Recently, I was speaking to the leadership team of a sales organization. They were struggling with getting their people to develop and execute their account plans.
They had invested a lot in training, content, and other programs to support the account based selling focus. But things weren’t changing. People were going through the motions of developing their account plans, they would review them with management, then they went back to doing their jobs in the way they had always done them.
Sometimes, I think we make Account Planning and Account Based Selling more complicated than it needs to be.
In reality, it isn’t a whole lot different than our normal work as sellers.
As sellers, our job is to find or initiate new opportunities with customers in our territory. It may be with existing customers, helping them grow and expanding our relationship, it may be finding new “logos,” to expand our coverage in the territory. We prospect, qualify, and pursue opportunities within our territories.
Account based selling is no different. We prospect, qualify, and pursue opportunities within our territory. It just happens that our territory is a single account or customer. For those current customers within our account, we want to grow our relationship, we want to cross/upsell them. But there are new “logos,” within that account; new work groups, different project teams, different divisions, different locations. These all represent new customers within the account. And just like any other seller, we have to prospect to identify, qualify, and pursue opportunities within the account.
Account planning is no different than territory planning.
Just like in a normal territory, we leverage relationships and referrals as much as we can, within our account territories. Just like in a normal territory, we want to leverage current customers within that territory as much as possible, both making sure they are happy and for growing them. And just like in a normal territory, we need to expand and grow, buy finding new opportunities.
The reality is there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between account based territories and geographic/market based territories. Our jobs, as sellers, is to maximize our penetration and growth within those territories.
Our goal is to put in place plans to achieve 100% share of territory, whether it is an account or a collection of accounts/customers. We do the same things, regardless of the composition of the territory.
We have some knowledge of them, how they work, what their priorities, are, the challenges they face, how they make decisions. We can’t just assume these things, but we have to re verify them with each opportunity we prospect within the account. One division or project group might have very different priorities and constraints than those we have worked with.
We have to make sure our current customers in each territory is achieving what they expect from what they’ve bought. While that may fall, primarily, to customer service/experience, as sellers we don’t want to lose touch with those customers. They are the gateway to growth, either with them or through their referrals.
There are lots of tools we can use to help us identify new opportunities and potential within our territories–regardless whether they are geographic/market or account based. We develop “territory” plans to extend our penetration and growth. We are accountable for executing those plans. Managers coach us, helping us execute those plans much more effectively.
In my first years as a seller, by territory was “Chase Manhattan Bank.” A close friend’s territory was the states of North/South Dakota. One week, I would focus my activities in finding new customers and working with current customers at One Chase Plaza, the next week, I’d spend most of my time at One New York Plaza (there were a few other locations on Long Island and internationally, that I would spend time at, as well). She, not unlike me, would spend a week focusing on prospects and customers in Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks. The next week, she would focus on customers and prospects in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
As a leader, reviewing account/territory plans, I’d basically ask my people, “what new customers are you focused on acquiring this year, what are you going to do to prospect and engage them?” The territory managers would identify new accounts in their territories. The account managers would identify new divisions, locations, project teams in their territories.
Account planning and execution is really not different than any other territory planning that we do.
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.
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