customer attention

Goodbye Sales, Hello Relationships

By C.J. Hayden, Author, Get Clients NOW

How many times today has someone tried to sell you something? Sales messages arrive by e-mail, postal mail, fax, radio, magazines, newspapers, TV, and your web browser; salespeople write you, call you, and approach you in the store or showroom. Are you even listening any more? How often do you actually buy something because someone you didn’t know tried to sell it to you?

Your customers are just like you. They are not only tired of being sold to, most of the time they don’t even see or hear it. Overwhelmed with communications, they tune out the vast majority of the sales messages they are presented with just in order to get through their day. Recently, after attending a race plastered with Coca-Cola logos, a survey revealed that only a third of the attendees could remember who the sponsor was.

Sales and marketing experts are calling this the Spam effect. With so many communications arriving all the time, your customers are filtering out all but the most essential information they receive not just via the Internet, but by mail and phone as well. If they don’t know who you are, you don’t get through. More than ever before, customers want to do business only with people they already know, like, and trust.

Relationship Selling What’s a salesperson to do? The answer lies not in trying harder to sell the old way, but in changing the way you sell. Relationship selling, simply put, is translating all the effort you currently give to selling into building relationships with people instead. Once enough people in your marketplace know, like, and trust you, sales are the natural result.

Building relationships is something we humans do naturally. We talk on the phone, have coffee or lunch, and work or play together. When you need to make a purchase, you call someone you know. If you don’t know anyone who offers that product or service, you ask the people you do know. That’s how most business actually happens.

The goal of relationship selling is to know a large enough pool of people so that all the sales you need come to you, instead of you having to go out and find them.

Here are the five requirements to make relationship-selling work:

a) You have to like the people you want to sell to. You need to truly enjoy their company — this isn’t something you can fake.
b) You must care about their problems, so when you tell them how your product will solve those problems, you are helping them, not selling to them.
c) You have to believe in your product or service 100%. You want your customers to trust you, so that means you have to be honest with them.
d) You must be patient. Relationships take time to grow, and can’t be rushed. You will make sales by building relationships, but you won’t get it tomorrow.

You need to have a plan. Building the right relationships won’t happen by accident.

If the idea of relationship selling appeals to you, but you don’t meet the first three requirements, there’s only one way to solve the problem. You need to find a different target market, or a different product to sell. Relationship selling is based on authenticity, genuine concern, and honesty. It’s not a sales technique that can be simulated without possessing those basic qualities.

Who to Relate to The starting point for relationship selling is building a pool of contacts with which you can exchange referrals, introductions, connections, and information. Here are some categories of individuals who should be in your contact pool:

a) Customers – You already look to them for referrals, but if you get to know your existing customers better, you may also uncover additional needs they have that your company could fill.
b) People in your target market – They are not just potential sources of business, but also can be excellent referral sources once they learn to trust you.
c) Others who serve your market – People who provide any sort of product or service to your potential customers. They can uncover needs for you with their clients or send you referrals.
d) Colleagues and competitors – The more people in your own line of business you know, the more information you can lay your hands on, making you a more valuable resource to your prospects.
e) Other salespeople – No matter what they sell or who they sell to, other salespeople understand the value of referrals. They’re used to exchanging leads and information, and know the payoff of keeping in touch over time.
f) High-profile organizations – Building relationships here can send you highly-qualified referrals. When someone at a university or professional association recommends you, your credibility has already been established.
g) Champions – These are the people in your personal booster club, who tell everyone how great you are. They may never have been customers; they just recommend you whenever they can.
h) Centers of influence – They are the folks who seem to know everybody, and because they have that reputation, people call them when they need a recommendation. You want your name to be in their database.

Begin by organizing all of your existing contacts in any of the above categories in your contact management system. Don’t stop with your customer list — use your personal address book, holiday card list, alumni directory, membership rosters, and all the business cards you’ve thrown in a drawer. Your goal is to compile a list of people who already know your name. Be sure to include personal acquaintances and relatives as well as business contacts.

Then choose from your pool of contacts a group of people to start building stronger relationships with. The number can be as few as 30 or as many as 300 depending on your personal bandwidth. Don’t worry if you can’t yet see how your contacts will turn into sales. People who fit into any of the categories described above are excellent candidates to either become customers or refer them.

Start to Relate Make a phone call or drop a note to each person on your list. Your aim is not to sell them anything or even to ask for referrals, but for the two of you to get to know each other better. Your relationship should be based on reciprocity. An excellent approach is to tell your contacts you want to expand your business network and you would like for them to be in it. Ask them what they need right now in their business or career, and listen carefully for how you can help them find it. A basic principle of relationship selling is giving before you get.

When a contact needs referrals, look elsewhere in your contact pool for people who might become a customer or be able to refer one. If a contact is looking for a new job, give him or her three names of people you know who might have job leads. Help your contacts solve problems in their businesses, by providing information, suggesting resources, or making connections between them and others who might have ideas.

Make it a habit to keep track of industry leaders, trade events, and new developments in your field, and routinely share that information with others. If you can become a trusted resource for leads and information in your industry or geographic area, doors you used to have trouble getting your foot in will start opening for you.

That’s the giving part. The getting part works best when you ask your contacts not, “Who do you know that would like to do business with me?” but instead, “Who else do you think would be a good person for me to get to know?” Keep the focus on building your network instead of your business. Of course, in the context of getting to know each other better, you will be telling your contacts more about the products and services you sell. But now that conversation will be happening naturally instead of being a sales pitch.

How it Works This process of building relationships may sound a bit imprecise. But in fact, it can be done quite systematically. Kelly, sales representative for an accounting system, was given a Northern California territory. First, she started identifying which companies in her territory could potentially become customers, based on the number of employees they had. Her intent was to eventually have a complete list of every prospective customer in her territory.

As Kelly added each company to her list, she found out the name of their CFO. Then she looked for ways to eventually meet that CFO through her contact pool. Could someone she knew introduce her? Did the CFO belong to an association where they might meet? Who in her network could give her more information about that CFO to help make a connection? Kelly sought out how to make personal contact with each CFO, not to sell to them but to get to know them.

After Kelly had managed to connect with a CFO through her relationship network, she kept in touch at least once per quarter through a wide variety of means. She invited CFO’s to coffee and lunch, chatted with them on the phone, sent them articles and white papers through the mail, invited them to attend industry events, mailed congratulations when the CFO was in the news, and more.

Kelly always had a new tidbit of industry news to share when she got in touch. In every approach, she tried to let the CFO’s know that she was available to serve as a resource for them in any way possible. Not every CFO was responsive to Kelly’s relationship-building efforts, but enough of them were that she got to know some of them quite well. Over time, they all got to know her name.

As a result of Kelly’s relationship building, her customer base increased exponentially. She was in contact with so many people in her target market who considered her a trusted resource that it would have been almost impossible for a company to consider an accounting system implementation without her name coming up first. And the best thing about her method of selling was that people welcomed her phone calls instead of avoiding them.

Keep it Going How you decide to build stronger relationships will depend on the type of person you are and who you are making contact with. Some people you might call for lunch twice a year, others you could chat with on the phone occasionally, and still others you may send an article or announcement to every month or two. However you approach it, any salesperson can reap the rewards of relationship selling by remembering to serve as a resource, strive for reciprocity, and give people reasons to get to know you better.

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David Versus Goliath: How Start-ups Can Defeat The Gorillas In Their Marketspace

By Steve Martin, Author, “Heavy Hitter Selling – How Successful Salespeople Use Language and Intuition to Persuade Customers to Buy”

Cisco is one of the most recognized high technology companies around the world. With annual sales just under $20 billion, Cisco is the gorilla of the networking communications marketspace. Beating the gorilla is a formidable challenge for any start-up. However, privately funded Veraz Networks did just that at Transcom, one of the world’s largest wholesales voice over IP carriers. In a deal valued at $10 million, it was recently announced that Transcom would be using Veraz Network’s gear to replace all of their installed Cisco gateways.

How did they beat the Cisco– the gorilla?

The answer may actually surprise you.

Most people assume that business is based solely on logic. After all, the high-tech industry is comprised of learned people with advanced degrees in the sciences of computers, math, engineering, and business. Therefore, we logically assume we are dealing with rational decision-makers. As a result, we focus on the logical and procedural aspects of the sales cycle. We prospect for customers, qualify the opportunity, explain the merits of our solution, and hopefully, negotiate a purchase.

The majority of the discussions we have with potential customers are based on the rationale behind the selection of our products. We offer facts, features, specifications, performance metrics, ROI’s, and business benefits. And, our sales process is oriented around the communication of this information. Unfortunately, our competition offers equally compelling reasons and statistics. In fact, the confusion this creates many times leads to customer paralysis and decision postponement (another feared competitor).

