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How to Tackle the Hidden Killer of Account Growth

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

All the strategies. All the meetings. All the planning.

All the effort you put in to maximizing your sales to existing accounts will be for naught if you don’t first talk about, and then do something about, this hidden killer of account growth.

Your people don’t trust each other.

We don’t mean everyone thinks the guys down the hall are all lying, cheating, sniveling Salty Sams. It’s often more subtle:

  • Your account leaders don’t know enough about the other areas of your business and how they operate to trust them with their most important relationships.
  • Your account leaders don’t know enough about what the other areas can help clients achieve to believe that their clients will be thrilled if they buy it.
  • Your account leaders have been burned in the past by bringing other people (or, perhaps, specific people) in, so, whether consciously or not, they avoid broadening the conversation.

Then again, it could be Saltysamism. It could be they doubt each other’s competence. Or that the product they sell isn’t so great. It could be a host of issues.

Regardless of why, if you have internal trust issues, you can have all the account planning meetings in the world, but somewhere in the process someone will block account growth.

It’s funny. People won’t talk to each other about it (though they should), but they will talk to us about it. Here’s how conversations go:

Client: "I want to share something with you, but before I do, can you confirm that this is just between us? You need to hear this—company leadership needs hear this—but I don’t want it specifically coming from me."

RAIN Group: "Yes, that’s correct."

Client: "OK, I brought the XYZ Practice at my company into my most important account two years ago, and they screwed up royally. And then they didn’t even take responsibility for it. It was just shy of catastrophic. I realize that there’s huge revenue growth potential in that area, and we have probably five strategic accounts that could become major customers for them, but as it stands right now, I’m not bringing them in."

We hear this more often than you might think. It’s pretty common, actually.

In RAIN Group’s Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we found:

  • Only 22% of high performers report “lack of cooperation and collaboration among various groups at our company” as challenging compared to 36% of average / below-average performers.
  • 69% of high performers report “creating team-based approaches to working with accounts” as effective or very effective compared to 53% of average / below-average performers.

Both of these data points were statistically significant determinants of high performance in account management.

High performers—those companies that enjoy higher revenue growth, profit growth, and client satisfaction—take a collaborative, team-based approach. Because of it, they’re more successful.

This is not a skill issue. It’s often not a value delivery or capability issue. It’s not even a belief issue, as most companies believe they should trust each other and collaborate.

But average and below-average performers… they just don’t trust each other nearly as much as the high performers do. This kills the collaboration and teamwork that works so well for the high performers.

This lack of internal trust is an elephant in the room. People don’t talk about it. But make no mistake: lack of internal trust is a silent, chronic wet blanket dampening account growth.

So what do you do about it? There’s no one answer. You have to know what’s going on and why before you can solve it. Ask yourself:

  1. Is there a lack of trust here at our company?
  2. Is it hindering our account growth?
  3. Why don’t we have the high level of trust we need?
    • Lack of depth of knowledge of capabilities?
    • Lack of depth of knowledge about how other divisions can make a difference?
    • People don’t know each other well enough to establish trust in each other?
    • People do know each other well, but they don’t like each other?
    • Actual quality issues that, as a company, you need to solve?
    • You’ve solved quality issues, but people don’t know that well enough yet?
    • Are your people naturally resistant or slow to trust?
    • Something else?

Once you have some answers you can start solving the problems, be they cultural, operational, or isolated.

Whatever the case, solve the issues you must. (Well, you don’t have to. Only if you want to grow your accounts to their potential.)

But take care: trust issues are sticky. Depending on the cause, the solutions will be quite different. Whatever the cause, the solution tends to take a while to change things.

Yes, building trust takes time. Fortunately, most of us aren’t planning to be in business for only the next few months. You have time. Get started and work on trust issues openly and seriously. It just may be the key to unlocking major opportunities for account growth.

Topics: Strategic Account Management