One of the things that amazes me about small and medium sized businesses is how they struggle with lead generation from existing clients. This should be one of the easiest sales to make. There are three main reasons for this:

1. Waiting for the phone to ring
The person managing the account assumes that the client will call if they need something. They are normally too busy looking for new clients and fail to stay in regular contact.

2. Every conversation is a sales conversation
If the only interaction between the client and the person managing the account is to talk about sales then the client will prove hard to reach. The thinking will be ‘I am busy and will call them if I need anything’. Consequently the relationship rarely goes beyond a transactional level and the business owner or sales person does not get to the stage where the client asks for advice when they have a problem. The dream of anyone practicing consultative selling.

3. No Selling
In this case the relationship is normally very strong and the account manager is doing a great job in sorting out problems and keeping the customer happy. Unfortunately consultative selling conversations do not arise and the person managing the account is essentially an order taker.

Achieving fast growth from existing clients requires accounts to be prioritsed for proactive account development. That means taking charge of developing the relationship and proactively seeking business opportunities. The key is to separate relationship development meetings and meetings to discuss sales opportunities. Essentially it is a blend of all three above.

The relationship needs to grow from transactional to trusted adviser status. This will only happen from providing advice and adding value. Pushy sales people are typically not trusted so a softer approach works better. Being a trusted adviser does not guarantee sales – it just makes selling easier. Proactively seeking sales opportunities without being pushy is what gets results.

Ultimately businesses should be seeking a balance between proactively developing the relationship and proactively developing sales opportunities. Major accounts rarely happen by accident!