How to Revive Dormant Accounts II: Cold-starting using the account’s purchase history.

In B2B Selling, dead or cold account relationships can be revived by using the history of what business the customer had done with you in the past, to restart things. Cold-starting a dormant account is not always guaranteed to work but can be feasible when;

  • The account is still buying what you sell, maybe in even higher volumes, but from a competitor
  • There are now new decision makers in place as different from those at the helm when you lost the account. This can happen for instance at the periods following a merger or acquisition.
  • Your feel more energized and willing to re-try to gain entrance into the account

Using account history remains a good position to start from, especially if the account went cold on account of poor coverage from the seller, and not necessarily because something went awry. If your lost the account because of poor customer service or any reasons related to sub-par performance on your company’s part, this is still a good way to try and restart the relationship.

Look for the Hooks

As a starting point, look for hooks to reconnect with. Hooks represent solid and plausible reasons that you can use to restart a relationship. We recommend pulling out and analyzing a history of what they have bought overtime from your organization to see what you can base a request for reconnection on. One Key Account manager used this method to reactivate a dormant account. When he initially made contact, they told him that the equipment which the customer bought from him was no longer in use and they didn’t need to see him. With his management’s approval, he offered to buy it back and this got the attention of some decision makers on the customer side. From this point on wards, things went smoother than was previously the case.

Warm Up First

When you find a hook to use in restarting the relationship, play up their interest. This is assuming that you’d done everything we spoke about in the Part-I of this article especially as it concerns doing your homework about account history. If the account went dormant on account of little or no coverage from your company, then a good place to start is with old contacts with you have prior relationships. You can look for officers and contacts within the account who may still be in their old positions or have assumed new roles. However, if the account relationship went cold or was lost on account of known issues, then one possibility could be to start by making contact with new decision makers if they exist. These new people can be more objective in assessing past issues and can also be more open to discuss resolutions. The movement of people, into, within & out of organizations is a given and presents one of the best launchpad for reactivating dormant account relationships…More on this later.

Offer Something

While not many offers may be accepted from a seller, usually because some of the offers have terms & conditions attached, or customers assume a position of total avoidance where things went wrong in the past. A good way to revive dormant account relationships is to offer something real and tangible…. nothing “sales-ish” (if we can add that to your vocabulary. The appearance of being “salesish” is one reason customers can be suspicious of attempts by a seller to reactivate dormant account relationships. Recently a bank was trying to woo a customer back who they had lost due to erroneous bank charges, the subject of an ongoing dispute. A new account manager takes over the account and makes an offer to reduce the charges by 50% which further infuriated the customer because there shouldn’t be a charge in the first place. The customer didn’t take it and was from that moment very suspicious of offers from the bank because of the appearance that it served the bank or account manager’s interest, and not his.

Here are a few suggestions you can consider:

  • Share some knowledge: Send them a research report in an area important to them or give out books on topics relevant to the decision makers, enclose this with your letter requesting an appointment.
  • Conduct a free service: Your technical team can do assessments for free and then meet with the customer to discuss the results.
  • Provide a complimentary service check-up: especially for equipment, machinery or technology that you supplied but now have newer editions. Sometimes you can even do the assessment on a competitor’s equipment if you have the expertise to do so. Make sure your report is objective and reliable.
  • A Technology or Industry Roadmap Session: Request to show them where the technology or industry is headed. This can position you and your company as a subject matter expert and thus begin the process of rekindling the relationship.
  • Offer a promotion: You can communicate an ongoing sales or marketing promotion, or even design one specifically for them. Offer some rebates tied to a timeline and be clear on the conditions precedent to their enjoying the promo.
  • Do a courtesy visit: This would involve your team, made up of senior levels members of the Account Team and the organization, going to visit the customer’s own team, or a key decision maker.
  • Offer a skills upgrade discussion: especially for where the technology or standards have changed and the customer’s people may need to up-skill to new standards. Offer to conduct half-day or full day training, or give e-Learning vouchers.
  • Offer unsolicited proposals to known business issues: This has been known to work where a vendor grabs the attention of senior level decision makers by writing a non-commercial proposal (white paper style) proposing action points to a known challenge the client/customer company is facing.
  • In all, be careful not to violate any rules (yours or theirs) about corporate gifts so as not to be seen as unethically influencing or inducing the customers.

Give it time

Despite your best efforts you may still find that many or a few accounts won’t budge. Time as they say, becomes your best friend, for with Key account management, you will find that overtime most of the doors closed against you become open with the passage of time, often caused by changes in account circumstances. Plan to revisit the account and add them to the list of dormant accounts awaiting reactivation.

Caveat: Attempting to restart account relationships without addressing a big elephant in the room can be disastrous. Big elephants include

  • Promises not kept, whether it was made by your predecessors or by you.
  • Disputes not resolved, -ditto-
  • Service & support issues still pending
  • And all other things that make the individuals in the account grimace at the mention of your name or your company’s name.

Account management wisdom dictates that you settle all of those and take them out of the table before proceeding to attempt to revive any Dormant account.

Next, we will be discussing the part 3 of this series focusing on reviving dormant accounts.

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