Question: What is a TOP Line Account™?
Answer: I thought that you’d never ask! A ‘TOP Line Account™’ is your biggest and best prospect and/or current customer poised for expansion. Sometimes referred to as a ‘Million Dollar Deal’ (which might be 100K or 10m+ depending on your business); these top opportunities are complex in nature and require a strategic approach and framework.
For instance, when was the last time your team closed a seven-figure deal? Despite the best sales talent, many high potential, big contracts get whittled down, end up stalled, or are lost completely. Large deals are complex and require a very different approach to identify, develop and win. Gaining big contracts, also known as TOP Line Accounts™, propels your organization to where you want and need to be before the competition gets there.
Now is a great time to consider your prospects for TOP Line Account wins next year.
Question: The executive briefing letter sounds pretty powerful, what is it and how do you use it?
Answer: An executive briefing letter is a powerful, pro-active sales tool that communicates the outcomes and impact associated with your solutions to busy executives.
An executive briefing note summarizes accomplishments and progress for a specific customer. It is a custom communication, never generic. After an executive appointment, it is a great idea to follow up with a briefing letter (or well crafted email).
For example, an executive briefing letter can include the following components and benefits:
Question: You talk a lot about having a ‘strategic mindset’ and approach for TOP Line Accounts™, how is that different from a simple sales approach?
Answer: Most sellers recognize that there is a difference between a simple sale and a strategic sale. A strategic sale requires sellers to do all the basics of their normal sales process but overlay some additional strategically-oriented activities.
For example, a simple sale might be one or two calls, usually involving a single decision maker and straightforward buying criteria, and the perceived risk of the decision to the customer is low.
A strategic sale is longer (months or years), and usually the dollar value is high, with more people involved on both the buyer and seller sides. Additionally, the perceived risks to the customer may be higher, and the buying criteria is much more complex, etc.
It’s important to understand the type of sales situation. Otherwise, sellers might try to push too much, too soon, being unaware of the complexities or perceived risks, or that multiple decision makers or influencers are involved.
I’ve found that sellers know that landing really large deals or TOP Line Accounts™, whether an expansion with a current customer or a new business opportunity, takes more than their normal approach. Strategic elements have to be in place, such as: win themes™, goals and tactics, relationship maps, executive cultivation plans, and competitive assessments. This requires knowledge of exactly what to do and the leadership and discipline to do it. Sometimes sellers need a little help, whether it’s from their sales manager or from an experienced, outside strategic sales coach. However, once the commitment and methodology is in place, there’s no stopping the team to achieve great results.
Question: How do you advise your clients to prepare for TOP Line Account™ sales calls?
Answer: Collaborating on important sales calls in advance is an element that my coaching clients tell me they really appreciate about our coaching sessions.
If they have an upcoming sales call with a TOP Line Account™ opportunity, we go through a formal pre-call planning process. There are tons of benefits that come with pre-call planning. For instance, your call effectiveness will increase exponentially, and it forces you to think through win themes™.
Over time there are consistencies however, every sales call is unique and by thinking through each aspect of the call in a collaborative manner, something important always comes to the surface.
When you’re prepared, you’re confidant and free to listen. (two ears, one mouth)
Steps for a typical pre-calling planning discussion:
Question: How can Win Themes™ help me win more frequently?
Answer: Win themes™ are a great way for sellers to improve their sales conversations.
Win themes™ are the intersection of your prospect’s priorities and the strengths of your products or services. Win themes™ should be used to prepare for all presentations and important sales calls.
For example, one of my clients was preparing an RFP response to expand their business with a current customer. The opportunity was worth millions of dollars to my client. We took the time to develop three solid win themes™ and then went back through the RFP to make sure that each and every answer in their response pointed to one of the win themes™. We also included an example or two to reinforce the message. The examples were ‘evidence’ of the win theme™ and provided solid proof. Their response went from generic (template based) to compelling and it was a game-changer for them. They won the contract!
If you find yourself ‘telling’ about your company or about your products and services, win themes™ will help you to remember to ask questions about your prospect’s problems and priorities. This allows you to find the sweet spot of receptivity which will improve your sales conversation dramatically.
Question: What are the pitfalls associated with strategy planning for a TOP Line Account™?
Answer: Over the years I’ve observed the same ‘show stoppers’ over and over again with regards to strategy planning for your largest opportunities or critical customers.
A weak team leader
Strong start, poor execution over time
Prioritizing day-to-day over TOP Line Account™ planning
Thinking inwardly, not outwardly
Narrow focus. Not looking for all the opportunities within the account
Little or no key customer executive engagement
Lack of an unwavering belief that long term strategic account planning pays off
Tactical mindset versus a strategic mindset
On the flip side, when these critical elements are in place, there’s no stopping the team in landing or retaining TOP Line Accounts™!