Undoubtedly, Veraz Networks does have a great product, but so does Cisco. And as you already know, offering a better mousetrap doesn’t automatically generate sales anyway. The key reason why Veraz Networks won, was because Cisco lost. Cisco lost the relationship with their customer, while Veraz Networks successfully built theirs. As Chad Frazier, President of Transcom, said, “Cisco promised us this and that, but I couldn’t in good conscience go down that road.”

The “real” sales process is the process of building a relationship with the customer. However, the entire high-tech industry is predominantly focused on technical arguments when there is very little product differentiation in the customer’s eyes. As an industry, we have become enamored with the technical mantras provided by our marketing departments. While they are important, there is an entirely intangible human side to the sales process that is actually responsible for the decision made. It is the art of mastering the human nature of high-tech selling that is the real difference between the winner and losers. In essence, it is the sales team that builds the greatest customer rapport and the strongest personal relationships that will command the day.

Three attributes are at the foundation of building the winning customer relationships. First, you need to speak each customer’s unique language. Successful communication is the key to all relationships. Second, you must create an unbreakable bond between individuals. You accomplish this by understanding their personal needs, wants, and motivations. Finally, you must convince the “entire” person to buy. You need to persuade both the logical conscious mind and emotional subconscious mind. Let’s review each of these attributes further.

Speak Each Customer’s Unique Language
Salespeople create a relationship between companies based upon the process of communication between people. This process is very complex. However, since we naturally communicate all the time, we underestimate the complexity of communication and take the process for granted. We tend to ignore the subtleties and for the most part become preoccupied with our side of the conversation.

Most people recognize someone’s spoken words as the most significant element of communication. However, this represents only a fraction of the communication process. The language a person uses is composed of both verbal and nonverbal communication and occurs in layers. It is through the use of this “whole” language that we express our needs, wants, and desires to the outside world. By comparing how computers speak to one another with how people communicate with each other, we can begin to understand the multiple dimensions of information that are constantly being transmitted.

Computers connect to one another via established standards. Standards are required because the wide range of computer manufacturers use a diverse set of operating systems (Unix, NT, Linux and so on). Within the computer communication model, layers of functionality are needed to have one computer “talk” with another. Once these layers are in place, information can be sent from one machine and the exact information will be received and deciphered by another machine.

Meanwhile, the human communication process is much more sophisticated and much more efficient. Unlike computers, we are able to bypass layers of communication. We can abbreviate thoughts while still preserving the original message. Humans also have the flexibility to send the same message structure with distinctly different meanings. Take the following example:

  • Mary, could you please send the report.
  • Mary, could you PLEASE send the report.
  • MARY, COULD YOU PLEASE SEND THE REPORT!

All these sentences use the same words but result in very different interpretations. When Mary reads the first sentence, she will feel a low sense of urgency and receive no indication of any unhappiness that the report has not been sent. The other sentences imply a different sense of urgency, and even discontent, that the report hasn’t been sent.

People, like computers, also have layers of communication called the Human Communication Model. However, these layers are much more flexible and can be combined in many different ways. Layers can be entirely eliminated or they can be fused together to form entirely new meanings. The layers of the human communication model are defined below.

Phonetics- The phonetic layer is the enunciation of the actual words we have strung together in the form of a sentence. This layer can alter the meaning of the sentence to convey a completely new and/or sometimes opposite meaning. For example, let’s say I tell my wife, “Your hair looks great,” but my voice trails off at the end of the sentence. She would immediately be concerned that her hair does not look good. Phonetics are both consciously and subconsciously applied. They are typically not recognized as part of the communication event except when it becomes so obvious that it changes or contradicts the meaning of the words spoken.

Content- The content layer is what most salespeople think of and listen to when they are having a customer discussion. However, people usually assume the content words they are using have the same meaning to everyone. People have their own personal dictionary or lexicon of words. In fact, the average person’s vocabulary is about fifty thousand words. However, the definitions or semantics of the words vary between people. Ascertaining the correct meaning people are actually trying to communicate by the words they select, the order of the words, and the way they are said is necessary for proper decoding of the customer’s message. Does the customer’s dictionary definition of a particular word match mine?

Purpose-The third layer is the “purpose” of communication. Words are assembled together to communicate an ideal or experience. Every sentence of every conversation between customers and salespeople are purpose driven. One way to think of this is that they both have an ulterior motive for everything they say. Of course, you and I have been communicating with selfish interests all of our lives.

