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9 keys to landing a key account

Image courtesy of Flickr user Richard-G

No matter what size company a salesperson works for, he or she can land a key account. The key account selling steps outlined below can unlock the mysteries of the key account sale. And if you follow these principles, they will land key accounts. Guaranteed.

What is a key account? Think about the 80/20 principle. These are the 20 percent of customers who can provide 80 percent of your profits. Make no mistake -- there are challenges to landing key accounts. Here's how you can overcome them:

1. Think big. Really big. No, bigger still. Speaking from experience, I know this works. My biggest deal ever was a $400 million contract. Using some of these key account keys, my companies and client companies have closed more than $5 billion in new business. These are deals from $10,000 to over $100,000,000 in size. (Hint: We didn't wait for these mega-deals to just show up at our doorstep.)

2. Know that key accounts don't just happen. Plan to land key accounts, and work the plan. This approach has been used in financial services, manufacturing, construction, distribution, logistics, professional services, and many other industries. Everyone change their vista by changing the deals they pitch and close. To do that -- to set the bar higher in your sales life -- you must have a plan.

3. Go big or go home. Key accounts are not about slow, incremental growth. It's about explosive, major growth through large account sales -- time and time again.

4. Mindset matters. Landing a key account is not a one-trick pony. It's a mindset, a set of principles, and some very effective strategies that you can use repeatedly.

5. Identify your prospects. Do not confuse "key" with big, as in large companies with famous logos. They move slowly. Look for potential key accounts that are off everyone's radar. Trust me, they are out there, plugging away. These companies may not be high-profile, but they have money.

6. Know your prospect's biggest problems. If you haven't done it already, identify who the players are in your marketplace and learn all you can about the issues they are struggling with. Marketplace challenges include economic circumstances, new technology, and regulatory changes. You'll undoubtedly find an emphasis on cutting costs and finding energy alternatives. Whatever the current issues are, you need to know them.

7. Start at the top. Pitch to the highest-ranked people at your prospect's company. You can't land key accounts selling to the same types of people in the same-size companies at the same level of authority. You've already gotten as much out of that approach as you can. Your prospect is higher up the food-chain and has a different problem. You have to think like that prospect thinks if you're going to win a deal.

8. Be a problem-solver. Develop a solution for your prospect's biggest problems. A rule of thumb is to make your solution show an 8-14 percent improvement for your prospect. That may be an improvement in costs, ramp-up time, on-schedule installations, or whatever else is represents a major achievement for your prospect.

9. Prove it. Show them you have what it takes to provide the solution. No posers or wannabes allowed. This will take a team to convince them. As quality guru Edward Deming famously said, "In God we trust. Everyone else must bring data."

Image courtesy of Flickr user Richard-G

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