Who owns the relationship with your biggest clients?
If one of your key account managers leaves tomorrow does the relationship also leave the business?
Are new members in your sales team given a warm set of relationships or starting from the deep freeze?
What are your criteria for sales activity in your top 20 accounts?
Many years ago, I studied agricultural science at the University of New England in the wonderful northern tablelands NSW city of Armidale. As part of my studies, I learned the stark difference between the intensive farming that is found in horticulture or pork manufacturing compared with the broadacre requirements found on some beef properties in central Queensland where one beast requires 10 or 12 hectares on which to graze.
I have found that the best sales professionals are outstanding at intensive farming of a territory. The less skilled requires a broad acre approach. This is also akin to “picking the low hanging fruit” without too much sweat or application.
The best sales leaders I have worked with apply territory management in the following way:
Regularly monitoring the activity in the key accounts. This requires mandatory data input into the companies CRM and well-designed management reporting which is used to manage sales performance in an objective manner.
Have a communicated rule on how often key accounts need to be engaged. This will vary depending on the product or service and also how active the client is: daily, weekly or monthly. In most cases, more than monthly engagement is not serious engagement management.
Have communicated criteria on how accounts are graded:
# of contact points
Projected revenue in the next 12 months
Net Promoter Score – this is valuable because it rates the account manager and the overall interaction with the client. It’s a reliable predictor of how much the client views your business and the members interacting with them.
Move accounts between team members. This reinforces the fact that the business owns the client, and it is being loaned to the account executive. It encourages account managers to work the valuable assets loaned to them using intensive hunting and farming methods.
Provide new account managers with a mix of warm and cold accounts. The quicker new members are successful; the more successful the business will be. This initiative also drives an important teamwork component of the company culture, where everyone is supporting each other to be successful rather than a “dog eat dog”, “boiler room”culture.
Put in place business-wide territory plans and, as a subset, team level territory plans. Know what the scope of the market looks like and how much is being actively engaged. Keep a healthy mix of established accounts (farming) and accounts requiring business development (hunting). Salesforce has a list of 8 Tips for Planning Sales Territories. Tip “2” is the capacity issue – how many territories are required to make each of your account managers successful?
Insist on account management plans from the front-line account managers. This is a key part of the “start with the end in mind” mentality, which is key to a strategic thinking account executive. This approach compliments the top-down planning for the business. If done with full knowledge and disclosure, there should be a complimentary meeting in the middle with the bottoms up process which is roughly aligned. Of course, an account executive should be able to plan to exceed its revenue target from the account plan. Executing the plans allows unforeseen shortfalls and oversight to be headed off before the year has progressed too far along.
Have multiple account managers working for large clients. This is a key risk mitigation strategy. Large client accounts can be complex, and only the most senior and accomplished account executives can get their arms completely around the management of these projects. Providing multiple account management services also permits specialization in the account. Failing to do these things in large accounts means, invariably, opportunities are being foregone.
Put all this in place for communication and execution at the beginning of the fiscal or sales year.
Depending on the business and the product or service being sold, the sales process can be anywhere from one meeting to many meetings. Indeed, it is well documented that establishing a new B2B client can take 12 ~ 15 encounters before some traction takes place. Given the high cost of acquisition for new clients, a dutiful level of care is prudent. On top of this a lazy account manager can undo all this hard work very quickly.
Make it an integral part of your culture for sales leaders to actively manage sales territories. The accounts are a valuable asset that belongs to the business.