Early in my selling career, I realized that there was a fundamental problem with the way most sellers approach the work of growing business within established accounts. I talked a little about this last week in my piece about outside-in account growth.
The problem was that most salespeople and sales organizations looked at the work as a matter of growing their own business… rather than a matter of helping and growing the customer’s business.
And because they started with the idea of growing their own business, they often skipped steps and aspects of the process that would yield better results for them and their customers.
As I built my first company and established my own frameworks to score and manage vendor partnerships, I began to understand the key elements that make a partnership or collaboration work or not work. Over time, I realized that this framework is also effective for any complex b2b sales environment, including account growth.
I call it the “Trust, Align, Grow” framework. Here’s how it works.
Without trust, sales will not happen and even fewer of them grow into profitable accounts. Trust is a foundational aspect of any profitable long-term business relationship.
Or any other sort of relationship, for that matter. If you hope to date someone, you can’t expect them to be interested in dating you unless they trust you. If you hope to marry, you definitely can’t expect that to happen without trust.
Friendships must also be based on a foundation of trust.
Too often, salespeople launch immediately into talking about how their company can help the customer, without taking the time to help the other person understand why they should trust them. Just as bad, in complex b2b sales, salespeople often rely on trust with a single member of the buying team. This creates a shaky foundation for the deal, as a single point of trust is not enough for a large-scale deal to stand firmly upon.
Whenever you are developing a new sales process (or amending an old one), do so within this framework with the understanding that everything in the sales process must be built on trust.
One way to think about this is to consider the “trust equation” as described here. The trust equation looks like this:
Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy divided by Self-Orientation = Trustworthiness
In order to establish and maintain trust, your sales teams must be credible: Establish authority and expertise. They must be reliable: Do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it. And they must establish a level of intimacy or, as I prefer to say, closeness: Build and maintain rapport and warmth with the customer and, just as importantly, take the time to understand what the customer needs and wants.
Additionally, successful trust-building means paying close attention to the impact that one’s “self-orientation” has on the equation. The more the customer perceives you as being selfish or focused on your own needs, the less they will trust you.
When building sales processes and account growth plans, it’s important to establish steps and milestones that focus on:
Alignment without trust is useless: It doesn’t matter how much you promise to do for me, if I don’t trust you, I won’t buy from you.
But trust without alignment also won’t lead to profitable sales.
Alignment, in this context, means that you can provide the customer value in a way that is profitable and valuable to both you and your customer.
To establish alignment, your process must have clearly defined qualification and disqualification criteria. Know who you can help and how, and build a process that quickly allows you to let go of opportunities without alignment, and build relationships with those with strong alignment.
Our new account growth module provides a powerful new visual tool for understanding alignment. It evaluates each account based on potential for growth and how much you can help them, and places them visually on a grid so you can see which companies have strongest alignment to benefit from additional services and products.
When trust and alignment exist, then growth can occur–and not before.
Imagine going on a date with someone who immediately begins to talk about getting married and having babies together, before you’ve even figured out whether you trust them or whether your life goals are aligned.
Would you go on a second date? Only if you found them to be really compelling, or you are really desperate :)
When trust and alignment exist, growth can occur–not before.
Now imagine dating someone who, over time, has earned your trust. You discover they are a person you can rely on, whose stories are credible, and with whom you feel good getting close. Then, as you’re talking about your future, you learn that you both want to travel extensively and buy a house outside of town and have exactly two children together.
If you trust each other, but your futures don’t align, you may date for a while but probably won’t spend your lives together. If your dreams and plans align but you don’t trust each other, that probably won’t last either.
But when you have both, then you will consider growing together.
The same thing is true with account planning. If your customer trusts you and if your offerings align with their needs, they will be enthusiastic about growing together. Your sales and account growth process then becomes about how to best provide them what they need and ensure their success as a customer.
The Trust, Align, Grow framework is important in any sales environment, but especially in complex b2b, because the higher the perceived risk, the more important trust and alignment are.
Everything we do at Membrain is built around this idea of building trust and alignment and then working toward growth–and the Membrain platform is ideally suited for building a sales and account growth strategy and process around the framework. I would love to show you how.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn