Processes & Tools
Developing Key Accounts & Key Account Management
The majority of Meridian's clients have a key account strategy or at least recognise the Pareto's principle, namely that 80% of their business comes from 20% of their customers. Managing these customers is crucial and losing them could be disastrous.
Meridian assists its clients in selecting the criteria by which accounts are deemed to be Key Accounts. Once chosen, the development of individual and generic key account strategies is required.
Key account management processes are needed to ensure plans are developed and managed accordingly. Mapping key decision makers, influencers and evaluators and producing a contact and activity matrix are core components of this process.
It is vital to develop the skills and capability of Key Account Managers to ensure strategy is implemented effectively. Meridian trains the skills and develops bespoke tools that enable the key account manager to be effective with key accounts.
Planning and account information and knowledge contribute a large part towards the success of the key account programme. Trading terms reward both parties if the relationship works as planned. Key account management is a partnership.
Trading Terms in itself is an enormous subject which is of great interest to Meridian's clients. Meridian's approach is to ensure the "three cornerstones" are addressed when developing or refining Trading Terms. The three cornerstones are Trading Terms, Sales Divers and Compliance. Trading Terms must be linked to an understanding of sales drivers or demand divers (what elements drive sales) and be attached to compliance (the implementation of what was agreed). If compliance is tracked and understood, then meaningful debates can occur around rewarding / incentivising / penalising performance related to excellence of execution and business results. Meridian helps its clients understand the "Demand Drivers" and "Margin Waterfall" to help construct Trading Terms which grow profitable sales.
Meridian works with its clients to develop bespoke Key Account Management solutions.
Benchmarking internal and external performance
Many clients want to conduct an external benchmarking approach to understand how they stack up against the direct competition and the wider community of World Class selling organisations.
Through our extensive network, experience and research methodologies we are able to assist clients with their bespoke benchmarking requirements. Unlike many other functional areas, sales processes, systems and structures are opaque. By its very nature, sensitive commercial data is not readily available in the public domain. Creative solutions are therefore required to answer questions such as:
How do our competitors organise themselves?What are their routes to market?How many sales people do they have?What is their pricing policy?
Internal benchmarking is a very useful tool for measuring and managing differences in KPI's across, countries, divisions, teams or individuals.
Best Practice Development
The concept of Best Practice in the customer management function works on the philosophy that sales is a process and can be articulated, trained and measured like any other function.
It allows the organisation to propagate the proven methodologies throughout the entire sales force, by understanding what has caused success in the past. The organisation then builds up a picture of what has to happen to increase its chances of success, often isolating what the top performing sales people do that the bottom performers don't. It is often the subtleties that make the difference between success and failure rather than any large process 'missings'.
Meridian has a proven methodology for developing and ingraining Best Practice into a client organisation.
Implementing CRM or contact management software
Customer Relationship Management software, or any other contact management software, to support the sales process can be a valuable tool if used correctly. However, so often such solutions fail to deliver the business benefit they promised when the investment was authorised. Often CRM is an initiative that is driven by another function and sales' input is an afterthought.
Meridian believes in gathering data to judge sales force effectiveness levels. Software solutions have the ability to gather, analyse and deliver meaningful insight into this. To really add value to, and not hinder sales management, there must be significant input from sales. The 'vanilla' or 'out of the box' solution that many software houses say need no or little tailoring, does not deliver the results. In reality every business is different, even if they are in similar sectors. Therefore some tailoring is necessary. Additionally from a change management perspective, if one is involved in the design of something one is more likely to embrace and utilise it as a solution.
One of the areas of support that Meridian can offer to a CRM implementation is to act as subject matter experts in customer management and sales. As CRM software houses they are experts in their software, not in sales process. It is likely therefore, that they will only replicate the current ways of working in a client organisation. This may be acceptable if there are no improvements in working practices to be made, but I most companies there is significant potential to optimise customer management processes. Meridian can help organisations to map both macro and micro sales processes and incorporate best practice into the solution.
As experts in the sales function, we can also help management to understand & track the vital KPIs, highlight the origin of that data, and suggest in what form it should be reported. We also recognise, having done the role ourselves, that sales people dislike administrative tasks, so the solution must add value to the sales person as well as providing the centre with additional information. There is always the temptation from other functions, that with this direct access to the sales force, they will swamp them with 'nice to have' data requests.
Meridian can help developing the brief, choosing the supplier, mapping processes and working with management to develop insight and ensure compliance to system utilisation.
