Your "Crown Jewels"?

Don LinderYour company, like almost all technology companies, focuses on developing and carefully guarding your "crown jewels." Unfortunately, the "jewels" that you've focused on are likely your unique and highly distinctive software or hardware product and not your real "crown jewels" - your customers. Your customers and their use of your product ultimately define your company and its purpose in life. Your customers determine whether you prosper, linger on life support, or die quickly.

Yet, how many of you can clearly and confidently complete the following statements:

  • My customer's customer is ____________
  • The specific benefit my customer's customer receives from my product is ____________
  • Our executives met with our customer's executives to review this benefit on ____________

Your customers (particularly your large customers) are a treasure chest of profit potential:

  • Selling costs are 70% lower for obtaining additional business from existing customers as opposed to winning business from new customers.
  • Large customers offer multiple opportunities to sell additional divisions, locations, and etcetera with internal references.
  • The prestige of having major "name" customers helps all of your other new and existing customer sales situations.
  • Large customers are typically willing to pay more for your distinctive value.

To effectively harvest the profit potential of large customers, a focused campaign must be established that will require you to know:

  • Your customer's critical success factors
  • How your customer is positioned in their industry
  • The trends of your customer's industry
  • How your product / service provides specific financial benefit to your customer

Of course, a focused campaign requires a lot of hard work. How then, can you know if a major customer program would be worthwhile? Consider the following criteria to determine if you need a Major Customer Program:

  • 20% of our customers produce 80% of our business.
  • Losing one of our large customers would cause us severe pain.
  • We've established a small foothold in some big customer organizations.
  • Our big customers spend less than the industry norm for my kind of product / service.
  • A big customer has been purchased by their big competitor and we could lose their business.

In many of our big customers:

  • Only a small number of our people are in regular contact with the customer.
  • Our sales strategy resides in our sales person's head.
  • High level "executive to executive" contact doesn't exist, or is strictly social in nature.
  • Our business relationship is dependent on just one or two good customer contacts.

If you checked two (or more) of these criteria, your company will profit from implementing an effective major customer program.

To launch a major customer program, you should ensure that your planning includes these four critical elements:

  1. A definition of your distinctive value.
    To clearly establish this value, you will need to understand the impact of your product / service on your customer's customer.
  2. An understanding of the sales role your key executives must play.
    To be effective, your executives must play an active role in the sales campaign and the earlier that they are involved the better! Earlier executive involvement will increase your success rate and shorten the sales cycle!
  3. Tools for planning and communicating a customer strategy.
    "Team to team" selling is inevitably required for major customer programs, necessitating the need for planning tools to ensure the whole team is "on the same page".
  4. A plan to sell to your customer's management group.
    As you raise the level and breadth of your sales campaign, you must deal with differences in behavioral styles, different buying criteria, and conflicting demands.

Of course, you likely can't afford this scale of effort for every major customer. Creating a Profit Rating Profile will help you decide which of your present and prospective customers are worthy of major effort. Criteria that you should include in your Rating Profile are customer sophistication, culture fit, decision location, and, of course, product suitability!

Let's go back and review the key profit potential available from your "crown jewels":

  • Selling costs 70% lower
  • Premium prices for distinctive value
  • Better references

Sure sounds worthwhile!

 

Don Linder, the founder of Major Client Selling, uses structured tools and creative strategies to solve the complex puzzle of selling to big customers. He's the author of "The Seven Deadly Mistakes that Cause You to Lose Large Sales." You can reach Don at don_linder@majorclients.com.

 

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