with the Big Dog, you’ll have done your homework ahead of time and know exactly what you need to say to get them on board.
Understanding the Org Chart of an Account
How many times have you approached a rep and asked them who they should approach besides the C-suite executive, and they just don’t know?
This is not an uncommon problem. Everyone is focused on the executives without fully grasping how many people you need to convince to actually get movement on a purchasing decision.
One of the key principles of account-based marketing and selling is this: you aren’t selling to a single person. Usually, you need to get five to seven stakeholders on board if you have a shot at closing the deal.
Here are some of the types of stakeholders you’ll encounter within a targeted account:
- The decision maker, who has the final say
- The end user, who will be using the product and will report on whether it’s worth the investment
- The champion, who’s well respected within the organization and can help win people over
- The budget holder, who controls the purse strings
It’s important to know who you’re talking to at any given time. Not only will it help you understand and navigate the company’s internal politics, but it will help you understand how to approach the conversation with each of these people.
This is key when it comes to conversation coaching. What a “good” call looks like will vary from stakeholder to stakeholder.
When coaching reps on these key stakeholder conversations, it’s important that they (and you) understand the differences between the various types, so you’re actually coaching them toward overall success within the account.
How to Have a Quality Conversation with a Gatekeeper
Everyone wants to get the decision maker on the line. But more often than not, your reps will end up talking to gatekeepers.
Sometimes, you’ll end up talking to a user or other stakeholder who needs to get buy-in on your product. Or maybe you’re talking to an assistant who keeps picking up when all you want to do is get through to their boss.
In either case, never underestimate the value of these calls. They’re all incredible opportunities to gather as much information as you possibly can.
Here are a few specific, tactical tips:
- Ask them for help. Actually say the words “can you help me?” There’s a natural human instinct to help someone when they specifically ask for help, so use that to your advantage.
- Act lost. If you end up in the sales department when you’re trying to contact the VP of IT, just say something to the effect of: “I apologize, I have no idea how I ended up in sales, I was just trying to get a hold of Mark in IT. Is he someone you’re familiar with?” Just see if you can get a little bit more information.
- Talk to the sales team. Salespeople will always talk to you, and they often don’t know what they’re not supposed to tell you. So if you get in front of sales, you may get a lot more information than from an executive or admin person. Salespeople also believe in karma, so they’ll likely swap intelligence with you if you’re willing.
Each of these tactics are things that can be taught and coached. Be sure to include this as a part of your coaching program and certification, and continually reinforce it among your reps until it becomes second nature.
How to Navigate the Initial Objections with New Contacts
Once reps understand the org chart and know who all the stakeholders are within a target account, the next step is for them to actually initiate the conversation.
When they do, perhaps the first objection they’ll get is some version of:
“Why the **** are you calling me?”
“Who the **** are you?”
“What the **** do you want?”
How they maneuver their way through this objection will set the tone for the entire relationship — and could make or break the account.
So how should they answer this objection? The best approach is to be direct.
A lot of reps will get defensive and spend way too much time over-explaining the reason they’re calling. It’s important to do the exact opposite: give a simple, direct explanation for the call.
Be sure to drop in your value prop. That way, the person you’re talking to has a clear reason to recommend you to their supervisor.
It’s also important that they don’t lose control of the conversation at this point. Since these kinds of calls are so critical, it’s important that you practice them with your team, review recordings, and do whatever you can to get everyone to handle them correctly.
How Prospecting can Help the Sales Leader Develop the Team
Account-based prospecting doesn’t just help individual reps better navigate the sales process and bring in more revenue. It also helps to improve the organization overall.
When your team members go after “fresh blood” within an account, they’re improving their own skills and setting themselves up for success. In fact, one of the major differentiators between a bottom-performer and top-performer is the fact that they’re proactively seeking to grow the accounts they have (in addition to prospecting for new accounts).
This principle applies to all sales reps. Just because you’re an AE doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be going after new contacts in your current accounts. In fact, that’s the surest way to protect your prized accounts from the bus-lotto syndrome.
And if you’re a sales coach in a B2B sales organization, this is a powerful skill that you should be constantly instilling in your team.
If they can use that opportunity to grow as individuals, then your organization will improve as a whole.If you want more resources to help your reps become better at working with key accounts, improving their performance and ability to generate revenue, and mastering important skill sets like cold calling, download our Sales Coaching Success Kit and take your coaching and skill development efforts to the next level.