What is the importance of account management in relation to all that a sales leader must do?
Management of accounts is crucial. These are some of the most essential elements:
A plan for your account. Each federal agency or buying group that we deal with creates an account plan.
It understands the customer’s goals and weaknesses. Find new standards, technology, requirements, and applications that they aren’t able to perform. This will help them give patients access to other providers or impact their business.
Find ways to help them adapt to new business models. For example, the healthcare industry is moving from a payer to an outcome-based-population model. This is a difficult transition for many healthcare providers. They are open to your help in this process.
To understand how your products or services can be used to address new care delivery methods and requirements, align the corporate roadmaps.
How can you implement an account plan successfully?
Work closely with your customer until they clearly define what you are trying to achieve. To understand the political landscape, pricing restrictions, and exciting events, talk to a variety of people.
Learn about their problems and how they work together. You can help them find a solution or even exceed their expectations.
Your offering can help them meet market needs they didn’t know existed.
Sometimes, you may need to work with a partner to bridge the gap between what your product can do and what the customer is looking for. Effectively team up and deliver the product on time.
To establish credibility, you can use luminary references and experts to support your approach. Get clinical quotes from industry professionals. Third parties can support your strategy.
You can find people in your customer network who will guide you through the purchasing process.
What is your biggest challenge?
You may not have met the customer before you receive an RFP. You are likely coming from the back because another vendor may have been there before you and affected the decision criteria. This is a sign that you need to get up to speed quickly. Review the RFP quickly, discuss their needs with third-party partners and learn more about the incumbent. Also, be aware of the historical maintenance costs. Then decide if the opportunity is worth your time and effort.
How can you avoid being in this position?
Before the RFP/RFQ is published, it’s crucial to do the “pre-work.” It is difficult to alter the RFP once it has been published in the medical industry, especially when it involves government agencies.
You must be on the alert and get to work early.
Find out who sets the requirements and who sits on the selection committee. To understand and influence the needs of each one, get access to them all.
Go to the national meeting at the corporate level.
There are tools in government accounts like the VA that can identify when a bid has been posted. It is essential to know the person responsible for administering the contracts.
It is possible to win or lose by making early efforts!
How important is internal selling?
This is as important as selling directly to the customer. This is why you need to support your employees.
Your company can identify market opportunities and clinical applications.
These numbers can be quantified and used to create a business case. The best ROI is the one you can get.
Compare your requirements with your product roadmap.
To get support for your idea, identify sponsors within your company.
Find the resources you need to meet your new needs.
To move the new requirements higher up on the internal roadmap, present the business case and show how you can deliver it.
Which was your most surprising win?
For 12 years, we tried to secure a contract from a large GPO purchasing group. They would renew their contract with the existing vendor each year and not consider our products or other competitors.
Finally, there was a new chief executive officer. They did not invite us to join the bid when it was announced. Although I don’t like to be too direct, it was the only option. I phoned the CEO to explain that we were market leaders but had not been permitted to bid in the latest solicitation. “Do you not think it is worth it to at most take a look at the number one position in this industry?” He replied, “OK, I will extend your bid by a few more days. Go ahead, submit your offer.”
We only had seven days to complete a significant offer. I needed to mobilize our internal resources. Every function of the company was involved in responding to the RFP. We submitted the bid in time and were exhausted.
To conduct demonstrations and presentations, we flew to the account. This opportunity was for 50 facilities to purchase ultrasound scanners, with an average cost of $250K to $350K in the next year. It took three days to complete. The incumbent and we were the winners. Each of us had to present a final presentation; then, we had to wait for the results to be given by them. The representative from the buying group called the incumbent to inform them of the results. I was sure that we had won… and we did!
Surprise! We were able to compete in an account we had been locked out for 12 years.
What advice would your account managers and their leadership team need?
One of my advisors once said to me, “support a client when there’s not a sale on the line.” This means delivering on your promises, delivering equipment on schedule, and helping customers when they least expect it. You will be rewarded with repeat business.
It is crucial to have an account plan and stay on top of it in order to make this happen in large accounts or complex selling environments.
Integrity is the last thing you should do. This will build long-term credibility, which is crucial in strategic accounts that span multiple years. This will make you stand out from your competitors when all else is the same.