By Guy Aston, Mid-Marketing Director, Huthwaite International

It never surprises us how many people ask for Account Management training, when what they really need is Account Development training. The first question we ask when we hear a request for the former is, "What is it you are trying to achieve?" The answer is invariably that they want to get more revenue from the account; in effect, they want to develop the account and grow their share of the customer's wallet.

This can prove difficult for many sellers. The initial contact with the account was probably a reactive one when the customer contacted them and asked for a proposal, or issued a tender. If they are to develop the account, they must now take a proactive stance, creating customer value for further business. This is clearly a case for Huthwaite International’s persuasive SPIN® skills mentioned in earlier articles, but there is more to consider.

The potential new opportunity may be outside the remit of all the seller’s current contacts, so the seller not only has to be proactive, but with a new set of contacts – this is certainly not the same as responding to warm enquiries. Therefore, having persuasive skills is useful, but how does the seller physically get to apply them to the right people?

The seller’s first port of call should be to the Focus of Receptivity (FoR). This person will give the seller intelligence about who to approach and also give them background information. They could be one of your existing contacts, but is more likely to be a referral from one of your old contacts; "I'll give my opposite number in Manchester a call, I am sure she'll give you half an hour or so." Sometimes it can be an old contact from a previous company. Or, as previously mentioned, it could be a matter of getting in touch with someone completely new.

To sell to the FoR would be a mistake; they are there to give the seller information and, in the purest sense, do not have a role in making the decision. Most importantly, what the seller gets from FoR is to know who has the problems, for they will be the next port of call.

These people we label as the Focus of Dissatisfaction (FoD). This is the first group to influence, as these are the people who have the problems the seller can solve. It is the FoD that can give the seller the case for change and indeed the value of any solution. They can enable the seller to construct the persuasive case. Whilst the problems these people have will be addressed by the seller’s solutions, it is also smart to explore the overall effect of the problems on the organisation. This helps to build a business case and if the problems are affecting the business, then won't your solutions also benefit the business? The seller should understand these people well before finally moving on to the real decision makers. If they have explored the business impact of the FoD’s problems, then dealing with the next port of call, the decision makers, will be easier for them.

When dealing with the people who can authorise a contract, you are interfacing with the Focus of Power (FoP). The seller should have a well-constructed and sound business case to present at this stage, demonstrating knowledge of the problems and how they affect individuals, departments and ultimately the company. Details of the technology are seldom requested at this level, these people wish to know how the business will benefit.

Sometimes the seller simply cannot get in front of the FoP. If this happens, the work the seller does with the FoD becomes even more important, enabling them to present a business case by way of proposal or informal document, ensuring it has impact when read by the FoP.

Lastly, you may find individuals can play more than one role. In a small organisation, an MD may call you in and be all three foci. A sympathetic problem owner may well play the roles of FoR and FoD, acting as your sponsor for the business. So never forget, it is not the job title but the role the title holder plays that is all-important.

For more information on Huthwaite services visit www.huthwaite.co.uk

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