In our Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management research study, we learned that high performers—those companies that had much greater revenue and profit growth in their strategic accounts than the rest—were 2.8 times more likely to have an effective process for planning ways to add value to accounts.
Effectiveness of process to evaluate additional areas of value we can bring to strategic accounts.
If you want to increase revenue in your accounts, the first thing you need to do is—you guessed it!—make it a standard, formal part of your process. Once you get the right members of the team together, you can explore ways to have the greatest impact on your client through additional product and service offerings.
But simply having these meetings isn't enough. Four common problems crop up, all of which can be aided with the help of the right sales planning tool.
- Problem – Capability Knowledge: At any company that has multiple product and service lines, account leaders literally forget what they offer. I’ve seen this happen: Account team brainstorms ideas to add value to accounts. Brainstorming slows down. Leader says, “Does anyone have any ideas before we move on?” Account team is silent.
Knowing the company fairly well, one time I suggested pulling up the company’s website to do a quick review of their offerings. I then simply asked the question, “Could they use that?” for each offering.
Brainstorm continued for another 45 minutes with six new ideas to pursue.
Solution: Create a pithy grid of company capabilities. Keep it short, but don’t miss anything. Laminate it. (Even in the digital world of today, if you want something taken seriously, laminate it.) Sounds simple? It is. But we’re not done yet.
- Problem – Connecting Value: Even when the account team is fluent in their company’s capabilities, they often don’t have enough knowledge of what those capabilities can do for clients.
Solution: In your grid of capabilities, note why the product or service will resonate with buyers. What are the benefits? What will the impact be? A quick scan of the benefits can often give account managers an idea of whether an offering will make a difference that buyers will care about.
- Problem – Trigger Awareness: Account teams don’t take advantage of specific events—often called trigger events—that create limited-time windows of opportunities for products and services.
Solution: In your grid of capabilities, list the triggers that lend themselves to a specific offering. Examples include new key stakeholders, mergers and acquisitions, expansion plans, major industry change, and more. Account teams can then ask themselves, “Are these things happening at my account?” When they are, they find creating new conversations is much easier than when nothing special is going on.
- Problem – Executive Level Sales and Conversation Skills: While they do a good job managing existing business, account leaders often don’t have the sales and conversation skills needed to create new opportunities, drive demand, beat (or unseat) competitors, and so on.
Solution: Make sure the team has good questioning skills1 (obvious, yes), but don’t stop there. Write out the questions they can ask that could help them uncover specific needs. Include it in your capabilities grid.
Value-Add Account Planning Tool (click to enlarge)
You’d think that most companies would have something like this. Some do, most don’t. In fact, in our Benchmark Study on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we asked about challenges in the way of growing accounts.
How challenging is "having an effective strategic account planning tool"?
The average and below-average performers were much more challenged because they did not have effective strategic account planning tools.
Many companies that implement a sales planning tool think of it as only a sheet to fill out that has categories like stakeholders, areas we can provide value, account research, revenue potential of opportunities, competitors, and so on. This is important, but it’s not enough.
Instead, they should think of sales planning tools more broadly, and include job aids that support effectiveness.
When account managers use a grid like this to aid their planning processes, it makes a huge difference. The results show in more effective account plans, better execution, and revenue growth at accounts.
1. Questioning alone is not enough. Sellers need to be able to present new ideas, and convince buyers why they might want to consider putting something new on their agenda. They need to be able to tell a Convincing Story for important capability areas.