Systemizing Account Handoff

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Systemizing Account Handoff

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Selling is tough enough when prospects have so much competing for their attention, other salespeople, professional priorities, personal issues.

That’s why it’s downright depressing when we find out we lost an opportunity because our own sales process failed. Whether due to a poor handoff or lack of a next step on an account, too many sales are lost because we simply lost track of a prospect along the way.

Because this is a loss area that’s fully preventable in the sales industry, we wanted to learn from the best how we could systemize prospect handoff, whether we were moving the prospect from a development rep to an account executive, or simply moving the prospect from one sales campaign to another within our pipelines.

To learn the art of great account handoff, we knew there was no one better to teach us than Sebastien Van Heyningen, president of Central Metric. He’s a sales system professional that understands without great handoff, we’re inviting our prospects to buy from our competitors.

Since we’re trimming hope from our sales strategy, we’ll use the acronym TRIM to guide us through creating a system with a trigger, ensuring it’s repeatable, building in ways to improve it, and of course, ensuring it’s measurable and getting us results.

T – Trigger: Sebastien recommends triggering this system by looking at what actions your prospect takes at each stage of their buying journey and what handoffs occur (or don’t occur) at each of those stages. Too many sales teams don’t clearly define what separates one stage from another.

R – Repeatable: To make this system repeatable, Sebastien says to determine the reason for the handoff. Why are you moving the account from one person to another, or one stage to another?

He encourages us to ask the question, “How does this handoff benefit the prospect?” While a sales team may see the benefit in moving an account from a development rep to an account executive, if it doesn’t have a direct benefit to the prospect, it’s a self-inflicted challenge to your sales cycle.

Does this handoff allow your company to further customize a solution for the prospect, or put them in the hands of a salesperson with more experience solving problems for that type of prospect? If you can’t clearly define the benefit of the handoff ahead of time to yourself, it will be difficult to justify it to a prospect.

The next step of this handoff system is to examine what information is needed at each handoff stage. That may mean interviewing your development reps and account executives, as those items may have changed since the first time your handoff process was defined (although we find most handoff processes are never clearly defined).

Whether you’re developing this system for a team or for a solo sales practitioner, ask yourself, “What do I need to know about this prospect to move them from one stage of the sale to another?” Determine which of those items are necessary and which ones are simply nice to have. Your ‘necessary’ items, if they aren’t achieved, should prevent handing off the account or moving it from one stage to another in the sales process. Instead of delaying the sale, this step will save time and make your sales process more efficient by not involving team members when the account hasn’t been qualified.

Ensure that you regularly meet with the folks on your team who receive handoffs to ensure you’re tracking accounts that have been shifted to others and that there are next steps on each of them. This means defining what you’ll report because of this handoff system. You’ll want to know what fields are usually missing when a deal is handed off. Instead of requiring them, this may be a signal that those fields or pieces of information aren’t necessary as part of the handoff.

I – Improve: To improve this system, examine where you can eliminate steps in your handoff process while still maintaining the critical information. The simpler a system is, the more likely it will be consistently used.

If you noticed that removing a ‘non-critical’ piece of information delays or degrades a handoff, it’s a clear signal to keep it as part of your handoff process and remove a different item for your next improvement test.

M – Measurable: Measuring a systemized handoff means measuring the leading indicators of a sale to ensure your handoff is advancing deals forward.

Sebastien recommends looking at stage throughput; measuring how many prospects are being handed off through each stage and how much time they spend in each of those stages before advancing. Another thing to measure is how often an account is engaged through the sales cycle – as the more touches we have on an account, the more information can be gathered and the faster the sale can be made.

Finally, measure how long it takes salespeople to run their handoff processes on ‘test’ accounts. You may discover that busy work is slowing your sales cycle and eliminating or automating handoff steps may be worth any loss that occurs from removing them from the workflow of your sales team.

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