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Seller-Driven Demand: the Greatest Untapped Opportunity in Key Account Sales

Imagine for a minute you sold everything you should be selling across all of your firm’s capabilities to your existing clients. If all the buying centers bought all of the capabilities they should be buying, how much would your key account sales increase?

When people spend time analyzing this carefully, they find the potential to expand sales to existing clients is huge.

Given the great potential for growth, many companies give proactive key account sales quite the effort, but few achieve the results they should. The problem is they can’t, or for some reason simply don’t, create their own opportunities.

For example, we know of accounting firms that sell tax and audit services where they get most of their business from referrals, but they have huge opportunities to sell financial consulting, management consulting, technology products and services, human resources and benefits products and services, and more.

Banks have business clients who have checking and savings accounts with them, but not investments, retirement, insurance, lending, and more. Many technology firms have only a fraction of what they sell installed at their client sites, and have opportunities to grow their service revenue over-and-above product sales.

The same goes for industrial products from medical devices to semi-conductors to heavy equipment, business services from executive search to outsourcing to marketing, and to other professional services industries such as law, engineering, construction, and so on.

There’s only one thing standing in their way: figuring out how to succeed in proactively driving demand.

As we work with companies to help them increase their key account sales, we tend to see the same challenges crop up.

Sometimes the problems are organizational: challenges having to do with strategy, resources, compensation, culture, accountability, and so on. However, even at the companies that have their organizational house in order, the key account sales process falls down in implementation when teams fail to create their own opportunities.

Before we move ahead, it’s important to establish the difference between buyer-driven demand and seller-driven demand:

  Buyer-Driven Demand: The buyer initiates the buying process. Establishes intent to buy. Reaches out to potential vendors. As well, if a buyer buys something now and plans to continue to buy it, this is considered buyer-driven demand as the demand is already established.
  Seller-Driven Demand: The seller inspires a buyer to initiate a buying process that the buyer previously would not have done at that time without the seller’s involvement. In other words, the seller creates the opportunity.

Sellers don’t realize that selling is not just a little different—it’s quite different—when the sellers drive the demand. It’s only after people realize this that they start succeeding with creating their own opportunities.

Figuring Out What to Sell to Your Key Accounts

The first step in succeeding in opportunity creation is excelling at what we call internal value discovery. Internal value discovery is a process for assessing ways in which your company can add more value to an account. It’s usually done in a meeting or series of meetings and, when done well, has a specific process for creating the best outcomes.

In our recent study, Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we learned that high performers (who sold a lot more and generated higher profit from key accounts), were much better at their internal process for discovering additional ways they could provide value to clients.

Internal process for assessing
how we can add more value

Too many companies skip this step, don’t have the right people in the room to surface the best ideas, or don’t have a good process for running these kinds of meetings.

When these meetings don’t happen, or don’t happen well, the whole process is flat. When they get the internal value discovery process right, it’s like the lights go on, the opportunities seem to come alive, and the enthusiasm for implementation goes from ho-hum to genuine enthusiasm.

And when this happens, sellers put themselves in a position to tap the greatest untapped opportunity in key account sales: driving their own demand and generating new business opportunities.

Additional Reading
5 Ways to Create New Business in Your Accounts

What is it that strategic account managers must do to grow their accounts? Surely, most would agree SAMs should be proactively driving strategic sales opportunities rather than simply waiting and reacting to buyer queries. That is to say: to make new sales, SAMs should be prospecting inside their accounts. Yet, in most organizations, this doesn't happen.

[New Research] Benchmark Report on Top Performance in Strategic Account Management

When we studied strategic account management in 2012, 59% of sales leaders believed there was greater than 25% revenue growth potential in their existing accounts.

In a separate, more recent research initiative, we found that the #1 priority for sales leaders in the year ahead is to increase business with existing accounts. We also discovered that Top Performers are nearly 2x more likely to be effective at maximizing sales to their existing accounts.

The Holy Grail of Strategic Account Management

For our Top Performance in Strategic Account Management Benchmark Report, we studied two specific processes for driving value with accounts.