As we kick off the new year, we recognize its prominence in the Chinese zodiac calendar as the Year of the Dragon. As the only mythical creature in the Chinese years, the dragon represents courage, creativity and innovation. That said, it probably won’t surprise many readers that for those born in the Year of the Dragon, sales is one of the most highly-suggested occupations. For all of us in selling, while we may not strike fear in the hearts of those we deal with as dragons clearly do, we depend daily on our courage, creativity and innovation. So, let’s put those three qualities to work as we gear up for the new year but let’s do so in terms of our clients because, at the end of the day, they’re the ones who will determine at the end of 2024 whether we had a Year of the Dragon or a year of dragging!
You experienced much change in 2023 but more importantly, so did your customers. And while we are all self-centered to a degree, as salespeople we care deeply about what happens to our customers, Simply put, they represent our future. That’s why it’s important to care. But the real survival skill in selling is our ability to KARE.
KARE……think about it. In selling, we spend much time with logical groupings. We assemble our accounts in vertical categories, like manufacturing and healthcare. We differentiate by geography, combining customers and prospects by location. Organization size also matters as we bundle firms with similar revenues, numbers of employees or other metrics. And we always differentiate the public sector and the commercial world, to be more effective in our efforts to be successful. Of course, these groupings have value, but what do they teach us about the actual traits and tendencies of our accounts? How do they help us build impactful strategies? And what do they do for us at this important moment, as our new selling year begins?
In honor of the Year of the Dragon, let’s consider some other species for context. In wildlife, we use groupings as well, bundling creatures into categories that provide scientific value. How valuable is it, though, to know that two different creatures are both snakes? Garter Snakes and King Cobras may be in the same classification, but their traits and tendencies are very, very different. And what about spiders? It would be much more helpful to know what to expect from a Daddy Long Legs versus a Black Widow than just knowing that they’re family members. While technically accurate, knowing the categories tells you nothing about how to prepare for them. Truth is, the Black Widow and King Cobra have a lot in common. Scientific classifications aside, what’s really helpful to know is that they’re both killers.
Now, think about your customers because the same concept applies, although hopefully not with such potential danger. Because understanding differences in terms of accounts’ traits and tendencies can be as helpful as knowing that you’re safer with a Garter Snake slithering around your bedroom than a King Cobra.
As we said, your customers changed over the course of 2023. What you knew at this time last year is ancient news. You must develop fresh knowledge, not about your accounts’ tactical groupings but about what to expect from them in 2024 – changes in their traits and tendencies. And, of course, you must consider not only your customers but your prospects as well. KARE, the practical account profiling framework is the answer. It utilizes four categories – Keep, Attain, Recapture, and Expand. Let’s look at each one. Keep accounts represent your average clients. They’re not going to help you retire early, but they provide most of your revenue. That said, you’re pleased to have them. Attain accounts are your profile prospects and you target them to make them clients. Recapture accounts are previous clients that are now inactive. Unlike past customers you consciously decide to avoid, you’d be happy to have Recapture accounts back. Expand accounts, lastly, are your most strategic assets – current clients producing major revenues, profits and potential. They are, in essence, your future.
KARE is a customized process. Different selling organizations have different KARE profiles. As such, you build your KARE profiles with customized attributes specific to your business model. Then, you match your clients and prospects to the customized profiles. Next, you develop the common actions that align to each profile. For example, for Recapture accounts, your actions will focus on winning them back. While additional customized strategies will apply for some, your Recapture actions will apply to all past clients, saving you tons of time and effort. The same applies to your Keep, Attain, and Expand accounts. The actions apply because the accounts in each profile share the same traits and tendencies. That’s the magic of KARE profiles – they’re actionable!
To kick off 2024, we must recognize changes. Some of your Keep accounts are probably vulnerable or might be in danger of becoming Recapture accounts. A few Attain accounts may now have a greater likelihood of becoming clients due to 2023 changes that increase needs for your organization. As such, becoming keenly aware of changes in accounts’ traits and tendencies positions you for a strong 2024. Sounds like KARE is worth the effort, doesn’t it?
Know your accounts as well as you possibly can. But don’t ever be satisfied with knowing their 2023 versions. Black Widows, Cobras, Garter Snakes and Daddy Long Legs – they’ve all changed in some way. Understand their new traits and tendencies and act accordingly. Then, win their business and deliver value in 2024 – your Year of the Dragon!