“Successful relationship selling is not just a list of activity items. It is a thinking person’s occupation, requiring a plan, a process with targets and smart activity, together with integrated skills measured against the only metric that is an indicator of success – The Client Business Plan.”
Joanne Flynn, “ The Relationship Management Model”©
This is the seventh blog in in our Sales & Business Development blog series. In case you missed the other blogs, you can view them here.
We have been discussing Sales and Business Development from a holistic perspective. This holistic perspective starts with:
- Competitive Landscape and Marketing Approach
- Product and How to Differentiate with the Highest Impact
- Activity & Sales Tools / Skills to Navigate through Client Conversations
All three must be part of a robust relationship management process that is critical for sales and business development success. Skip any of the three concepts and you will have built flaws into your business development program. All this information is absolutely necessary to develop the key management tools to monitor and measure success. It all comes together in The Client Business Plan.
Is it Activity or is it Smart Activity?
A big misconception regarding client management is that activity is the measure of sales success. Activity is an easy metric and today there are numerous apps that can monitor that activity. However, the only activity metric that is important is smart activity. The only way to determine and assess smart activity is relative to an evaluation context that determines if each activity is the best use of the salesperson’s time. Only then can we truly evaluate if an activity is a smart activity. The basis of this evaluation is the Client Business Plan.
Activity and the Immediate Gratification Syndrome
Managing client relationships often has nothing to do with the number of face-to-face calls or sent emails that a salesperson makes in a week. The real question is, relative to a specific client relationship, were the right calls made during that week that will move sales targets forward in a ‘process continues’ way. It is very easy for salespeople to be seduced by the activity syndrome. We all are. It is very satisfying, immediate gratification– like crossing off the “C” category items on a ‘To Do List”. But how many times does undifferentiated activity lead nowhere? If we equate activity to time, misplaced activity is a finite time resource that a salesperson:
- Can never get back
- Cannot reallocate to a client for whom that time would have had a meaningful impact
So What’s the Big Deal?
It’s Competitive Warfare Out There! That’s the Big Deal!
In a highly competitive marketplace, a salesperson needs to continually evaluate their use of time as a scare resource. The use of time is a controllable factor. All activity is not equal and all clients are not created equal. Salespeople are in different stages with their ‘Portfolio of Clients” and must adjust and use their time and scarce resources wisely and appropriately.
Below are three examples of clients in different relationship phases. Each phase requires that the salesperson engage in specific Smart Activities in the context of strategic relationship management and the client business plan.
1. Build Phase Clients - For clients in the build phase, you will undoubtedly spend more time than you would like before you see monetary results. It’s easy to attempt to quickly move through this cycle. But this phase requires more time and smart activities for success. Skip the effort you need to put into a build client and see your efforts languish or plateau before this build client ever becomes revenue generating.
2. Maintenance Phase Clients - These are the revenue generating clients. But don’t think they don’t require constant effort from you. Your maintenance clients are always being contacted by your competition. Never assume you are safe. There are key maintenance smart activities that must take place to ensure you maintain this revenue-generating client. You are now the target for your competition. Their job is to displace you.
3. Erosion Phase Clients - Ignore the smart activities during the maintenance phase and you will surely find yourself in erosion. If you find yourself in erosion, and we all do at one time or another, there will be many key smart activities that must take place to reset the relationship back to the maintenance phase. Sometimes erosion is obvious, but other times it is a subtle decline – often easy to miss unless you are measuring results against a client business plan. Ignore erosion at your own peril!
No one said successful selling and business development was easy!
To better understand the importance of the Client Business Plan, I invite you to learn more about our Sales & Business Development program as part of the Phoenix Strategic Performance Institute. This program helps you to strategically align your sales process to accelerate the relationship sales process, creating corporate growth and building strategic value.