There is a low-cost, high-value component of B2B SFA systems that are rarely appreciated and rarely implemented: making the SFA their sole source of institutional memory about their relationships with clients. Ironic, given that SFA is an important component of CRM and that “Relationship” is supposed to be the operative concept in the CRM.
Stop me if you think that you have heard this one before….
- You implement your new territory alignments at the start of the new year. The new and outgoing account teams hurriedly complete the account transition. Detail, nuance, and historical perspective are quickly lost as the representatives rush to get back to selling.
- Account executives leave mid-year. Unless the AE’s consistently added account-level observations to their SFA records, any account relevant details are lost.
- You receive an email from a long-term supplier that starts with “Hi, I’m your new account manager. Could we meet next week to discuss your objectives and experience with our company….”
This last example is particularly relevant to B2B selling. Business relationships are built upon trust, memory, and mutual self-interest. If you receive an email like that, then it is natural to conclude that your supplier does not really value the “relationship.” If they did value it, then they would already have a complete understanding of your recent History. And most importantly, the “relationship” would be treated like the valuable jewel that it deserves to be.
This situation is very avoidable. If you have an SFA, then you already have basic technology building blocks. What remains is the concept and practice of maintaining business relationships. where the customer relationship is a business artifact that is maintained and nurtured.
A few best practices for you to consider:
- Every significant customer interaction and every bit of account intelligence needs to be captured in the SFA, not buried in emails.
- Managers must regularly review account, opportunity, and account plan records for completeness, accuracy, and frequency of updates.
- A bit of process automation can go a long way. Give representatives custom tools in the SFA that make it easy for them to capture account details. It could be simple effective-dated picklists that track the customers top three objectives. Or it could QBR forms or Strategic Account Management systems, tools that bring a process to relationship maintenance.
Success in this endeavor means that you have true institutional memory about your clients. It means that new representative can easily determine tell the story of your relationship with a client over the preceding three years. It also means that long-time client never has to rehash the same details that they provided to the former account team 12 months previously.
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