Strategic approach to all accounts

Tibor Shanto
 


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A strategic approach is not limited to National or Major Accounts only. Unless your sales are 100% opportunistic, a strategy is still key to managing your team, and for each member of the team looking to succeed not only on an account level but their whole territory.

This may seem straight forward, but there are many sales people who either do not have a strategic approach at all, or apply only aspects of a strategy to their accounts and territory. A successful strategy involves four key elements

· Time Management

· Planning

· Information/knowledge

· Execution

The absence of one will have an exponential detrimental effect on success, even when the other elements are applied. None of these is new to most sales people, but applying all four in a way that leads to desired results continues to be a challenge.

Time Management is an issue for all business people. The reality of business today is that most of us are trying to pack 18 hours worth of work into a 12 hour day, which means some things are just not going to get done. There is a lot of truth to the statement that there is no such thing as time management. After all how can you manage time? There are 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day, 365 days in a year, and only 1760 “Active Selling Hours” in a given year. If you find a way to change that let me know, in workshops, I often hear that participants wished that there were 26 hours in a day. The answer really lies in prioritizing and owning your time.

We have all seen sales reps who resemble a pin ball in play, they get a call from a client and they roll one way; a question from their manager and they roll the other way; a request from a prospect, and they are rolling up table again. In fact, when it comes to prospecting, one of the most often heard rationalizations for not prospecting, is lack of time.

Taking charge of your time is best achieved by managing you activities, once you have a handle on what activities are key to success and which activities are distractions and time eaters you can begin to prioritize and take control of your time. You may also find that you only have to pack 14 hours in to that 12 hour day, but you will know activities you have prioritized are getting done. This will quickly be validated by the results. One way to start this process is to sit down at the start of year, and sketch out what the real activities needed to succeed, what percentage of your “active selling” time should be allocated to each type of activity, and use that as part of you prioritization process. You may find that 30% should go to prospecting, 40% selling to qualified prospects, 20% to account management and up selling, etc. On a quarterly basis you should review your “ideal allocation” to make sure it is still realistic; if it is, then see how your time allocation is tracking vs. the ideal. One caution, don’t change the ideal to suit your reality, change the reality to achieve the ideal. There are a number of other tools we have introduced to our clients to help them address this issue.

Of course to be able to deal with the Time Management issue, you need to have a handle on Planning.

Planning is one of the most often ignored elements, and while we can’t reduce a two or three day workshop into a few lines, it is worth noting that it aligns around three key areas, territory, account and meetings. As with all the elements discussed in this article, they are all interconnected, and planning without proper information will not give you full benefit.

At the territory level, it is important to remember that you should focus on your best opportunities, which are not necessarily your best accounts. Many reps confuse current value with potential value. As a result they spend their time and resources on accounts that are fully valued, primarily based on the fact that they are already spending large sums with you. The concept of best customer leads many reps astray. If your largest account spends $100,000 a year on your product/service, has done so for the last five years, but there is little prospect that they can or will increase their spend in the next two years, then they are really a low potential client, and should be viewed and treated as such.

Reps often protest, saying that if they don’t respond to that client, consequences can be bad. As a result they spend a disproportionate amount of time and resources on these accounts. At the other extreme are those accounts that spend little with you year after year, say $10,000, when they are in fact spending over $100,000 in total with you and your competitors. There are two types of clients in this group, bad and good. The bad ones are the ones that will never spend more than $10,000, but keep you busy with requests for service; and meetings to discuss very little revenue related issues, etc. Studies have shown that these accounts, that make maybe 25% of your revenue, can consume upwards of 60% of your time and energy, with little or no potential to increased revenues. Interestingly, the same studies show that your $100,000 accounts are considerably less demanding than the low spend accounts.

The good ones are those accounts where you could, with proper effort, increase revenues substantially over the course of the next two years. But you don’t have the time, because you’re responding to the calls from the low/no potential accounts, convincing yourself that it is important to service your accounts. You have to take the time to assess your territory, and make sure that you are indeed spending time with potential accounts. We have a number of tools and processes to help our clients with this change.

To successfully achieve the above, you have plan at the account level, learning which do truly have potential and which don’t. What are they buying from you and what are they buying from the competition; where can you introduce related products/services to meet their needs and increase your revenues. You have to make the uncharted, charted, which takes us to Information/knowledge.

Sure, everyone knows that you have to know your customers, be informed, but often we are not, at least well enough to win. Too many sales people rely on the customer/prospect for their knowledge of the accounts. Simple things such as organizational charts are not included in the account plan; sometimes there is not even an account plan. Lack of awareness of the client’s corporate objectives makes us prey to the objectives of the individual or individuals we are working with. These are just a couple of simple things that impact ones ability to sell more into an account. It goes without saying that the time and effort you invest learning about the account, needs to correlate to the true potential of the account, but we are continually surprised by the complete lack of knowledge of key things that impact an opportunity.

For example, we recently did a strategic planning session for a client. One of their key accounts was currently spending $2 million across three of their six product lines. Based on work with the VP of sales, and research it was very realistic that their spend could more than double over the next three years, at the moment our client represented less than 10% of the account’s total spend in these areas.

Throughout the session, the account rep did not know basic facts: where in the decision process was their primary contact, what the buying process was, who else the client was dealing with, and who other contacts were that could influence matters. He had a good relationship with someone at the lower end of middle management “who has and will look after” him. Last year they lost revenue due to a switch in one of the lines, while they were able to make up for the revenue, he was unable to say why they lost the business to someone else, who they lost it to, who made the decision, just knew that it was lost.

It is easy to sit there and say that this is isolated, but in reality it is not. Just look at any ten account plans at random and you will see. Getting this information is not hard. Questions will get you answers, good questions will get you good answers, and planned questions will get you results. This brings us to pre-meeting planning. If the meeting is not planned, neither is the result. A few simple things go a long way. Key objectives for the meeting (not the whole account), ask a lot of sales people what their objective for a meeting is, and you get to close business. If you plan your objectives, you can plan your next step, and you can plan the questions needed to get you there.

One area of planning that we did not touch on above is the action plan. Again, many of you have sat with your sales teams, discussed accounts and territories at length and still concluded the meeting without a clear cut action plan. Without a specific action plan, Execution is less likely, it does happen, but with greater effort and over a longer period than with an action plan. Once you have created a plan, based on complete information, you have to create specific steps to implement the plan. You will do specifically WHAT, as clearly quantified as possible; by WHEN, day, time, and what happens if not by then; WITH WHOM and what is the desired OUTCOME.

As long as selling continues to be part science and part art, you can’t ignore the strategic process needed to succeed.

To learn more about how to balance strategy with tactical execution in growing your revenue, visit Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. 's web site at www.sellbetter.ca .

Tibor Shanto, is a Principal with Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. , Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. enables companies achieve sustained growth, by focusing on critical aspects of revenue growth. By recognizing that an outstanding sales force is THE differentiator in today’s environment, our clients with our help, focus on the development of both strategic and tactical initiatives to foster a winning team that will out think, out sell and out perform competitors while consistently gaining market share.

Renbor’s Objective Based Selling is a structured approach to delivering ongoing results and improvement by focusing the entire sales organization on a key set of objectives. The overarching objective for any sales organization is to achieve exceptional and sustainable revenue growth. This is accomplished by creating a culture of sales excellence built around the principles and processes adopted by world-class sales organizations.

For more information on helping your team sell better, write to: info@sellbetter.ca , visit http://www.sellbetter.ca or call 416 671-3555

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