Green Circle Growth: Get Serious About Quarterly ReviewsArticle by Colleen Francis, February 23, 2020
Quarterly business reviews are essential for understanding potential growth with existing customers, retention issues and future opportunities. They are just as crucial for troubleshooting where sales performance isn’t meeting expectations, as well as for measuring the return on investment your client is receiving for the work you do together. Get serious about doing this analysis.
You must conduct two kinds of reviews: internal (within your sales team) and external (with targeted clients). Do this sequentially. The insights from your internal reviews feed into your external reviews. And both are only effective if they’re focused on solving specific challenges. Here are the critical steps you must take in this area, starting with what needs to happen within your sales organization first.
DIVIDE FOR FOCUS
Your internal review starts with gaining a clear understanding of which clients need to be protected and which can grow. This will bring laser-like focus to your efforts later on when you conduct each of your external reviews. Get started by putting all of your customers into one of two groups: “green circle” and transactional. Those that currently rank high on sales margins and/or volume—or show potential to become one of those—get categorized as green circle accounts. That’s green for growth! This is where your reviews should be focused.
TRANSACTIONAL NEXT STEPS
Next, have a plan for your transactional customers. These are often smaller-sized accounts that consist of lower margin or lower volume sales. They rarely have the capacity to grow their business with you, so don’t spend much time reviewing them quarterly. Instead, create a plan once a year on how to manage them professionally, but efficiently. Most of my clients adopt an inside sales approach for their transactional accounts: using a phone- and email-only contact strategy, with outreaches limited to once every 2-3 months rather than every 30 days as with green circle accounts.
PINPOINT YOUR GROWTH
Working with your sales team, identify which of your green circle customers are generating the highest amount of sales growth. Next, identify your priority contacts inside the account and ensure you’re speaking with enough of them to keep growing. Find the influencers and the gatekeepers. Target between 4 and 11 contacts. The maximum ceiling here is less important than exceeding the minimum number required for retention and growth. You can’t retain and grow your best customers on the back of a single point of contact.
DEFINE VALUE EARLY ON
With your green circle accounts, you must document the value you bring to the table. Don’t leave it to your customer to do this. Do your homework first during your internal review so you’ll be ready to make your case to your targeted customer later during their external review. Value can include the ROI they get from using your product, multiplied by your services that “go the extra mile,” which give them bonuses they might not be aware of. One client of mine in the industrial supply sector uses an application that shows their customer all the components they get for free just by being on their service plan. Each time they present this, their customer is surprised at all the value they’re getting and can see what they stand to lose if they were to switch to a competitor.
DEFINE THREATS AND WEAKNESSES RUTHLESSLY
Understand your vulnerabilities before your competitors and customers do. Ensure your internal review gives you a crystal-clear understanding of the competition in your targeted sales territory and their ability to target your accounts. Are they growing in strength? Is that at your expense? Next, conduct a black ops operation—my top-performing clients do this up to twice a year. Think like a competitor: it’s the best way to understand where you’re most vulnerable. Do this by gathering the best sales minds in your company (from sales and other departments) to talk about how you work with your best customers. Determine specifically where you’re falling short in terms of service and support. Get them to pick holes in your account plan and tell you where they would make a move if they were your competitor. Your honest, self-critical answers here inform how you will conduct your external review with each of your green circle customers later.
ANTICIPATE TROUBLE AND BUILD SOLUTIONS
With your internal quarterly business review in hand, you’ve identified opportunities and threats in your “green circle” accounts. Spend time planning to solve these challenges and maximize your opportunities before conducting your external review with each of your green circle clients. That way, you arrive for each one well prepared to build on your existing, successful relationship. When meeting with your client to discuss their quarterly review, be willing to talk about the future. Working from insights from your earlier internal review, show them where their risks are—those could be seasonal, economic or political. And then be their go-to resource to create a strategic-focused solution to tackle those risks.
Sales growth only happens when you take deliberate steps that build better rapport and deeper connection in places that count the most. That’s what quarterly business reviews are all about. They produce factual insights for you and for your customers. These facts become the building materials that form your account management strategy for the next quarter and for the next several years. Do this right and you’ll blaze a path to accelerated sales and green circle growth.