Neroulinguistics- Although it weighs only three pounds, our brain is infinitely more complex than any computer. The brain has an incredible capacity to sort, prioritize, and process information. We organize our world according to the information received by our senses (sight, sound, and touch), and we use language as the method to describe what we have experienced. The language we use is dependent upon an individual’s unique wiring of the brain. Neurolinguistics is the study of how brain interprets and uses language. Great benefits in communication are gained if you understand your customer’s neurolinguistic wiring and adjust “your” communication style to fit “their” world.

Internal Dialogue- Every waking hour, a stream of communication is going on inside your mind. You are always talking to yourself. This conversation is an unedited, honest discussion that represents your deepest feelings. This is the fifth layer of the human communication model – the “internal dialogue layer” or the “internal dialogue.” Usually, the customer’s external words being spoken are a subset of the internal dialogue. In between, is an editing process to filter the precise answer. Salespeople want to hear the truth from the Internal Dialogue.

 

“Understanding why and how something is said is usually more important and revealing than what is actually said.”
Physical- Everyone is well aware of the final layer of human communication model, the “physical layer,” also known as body language. Body language is unique in that it is a three-dimensional language. Body language can be very subtle or more powerful than the actual words being spoken. When taken in conjunction with the other layers of the human communication model, body language plays an important role.

Unlike the layers in the computer communication model which are structured like a building with floors on top of another, the Human Communication Model layers are more like piano keys. All the keys may be pressed at one time or only certain keys may be pressed. Different sounds, or meanings, are created by pressing particular keys together in patterns or repetition. Piano keys may be depressed harshly or softly, just as communication may be explicit or subtle. The combination of keys may result in a soothing melody that the customer wants to hear over and over or just noise.

Bond with Customers by Understanding their Thought Process, motivations, and Personality
During the early `90s, the term “win-win relationship” was being used everywhere to explain how to successfully negotiate your position while still enabling the other party to achieve its goal. However, the concept of win-win relationships does not go far enough in understanding human relationships. Relationships are created when people share the same activities or when they are motivated to achieve the same goals. Goals can be defined into very personal prioritized desires, called “benefactions,” where there is a personal benefit from taking an action. The salesperson’s goal is to understand the benefactions of each member of the selection team.

The dictionary definition of Benefaction is, “The act of doing good or helping others, especially by giving money.” Clearly, all salespeople want the customer to feel good about giving them money when they buy their product. Nonetheless, the true definition is more intricate: “To derive an advantage that contributes to one’s well-being, such as happiness, esteem, power, or wealth, that results in influencing the way the person behaves during the sales cycle.”

A benefaction is something strongly desired, defined in a personal expression that is important to you. Each decision-maker has a very private and personal benefaction. For instance, the manager of the department may view the cost savings of implementing the product as the main goal. His benefaction may be being rewarded with a bonus for reducing the department’s expense structure (which he will use to buy the new car he or she wants). The person in charge of implementing the solution may view manageability as the goal. Since he will have to devote less time to managing the new product than the current one, his benefaction may be to have more time to spend on the projects he enjoys (or less time at work and more time at home with his or her family).

Your conscious mind is obsessed with benefactions. The most vital benefactions are driven by your physical well-being. If you are hungry at the moment, you may have difficulty concentrating on reading these words. If you haven’t eaten for the past twenty-four hours, you would definitely be more interested in food than any concepts on these pages. The conscious mind is fixated with the avoidance of pain, the preservation of self, and self-gratification.

“A unique and unbreakable relationship is created when the salesperson helps the customer achieve personal benefactions.”
The conscious mind is on a mission to satisfy the most urgent benefactions first. As a result, it will instruct the senses to collect the relevant data needed to accomplish this urgent sortie. However, one of the primary differences between most salespeople and Heavy Hitters (extremely successful salespeople) are the amount and range of data that is collected by the senses. Heavy Hitters gather data from all levels of the human communication model. Armed with this information, they are better able to determine their course of action based upon the data they have collected and past comparable experiences. By doing this, they can determine the sales strategy that offers the highest probability of winning. This process is most commonly referred to as “sales intuition.”

Most likely, the Heavy Hitter’s process of assimilating all these data points is not formalized. Rather, it is both a conscious and subconscious process. Although the subconscious mind is not actively assertive, it is always vigilant and capable of influencing actions. The ability to effectively send and receive information from each layer of the human communication model is a critical component for developing sales intuition. While it is easy to recognize the communication being sent consciously, the subconscious information being sent is just as expressive, but much harder to recognize and interpret. It is important to realize that the subconscious and conscious are communicating at all times, internally within the self and externally to others.

