Neglect is often the root cause of a relationship’s demise, be it with a spouse, friend, employee, or customer. Van Morrison’s song “Have I Told You Lately” is a poignant reminder of the importance of expressing love and appreciation to those we care about.
By asking the question “Have I Told You Lately”, Van is already assuming that he takes the relationship for granted. He is playing catch-up by writing a hit song for his love interest. I hope it wasn’t too late for Van.
When you wake up to an email from your revenue leader informing you that your biggest customer is going away, writing a song will not solve the problem. The ship has sailed and you are left playing defense with not enough players on the field.
Did sales leadership know your business was in jeopardy? Did they forget to tell you? Or did they too take your largest customer for granted?
Have you told your largest customers that you love them lately?
When the pandemic hit, I made it a point to make sure my housecleaners, gardeners, and childcare providers were paid. I forgot about my dry cleaner though.
Pre-Covid, my wife and I were working corporate jobs with daily shirts and suits and sweaters. Our dry clean bill was consistently large.
But Covid meant we just put March’s dry cleaning in the closet for six months.
In August, I finally brought the big bag of clothes to the cleaners. The owner was overwhelmingly happy to see me. We talked about business and she told me how rough the past few months had been. She also told me that we had been her biggest customer.
Me? Really? I initially felt guilty for not thinking to support her during lockdowns. But then my CRO brain took over.
- You know my name.
- You have my mobile number.
- Why did I not know how important I was to your business?
- Why am I learning this after I have been awol for six months?!
- If you would have checked in maybe you could have guilted me into bringing my dry cleaning in faster.
Surprises are bad for business but you should never be surprised when one of your top clients goes away. You need to make sure that you have an accountability process and culture for the top 20% of your clients delivering 80% of your revenue.
Here are 5 best practices for managing your team to optimize your best customers:
- Strive to have a relationship with Senior Leadership. It's not always possible for you to know the CEO, but have you tried? Do you have board positions or advisory councils you can invite them to join? One of my previous companies invited a C-level officer to join the board from a leading global brand in one of our most important categories. That board member became a conduit to all kinds of revenue for the company. Can you contribute or get involved with nonprofits aligned with Senior Leaders?
- Have sales Landscape the business so you can spread your relationship tentacles beyond the buyer and her team. There are hidden troves of money in many companies. Also, if your buyer wins the lotto and quits, it's nice to have a deep internal network.
- Have regular internal idea sessions about how to grow existing customers. The cadence of this is somewhat dependent on the number of accounts you have representing that top 20%, but this kind of constant communication about these important customers is critical.
- Reward and compensate sales for growing large accounts. Growing a $1 million account to $2 million is just as important as developing those same dollars from a new customer.
- Build accountability and expectations around large account management and results. It should be expected from the entire sales team to never be surprised by attrition.
As a leader, strengthening your large account relationships is something you should think about daily. While reacting to the daily work issues that confront us all feels like it takes all of your time, you must set an example for sales and schedule proactive efforts to work on your best customers. Need help figuring out how to make large account growth part of your culture? Talk to us at Mahdlo.