I loved going to renewal accounts. We all “inherit” them as part of the “base” that companies start us off with, in the hopes that we will acquire new customers and build on this account base. As a newbie salesperson, you hope that you don’t encounter an earful about the “last rep” and the “lousy service” when you make that initial appointment with renewal accounts.
I think that’s why so many salespeople hold off visiting renewals until the red light is flashing and they are down to the deadline for renewal. They don’t want to deal with the past history of the account.
Account history for renewal accounts is one of the first things I investigated when taking over a new territory. It represents the largest opportunity for growth and new product and service sales – if done correctly. During the economic meltdown of 2008, companies who focused predominantly on new customer acquisition – rather than building a solid base of loyal and retained customers – found themselves on the outside, looking in.
When calling on a renewal account, you are almost always guaranteed that initial appointment, even if it is a complaint session and the only appointment you get. Because the customer at least knows your company, even if they don’t know you. And they have something to say. Do you know how many customer touches it takes to get a face-to-face with a new business prospect? Treat this conversation as manna from heaven.
Here are six strategies to apply to your renewal accounts.
1. Determine if you can leverage your company’s reputation. You may find out the company you are working for really doesn’t have as prestigious a reputation as they led you to believe. Your base account mix may represent one rep’s efforts or come from a number of former and current reps who turned in their accounts. Regardless, renewal accounts are a great basis for reputation marketing research on “the way things are” in your territory.
2. Customers don’t buy your company. They buy you. Your service quality delivery can positively impact customer perception, regardless of whether you can leverage your company’s marketplace image. What is the type of service quality you plan on delivering, consistently, across all types of customers regardless of the size of the account? Are you a trusted advisor and strategist, a sell-and-flee artist, or an order-taker? Your choice. What’s it gonna be? I know what my choice would be.
3. Disassociate yourself from negative baggage associated with prior reps. Alternatively, build on what the prior rep did well, if you are able. Do your renewal customers tell you “your company is like a revolving door when it comes to reps, a new one every couple months or so”? That’s an opportunity, once again, to demonstrate what you will bring to their table. Differentiate yourself as a trusted advisor and strategist. Build your personal brand based on service quality delivery. Move renewal accounts off their status quo bias of stereotypic selling.
4. Treat this renewal discussion as a new customer acquisition dialogue. You’ll be differentiating yourself from that former rep from the git-go, without having to bring their behavior into your dialogue.When it comes down to it, all customer dialogues should be treated as an opportunity for new business acquisition, including renewals.
5. Identify the strategic opportunities. The initial objective may be to win trust to renew the product or service agreement at the current amount for another year. Also start to identify new directions in which the company can diversify. Your customers are always looking to expand their customer base and industry segmentation. Bring high level insight into the discussion, based on your having done your homework before you went to this renewal appointment. Your research and pre-call prep will make customers regard you with “new eyes and ears,” compared to the “former” rep, the competitor’s rep, and your company’s reputation in the industry.
6. Go for the Year 2 pivot. By focusing on the customer and providing relevant insight for their business development, you should be able to add-on products and services and grow your account. Year 2 renewal will pivot this former “renewal” status quo house account into your strategic account. You will earn a customer who values your services and insight, and utilizes your products to their full potential. You will gain their loyalty.
Good selling! Let me know how things go.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, is the catalyst for your business transition, startup growth and professional development. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers & Bloggers, 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on breakthrough business collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.