The more people from both supplier and customer who are involved in building the relationship, the stronger it becomes. It’s a team effort.

When your team meets the customer and explains what each member does, it gives you more credibility. The customer appreciates having access to all the players. They know who is going to carry out each element of servicing the account.

It’s no longer just the account manager talking with the buyer, it’s the supplier team working with the customer team to optimise effectiveness. And from the buyer’s perspective, the more people involved in the relationship, the harder it is to change supplier. They would need to be satisfied that all their key people had no objection to the change.

The role of the Account Manager

All contact with a customer should be coordinated through the Account Manager, who ensures that the account objectives are clear to all concerned and acts as team leader. The overall objective is to ensure that all the supplier’s resources – sales, support marketing, research, finance, packaging and distribution – are used to identify and meet the customer’s requirements profitably for both parties.

When organising a team you shouldn’t be thinking: ‘How can I put the best team together to win the business?’ Instead, focus on: ‘Who needs to be involved so we can bring in all the expertise we’ve got to help the customer achieve their objective?’ Highlight this approach in your training.

Enlist the whole business in the sales effort

Everyone in the company, from product designers to factory managers to financial officers to service managers, must be involved in selling to and servicing the customer. In the best-run companies, all employees are salespeople. Engineers, designers, production managers and scientists can benefit enormously from learning selling skills.

Top management should also be involved. CEOs must visibly lead in partnership selling by acting as salesperson-in-chief.

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