If you don’t have a plan and an agenda, it’s nothing more than organized tourism.
Executives will want to speak with customers and make customer site visits. We love the idea that they want to help and add value, but if there is no specific agenda or goals for the customer visit, executive involvement is nothing more than organized tourism. To avoid the executive tourist trap, organize a sponsorship program.
To organize an executive sponsorship program, start with segregating and prioritizing accounts by revenue, strategic importance, and those that need high attention. Typically, these programs involve the top 10–15% of customers in terms of revenue. Add customers of strategic importance to new markets and those that can help you expand into current industries. Add customers where problems may be brewing or where your competition has been successful. If you know of potential issues with a customer, they should also be added to your list.
Each of your identified top-tier customers should have a profile of information used to brief the assigned executive from your company. This document should include the following:
- Overview of the customer’s history with your company including revenues for the past few years, quality issues, and billing problems
- Overview of customer’s industry—the biggest issues, etc.
- Organizational structure of the customer, including divisions, business units, and the organizational chart of top executives. The account manager assigned to this customer should have this information and should be included in assembling the executive briefing document.
- Key people you deal with including their roles, titles, and contact information. Who are decision-makers? Influencers? Include an assessment of customer relationships with your company. Are they advocates, neutral, critics, or enemies?
- Explanation of strategy for managing this customer, including schedule of executive sponsor visits, sales opportunities, and associated projected revenue
- Communications and action plan that provides a framework for the next 12 months. (In the following rule, we discuss the plan in more detail.)
Executive sponsorship programs, if well executed, will enhance your overall relationship with customers, build customer loyalty, and raise the awareness of all your executives to customer satisfaction.
Excerpted exclusively for SmartVan from the new book, 42 Rules for Superior Field Service, by Rosemary Coates and Jim Reily.