Is Your Sales Force Ready for an Annual Customer Review Program?

Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are two sides to the Annual Customer Review Program; the internal and the external i.e. customer-facing.  In my previous blog, Drivers of Consistent Program Execution, I reviewed the internal roles for a customer review program.  The Program Manager and the Program Administrators ensure that the right processes and templates are in place for successful execution of an Annual Customer Review meeting.  Your sales force represents the external view of the program; the sales force is responsible for utilizing the processes and templates that have been created for them to deliver Annual Customer Review meetings to their customers.

In order for your sales force to deliver successful Customer Review meetings, you need to determine whether or not your sales force is ready for the program?  The two key areas you will need to asses are customer knowledge and sales skills.

Knowledge

What knowledge does your sales force have today regarding their customer’s business i.e. current challenges, priorities and initiatives?  If an Account Plan or similar document is maintained for your core and most strategic customers in your organization the information can be found within those pages.  When there is little or no knowledge of a customer’s business the sales force will need to obtain that information through thorough discovery sessions with key executives to document each individual’s challenges, priorities and initiatives, as well as the ability to deliver recommendations based on the information gathered.

Skills

Does the sales force have the ability to call on executives and have business level discussions with them?  If they aren’t strong in this area you will need to leverage your sales leaders to provide the coaching and the tactics necessary for their sales team to engage with executives. An example could be utilizing your current customer relationships to get referenced up to an executive who can provide the business insight they are seeking.

Is the sales force focused on selling transactions or do they provide solutions to their customers?  For those organizations that don’t solution sell today the implementation of an Annual Customer Review program can be an accelerator to sales transformation.  The Customer Review document that is created for each customer revolves around the solutions your company can provide to solve your customer’s biggest challenges.  The Customer Review is not an opportunity to sell a specific product.  In my experience this is a significant mind shift for a sales force that is focused on selling transactions and not the customer’s business. 
 
In order to determine whether your sales force is ready you can do little things to gain the insight you need to move forward with your Customer Review program.  A small sampling of the best in class sales representatives through a survey can provide key indicators of gaps in the sales forces knowledge or skills.  Your sales leaders in conjunction with the sales training department are key resources that can provide detailed information on the training that has been delivered to the sales force and their overall opinion on the sales forces readiness.

In my next blog, I have interviewed an executive that leads a $1 billion sales force delivering Annual Customer Reviews.  Learn the challenges they have faced with their program.

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