Is a hidden danger lurking inside your Account base? Instead of having a competitive advantage as an incumbent, you may have a competitive liability! As leaders, we often recognize success and celebrate team wins. Yet, in the busyness of trying to grow revenues, we often give less focus to existing Accounts contributing a consistent run rate, especially early in a multi-year contract.
Competitors are working diligently to establish a presence within your existing Account base. It is a sobering fact that your competitors are actively planning on how they can exploit your areas of weakness to take away your business. It is critical your team ensures they have built an impenetrable fortress around your Account base to insulate your revenues from attack.
Part of the problem starts with the term “Account Management.” Revenue Storm is convinced that this term needs to evolve into Account Leadership. Managing Accounts suggests a passive approach, such as the historic description of “farming” an Account. An assertive, competitive farmer – doesn’t feel quite right, does it? Don’t you want your Account Leaders to be more of a fierce hunter? That phrase used to be used only for new logo business development roles, but in today’s world you need to be strategically hunting for opportunities within your Accounts.
Account Management has traditionally focused on keeping the client satisfied by resolving issues quickly. Unfortunately, client satisfaction today is more complex. It isn’t enough to do what you were contracted to do. Once a client sees or experiences something in any manner, they wonder why they cannot experience that in their business. If they can get free, next day delivery in their personal life, why can’t they get that in their business? If there is an app that makes something easy in their personal life, they wonder why their vendor doesn’t offer them an app to solve their business needs. Those thoughts can drive dissatisfaction, regardless of what you contracted to provide.
To counter this phenomenon, you need your team to become more creative and proactive in looking for ways to bring more value and innovation to your Account base. It’s about leveraging your internal thought leadership across the team, to maximize its impact, rather than being happy with the status quo.
Another approach to building Account protection is to groom client evangelists. When your team has a significant success for a client or even for an individual executive, leverage it. At least monthly ask your team, “Who in our Account base is delighted with our impact? Can you get them to agree to provide us with a testimonial, referral, video, or help us create a case study?” People like recognition, and providing this via social media, websites, or conferences can further your support. Plus, in today’s market, new customers truly value existing Account’s positive comments. This is often underutilized – so consider incenting your team to make it happen.
Why else should you move to Account Leadership from Account Management? The numbers! On average, our research shows most organizations feel they have achieved 10-20% penetration of the potential spend within their Account base. If that is the true, there is an outstanding 80-90% of revenue that could be won. Account Management won’t create client evangelism, executive support, nor build protection from competitive attack. The worst outcome is losing key Accounts and having to add the lost revenue into your new business sales plan in order to make up the difference. So, let’s prevent that.
Does your team have Accounts where you have sold the same offerings for years? If so, you are likely at risk. How big is the cost of change for the Account? Very few solutions today cannot be easily replaced. If you suspect your team has a competitive liability within your Account base, we recommend the following approach:
- Segment your base of Accounts using the 80/20 Pareto Rule. Simply put, which of your Accounts generate the most significant revenue? Typically, 20% of your Accounts will produce 80% of the revenue. These Accounts must be protected at all costs. They need proactive innovation and thought leadership from your team.
- For your key Accounts in #1 AND at least one Account per salesperson / Account Manager, create a stacked ranking for the Accounts, from most vulnerable to least vulnerable.
- Ask your team, “How have we provided this Account tangible value? How have we measured it, and how often have we shared it with the right people?”
- Have your team identify and measure who they have strong relationships within their strategic Accounts, using the Relationship BarometerTM. How politically powerful and influential are they? Are the right roles Partner Allies or Supporters? Our experience is most Accounts have relationships at the mid to lower levels of the organization, making them vulnerable to higher executive’s perceptions. These executives hold significant influence and may be completely unaware of the value being contributed by your company. You will want to create a plan to get in front of them.
- Create a coaching cadence with the intent of closing the gates – building protection into your Accounts. This will require Demand Creation skills leveraging thought leadership and collaboration to develop ideas that can bring new valued impact to the Account. By the way, if you need assistance, Revenue Storm has a one-day structured consulting format to help create Bold Account Visions where organizations need a step-change in value.
- Set reasonable expectations to position and collaborate with the right people in the Accounts to refine or modify your pitch. Have your team members report in on the progress monthly to build accountability and brainstorming among the team. Measure and track the progress for the specific Accounts and the pool of Accounts at large to create a scoreboard for the team.
While you could have an important competitive liability in your Accounts, it can be quickly reversed into a protected, fortified Account base. It just takes disciplined attention, an agile strategic plan, and accountability to execute in different areas of the Account. If you follow the steps above, you will be surprised at your expanded Account penetration.
This month’s article recommends an approach if you suspect your team has a competitive liability within your Account base. Try the recommendations with just one of your Accounts, in a team meeting, to get the best thinking from the group. This will let them all experience it before asking them to apply it to their own Accounts.