Persuade Both the Rational Intellect and Emotional Subconscious to Buy
Whatever your age and experience in life, you have already mastered how to use language. As a child, you learned the complex process of conveying your thoughts, how to tell the truth, and how to lie. You have become an expert on the nuances of how to say something with maximum impact, and understand, that sometimes what’s important isn’t necessarily what you say as much as how it is said. You already know how to create a message with a clear and a compelling sense of urgency.

However, truly great salespeople amplify their use of language by adding an additional dimension of meaning and structure within their usual conversations with the customers. By doing so, they instill their suggestions into the customer’s thought process with what seems like telepathy. The common term for this is “persuasion.” Persuasion is not solely a recital of logical arguments or factual information to a customer. Instead, it is process of projecting your entire “beliefs and convictions” on another human being. That’s why the founder of the start-up is usually the most important salesperson in the company– because he or she truly believes!

Benefactions affect your conscious activities as well as your subconscious mind. The conscious mind is obsessed with action and tactics to achieve benefactions. Meanwhile, the subconscious mind is constantly sensing and filtering additional data that may be necessary in the future.

In computer terms, the conscious mind is like a point-to-point model. For example, a salesperson wants to check e-mail while traveling on the road. Using his laptop, he makes a dial-up connection to the host computer. His only concern is to get his e-mail, and once he checks it, he drops the phone line. This point-to-point connection is similar to the conscious mind focused on a specific benefaction.

The subconscious mind is more like a broadband connection that is always on, such as a cable modem. The modem has a wider “band” of data and processes at a higher speed than a dial-up connection. The modem is always on, always receiving information. In the e-mail example, the salesperson is always receiving e-mail in real time. He or she doesn’t have to dial-up a connection.

The subconscious mind retains information that the conscious mind doesn’t. It simply isn’t efficient to store everything in your conscious mind. Remember the last time you misplaced an important item (your keys, wallet, glasses)? At first, you employed a conscious strategy to find it. You may have thought about where you had recently been and gone back to those locations. If you didn’t find the item, hours, days, or weeks may have gone by. Then suddenly, without specifically thinking about it, suddenly you knew exactly where it was. Your subconscious mind found it. In the same way, when your prospective customers say, “Let me sleep on it,” they are actually saying, “Let me see if my subconscious mind has any objections, since it has some additional information that I don’t have right now.”

“Since most salespeople find the human element of selling to be more complex, unpredictable, and difficult to manage, they don’t fully take advantage of customer behavior or they misinterpret and ignore it.”
The customer’s conscious mind acts like an emotion suppressing system. It is full of doubt, cynicism, and distrust. It is the cautious skeptic that is continually protecting the buyer from making bad choices or forming ill-advised relationships. Therefore, even truthful, helpful information that is presented in the customer’s best interest tends to be discounted or ignored.

In every conversation, both conscious and subconscious communication is being transmitted, assessed, and cataloged by each participant. And, each layer of the human communication model is capable of sending observable (conscious) and unobservable (subconscious) messages simultaneously. Although each listener can only receive a finite amount of information at any one time, very little of the information that is transmitted across all layers is lost. What isn’t consciously received is processed subconsciously.

CONCLUSION
Relationships are expensive and they involve investments of valuable time. Customers have to spend time to determine whether a product’s characteristics are as they have been represented. They have to spend time evaluating other suitors to determine whether they are picking the best possible partner to solve their company’s business problem. They will have to spend time learning to use the new products they select, implementing them, and most likely, debugging or fixing product problems.

These relationships also cost money. The customers will have to acquire the technology and pay ongoing maintenance fees to keep the technology current. They may have to pay for professional services or hire additional staff to help implement the solution. And they may need to buy additional technology in order to make the solution work.

Building relationships requires rapport. Building rapport requires the complex process of human communication. Unfortunately, many high technology companies today are making two common mistakes. First, the majority of sales training time is spent only on memorizing logical facts about their company, product, and competitors. Little or no training is given on communication skills.

The second mistake is made during the hiring process. Most companies make previous experience in the same industry their main criterion for hiring. Since experienced people command the logical facts, they are assumed to be qualified candidates. A more important hiring criterion is a person’s communication skills, mental agility, and the ability to build relationships. In other words, how quick-witted or fast on their feet are they, are they able to solve complex problems real-time, and whether or not you enjoy their company.

