What to do When Top Management Gets Involved with Your Customers
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In our latest Leader’s Digest blog, our Chief Sales Officer Scott Stiver explored the impact that top management can have on the sales process and how their involvement can be the deciding factor between sealing a lucrative deal or losing a valuable opportunity.

This got me thinking – As sales professionals, it can be quite challenging when top management/senior executives (or even your boss!) become involved in your customer interactions. And chances are, if you have spent enough time in sales, you have witnessed or can personally relate to all the types of involvement shared below. Here are some expert tips on handling situations when top management gets involved in the sales process with your customers.

 

2021 article released by Harvard Business Review (HBR), based on a six-year study, identified five distinct roles of involvement exhibited by senior executives when dealing with strategic customers.

The Five Types of Involvement

Hands-off or “not my problem”: This policy was adopted by 28% of senior executives in the study. They take a completely hands-off approach and refrain from getting involved in any capacity.

How to handle this type of involvement (or lack thereof!):

While senior executives may be hands-off, collaborating with other departments, such as marketing, operations, or customer service, can be beneficial. By building relationships and working closely with these teams, you can leverage their expertise and resources to enhance your sales process and improve customer satisfaction.

You can also lean on experienced colleagues to gain insights, share best practices, and seek advice when needed. Building strong relationships can help compensate for the lack of involvement from top management.

With a hands-off policy, developing strong self-management skills is crucial. This includes setting goals, managing your time effectively, prioritizing tasks, and staying organized. By taking control of your workflow, you can ensure the sales process progresses smoothly and achieve your targets.

 

 

Loose cannons: This approach was taken by 21% of senior executives in the study. They meet with key customers without seeking background information and are unfamiliar with the challenges faced by the customer. Additionally, the account manager may not even be aware that the meeting is taking place.

How to handle this type of involvement:

Before any meetings between top management and key customers, take the initiative to prepare detailed customer briefs. Include information about the customer’s business, challenges, goals, and any ongoing projects or initiatives. Provide insights into their industry trends and competitive landscape. This will ensure that your senior executives have the necessary background information to engage meaningfully with the customer.

In our Dimensions of Professional Selling® sales training program, we utilize and encourage the development of Strategic Selling Plans. Our Strategic Selling Plans allow for a comprehensive and structured approach that outlines the actions necessary to achieve sales objectives. Our Strategic Selling Plans outline competitive influence, decision influencers, problems, opportunities, objectives, strategies, and action steps. They act as a roadmap to guide activities and interactions with customers and are a great tool to utilize if senior executives take this loose cannon approach.

 

 

Social visitors: This category comprises 19% of the executives in the study. Social visitors focus on building trust and relationships rather than generating revenue. They engage in social interactions but rarely delve into substantive discussions about business.

How to handle this type of involvement:

Take the time to understand your senior executive’s rationale for prioritizing trust and relationships. Building strong customer relationships can indeed lead to long-term revenue growth and customer loyalty. Try to see the value in their approach and how it aligns with the company’s overall strategy.

Look for opportunities to foster relationships while focusing on closing deals, upselling, or cross-selling. Seek ways to demonstrate that revenue generation and relationship-building can go hand in hand.

Continue to understand the needs and pain points of your customers. By identifying and addressing their challenges, you can build trust while also positioning yourself as a valuable problem solver. Communicate the value of your products or services in addressing those needs, which can ultimately lead to revenue generation.

 

 

Dealmakers: The opposite of social visitors, 18% of executives in the study fall into this category. Dealmakers engage with customers when significant revenue opportunities arise, without much concern for building relationships.

How to handle this type of involvement:

Propose ideas or strategies that combine both relationship-building and revenue generation. For example, implement customer loyalty programs, conduct upselling or cross-selling campaigns to existing customers, or find ways to increase customer engagement while also driving sales. Present these suggestions in a well-thought-out and data-driven manner to support your case.

Seek professional development opportunities and enhance your relationship-building and customer engagement skills. Attend workshops or training sessions that focus on customer relationship management, communication, and negotiation skills. By improving your own abilities in these areas, you can demonstrate their effectiveness and potentially influence their perspective.

 

 

Growth champions: Only 14% of executives in the study fell into this category. Growth champions focus sharply on both revenue and relationship building. They exhibit productive customer-facing behavior and excel in strategic customer relationship building, leading to high returns in revenue and profits through extensive engagement and in-depth business discussions. Although growth champions are rare, they are the most effective type of leader in most sales situations.

How to handle this type of involvement:

Your senior executives are doing things right! This presents an excellent opportunity for learning and improvement.

During these customer-facing interactions, make sure to observe body language, tone of voice, and communication style. Be an active listener and take notes on the questions asked, the information shared, and the overall flow of the conversation.

Seek feedback and express your interest in learning from their expertise. Ask them for their perspective on the customer interaction and encourage them to provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Consider establishing mentoring relationships where senior executives can provide guidance, share experiences, and offer advice.

Regularly review and assess your own customer engagement skills and identify areas for improvement. Set personal goals and action plans to enhance your abilities based on the lessons learned from positive interactions between your customers and senior executives.

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