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Achieve This Year's #1 Sales Priority

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Ridiculous Upside is the name of a well-known blog that covers up-and-coming basketball players that could make the NBA, but need further development to reach their potential. Too bad that the basketball bloggers took the name, because ridiculous upside is a great way to describe the untapped potential hiding in most every company's existing accounts.

In our research study, The Benchmark Report on Top Performance in Strategic Account Management, we led a major study of 397 organizations that had formal strategic account management functions. We found that 76% of organizations believe they should grow their strategic accounts by 25% or more and 47% believe they should grow them by at least 50% or more.

This is a marked increase in the growth potential since our study 4 years earlier. Talk about upside potential…

Revenue Growth Potential Greater than
25% and 50%
Best SAM Teams - Figure 1.png

In a separate RAIN Group research report, we polled 472 sales leaders about their top priorities.1 The number one priority was to "Increase business with existing accounts." Organizations that excelled at increasing business with existing accounts were significantly more likely to be Top Performers.

At the same time, the number one difference between Top Performers and The Rest was "Our sales organization is effective at maximizing sales to existing clients across capability areas."

While growing accounts is the #1 priority, only Top Performers are excelling in this area.

So what is it that makes some organizations so much better at growing their accounts?

We set out to answer this question in The Benchmark Report on Top Performance in Strategic Account Management.

We learned that strategic account managers—the people charged with growing accounts—in the Top Performer group had a very different set of competencies. We outline the 6 roles of strategic account managers here.

For both Top Performers and The Rest, the competencies most commonly played well were, in rank order:

  1. Technical Expert
  2. Relationship Lead
  3. Collaborator
  4. Results Driver
  5. Innovator
  6. Project Manager

What's more interesting, however, is to look at the roles with the greatest competency gaps between Top Performers and The Rest. Note that the ranking is completely flipped upside down.

Competencies Most Commonly Played Across All Organizations
Competencies Most Separating Top Performers From The Rest
 Best SAM Teams - Figure 2.png

Think of it like this: you need Technical Experts, Relationship Leads, and Collaborators to get a seat at the table and to get opportunities to drive conversations and sales. When these roles aren't played well, you're disqualified from competing. These are the price of entry.

The Top Performers, those with the strongest revenue growth, margin growth, and satisfaction growth in their strategic accounts are much more likely to have Project Managers, Innovators, and Results Drivers on their strategic account teams.

The Project Manager is the organizer of the process of capturing revenue from the account. They organize the plan, the people on the team, and make sure everything gets done. They also provide much needed accountability for all.

The Innovator can also be called the Value Creator or the Visionary because they see ways to increase value delivered to the account others often don't. The Innovator is often an internal evangelist for the breakthrough change your company can create for clients and value you can co-create with clients. Innovators synthesize information and can communicate the big picture to executive-level clients. They are also instrumental in facilitating idea exchanges in collaboration with clients.

If you want to achieve the #1 sales priority for the year and drive the greatest account growth, make sure Project Managers, Innovators, and Results Drivers are played well. When you do, you'll create compelling strategic account plans, and use the plans as guides to execute and drive results with hustle, passion, and intensity.

1 Mike Schultz, John Doerr, and Mary Flaherty, Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report (RAIN Group, 2016).

Topics: Sales Performance Improvement Sales Opportunity Management Strategic Account Management