Ensuring the strategy is converted into daily sales force actions
Excellence of execution can mean the difference between successful or unsuccessful strategy. The role of sales is to implement the strategy on a daily basis with new or existing customers. This is done either directly or through the channel. What is important is that the planned daily actions are carried out and conducted as effectively as possible.
Meridian spends time helping its clients convert strategy into actionable plans that are clearly communicated and understood by those whose job it is to carry them out. Our philosophy is to break these plans down into daily tasks and report and review them on a weekly basis.
Meridian believes that activity tracking is a crucial business protocol. If the link between activity and business results is understood, then tracking actual activity against planned activity and recalibrating the forecasted business results is a crucial task for the World Class selling organisation. In effect the results from each working day should equate to 1/220th of the annual business plan.
We work to develop processes and systems which ensure that compliance to the plan is measured and that the correct behaviours are developed to take the necessary corrective action if planned activity is missed.
Sales force process redesign
Meridian believes that sales is a process like any other business process. It can be articulated, trained, measured and managed. We also believe that there is often a 'best way' of performing a series of tasks that is more likely to deliver a successful outcome.
All too often however, the sales function is viewed as a 'dark art', where metrics are hard to come by and processes are at best opaque. We often hear that sales people are born not trained. Whilst this is clearly not true, we do agree that there are certain competencies that people have a tendency to exhibit which makes them more likely to excel in a sales environment.
When we get a group of high performing sales people together to discuss how they go about their task we find that there is genuine commonality in their approach even if there is not 'company endorsed' way of doing things. Less successful individuals do not necessarily follow these steps. So to understand, map and articulate the current wisdom on the best way of performing a task allows the organisation to train everybody in the most appropriate way of performing a task to ensure a greater likelihood of success.
Additionally, it means that people can easily move around in the organisation to develop their careers, as roles are easier to understand. A manager's task is far easier because everyone is working in a similar way. Also consistency of approach means that a system can be design to support this common approach and KPIs can be tracked at various intervention points along the sales process.
Once mapped, Meridian enshrines these processes in a client specific manual and helps the client implement the consistent ways of working. Clients often request Meridian's support in sales process redesign prior to, or as part of a CRM implementation in their business to optimise the ROI on the cost of that programme.
Customer Acquisition, Penetration & Retention (APR)
In a sales function there are broadly three main roles. To acquire new customers (often referred to a new business development). To penetrate existing customers (to ensure we represent a growing proportion of their expenditure in our particular area). To make sure that if we have all the available expenditure from a customer, that we retain it (effective customer/account management).
Meridian assists organisations firstly to decide where the strategic focus should be in these three areas, and in what proportions time and money should be invested. We then work to ensure that the differing competencies and tasks are understood, and the possible ramifications this may have on the roles, structures and individuals.
Meridian then helps develop the skills, systems, processes and management behaviours that ensure the organisation has the capability to acquire, penetrate and retain its desired customer base.
How improving Sales Effectiveness can dramatically boost profits for packaging companies!
You hardly need us to tell you that the competitive pressures on the packaging industry have never been greater.
Continued consolidation among major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies mean that packaging companies increasingly find themselves squeezed between large-scale raw materials suppliers and multi-national or global customers.
The consequences of these pressures were starkly demonstrated by the climbing price of oil during 2005 which impacted both directly and indirectly on converter raw materials costs. Faced with rising overheads and unit costs, packaging companies have often found that they are unable to pass these costs on to their customers either because of weak bargaining positions resulting from customer scale, or due to restrictive supply agreements.
This has led to packaging companies both large and small being exposed to considerable business risk.
We at Meridian believe that this risk can often be minimised through improvements in sales and commercial effectiveness at all levels, from senior managers through to account managers and local sales teams. Our experience is that this can be achieved through the introduction of effective tailored sales tools and processes, and developing the capability of the commercial teams in the use of these tools.
For example, we can show you how you can use these tools to ensure that;
- Materials cost increases are passed on based on specified thresholds and timescales
- Volume targets are clear and specific
- Prices reflect changing supply volumes
- Bought-in materials risk is minimised
- Unexpected or unplanned costs are avoided
- Business risk is managed
Meridian is a sales effectiveness consultancy. For the past 13 years we have been helping our clients to improve sales and commercial operations performance. Our approach begins with a full "commercial audit" to highlight and quantify the scale of the improvement. We then develop a practical implementation programme backed up with tools and measurement systems which reflect your specific issues and organisational idiosyncrasies.
If the above issues are impacting on your business we'd welcome the opportunity to meet you to explain why we believe we can help you too. Call Ron Temperley or Carl Davies now on 0207 849 6030 or email us or click here to Request a meeting.