If you are in sales, you make your living by talking. If you were a pilot, you would attend years of flight training school and many hours of simulator training before you were allowed in the cockpit of a jumbo jet. If you were a lawyer, you would intensely study the law for several years and have to pass your state’s bar exam to ensure your proficiency. If you are in sales, you need to understand the use and interpretation of language. You need to understand the process of communication and how it determines the level of rapport that is established between people. You must be able to adapt your use of language to a customer’s thought process and personality. Language can be directly linked to a person’s behavior. It can be deciphered to predict future behavior, and truthfulness or used proactively to influence a person’s thinking or opinions.

The Team with the Thinnest Play Book Wins the Super Bowl

By Steve Kraner, TopLine Solutions, Inc.

The Challenge
A client expressed frustration about the fact that they had some customers who complained about product problems. Yet other clients, who used the same series of products, had no complaints. Why the difference?

One Answer
As I was considering the possible answers to this riddle, I sat on a plane beside a self-described ‘CEO Consultant.’ He showed me an article he was writing on ‘Why CEO’s Fail’ – which I subsequently saw published – based on researching about 30 CEO’s who had failed in the last 10 years. One of the most persuasive things he said was that once a failed CEO resigned, many of the organizations quickly rebounded under a new CEO. It would seem the CEO was the difference.

Why CEO’s Fail
The consultant’s study of this phenomena lead him to a fairly simple conclusion. CEO’s don’t fail due to lack of strategy or a grand vision. They fail in execution: the mundane day-to-day details of how to get it done.

You are the CEO of Your Territory
The same is true of sales professionals and their account relationships. I was recently doing interviews for a client to determine why some customers had defected to the competition and others hadn’t. Many of the sales people at the company made reference to prior problems with the product. My investigation showed the only correlating variable to be (can you guess?) – the account manager. The difference between an account set with no history of product problems and those with enough dissatisfaction that they had gone over to the competition was – not the problems – but how the rep had handled the problems – the mundane details of account management.

Continuous contact, including contact after the sale:
1. Ensures satisfaction – the sale is done when the customer’s pain is gone.
2. Gives you the chance to address problems as they arise.
3. Provides warning of competitive attempts to penetrate.
4. Helps you find new opportunities.
5. Lets you take advantage of windows of opportunity, when the competition is vulnerable to displacement due to dissatisfaction.

Digging a Hole with a Bowling Ball
Why isn’t it done more often? The most common thing I hear is, “I don’t have time. I have to make this month’s number.” It’s the same reason people don’t exercise. It’s a false economy of time. It makes selling as hard as digging a hole with a bowling ball.

Here’s How to Make it Work
Triage your accounts into A, B, and C customers. I suggest using an estimate of potential lifetime value as the basis of the triage. The top 20% are “A’s” – the middle 60% are “B’s” – the bottom 20% are “C’s.” Then develop a contact plan for each tier – and put it on your calendar to do.

Dig Your Well before You’re Thirsty
A’s – Meet or call your main contact at least monthly. But don’t let a key account relationship dangle by the thread of a single relationship. Set goals to expand your contacts both vertically and horizontally. Map the account. Get an organization chart and put it on the wall. Highlight who you know in green. Pick new people to meet – especially senior people in new departments or divisions – use gold to highlight these people. Initiate and maintain executive relationships a level or two above your current contact level. Develop a personal plan to increase your value as a trusted advisor to these senior people. Read their trade press – know something about their business. Read their Annual Reports – know their company. Go to Google and search on their names – you’ll find most senior people on the Web – know them. In the end you should have breadth and depth in your personal relationships in the account and you should engineer relationships between your technical people and theirs and between your executives and theirs.

B’s – Meet or call your main contact at least quarterly. Develop one new contact in another functional area this quarter. If you call mainly on IT, then develop a contact in another department. Also set a goal to make a contact at least one level higher than your current contact.

C’s – I suggest taking a good look at these customers. As tough as it might sound, it’s often best to either fire them (burning bridges isn’t necessary or desired) or promote them to the next level.

The best reps learn there’s no use winning new accounts if you don’t retain them. They know they have to wisely spread their available time and attention across both new accounts and existing customers.

I think this is what Vince Lombardi meant when he said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He was often chastised in the NFL for having a thin playbook. He wasn’t considered very creative. But he won.

Maintain a relentless focus on the fundamentals and a maniacal focus on the customer.