Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

When I was growing up, a popular TV public service announcement directed at parents used to say, “It’s 10 pm, do you know where your children are?” For conscientious parents, that reminder was unnecessary. But it was running because there were a lot of parents who apparently couldn’t answer that question.

In today’s blog, I’m asking the question, “Accounts are vulnerable. Do you know where the decisionmakers in your existing accounts are?” Conscientious teams develop detailed account plans and carefully build relationships with members of the decision team at each account. But, the reason I’m asking the question is because all teams aren’t that conscientious. In some cases they are resource constrained and in other cases the recession environment has simply burned people out.

There are predictable behavior patterns with changes in economic cycles. Two to watch are job hopping and supply base rationalization. Decision teams are changing. New people are coming on board and old people are leaving. Conscientious sales and program management personnel are building relationships with the new team members and keeping relationships with the team members who leave. The upside of a decision team member who changes jobs is that they may open the door to new sales opportunity if the account relationship is maintained.

The trend of supply base rationalization is in part driven by changing needs. Conscientious teams are listening to their customers and modifying their service options to better fit these new customer needs.

Here are some suggestions for ways to better position your company in this area:

• Make a list of key contacts at each customer. If any have moved be sure to track them down. Linked In is a great tool for tracking decision team migration and learning more about new team members—just remember to appropriately manage your account privacy settings while doing that. If there are new team members, develop a plan for building relationships. Otherwise, new senior team members may have preferences for other suppliers, especially if those suppliers have tracked them to their new job and are trying to get the door.

• Take key members to lunch to discuss their company’s goals and needs. The goal isn’t to sell them anything, just to learn more about what is keeping them up at night. Then turn that feedback into an internal corrective action plan or use it as justification for expanding your company’s service offerings. While automated surveys can do this, a periodic lunch meeting may provide significantly more feedback.

• Make a point of regularly sending packaged information to the decision team. Whether it is a newsletter, link to an article on your Company or a press release, this type of communication helps you both maintain mindshare and keep the team informed of new capabilities.

Just as knowing where your children are helps them to mature to successful adults, building strong relationships with the decision teams in existing accounts can help you grow a strong customer base. It isn’t rocket science, you just need to do simple things consistently. For more ideas, read my book: Find It. Book It. Grow It. A Robust Process for Account Acquisition in Electronics Manufacturing Services.

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