We constantly impress the benefits of the right account base for the Salespeople of our sales training partners in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. While many Salespeople are eager to land big accounts with high annual investments, we have all had the experience of seeing some of these clients cancel, leaving massive amounts of attrition in their wake. Here’s how smart Salespeople structure their account base to ensure they’re in the best position at all times.
Many Salespeople have started their careers with a small or even non-existent account base. Perhaps that’s your current situation. I’ve always advised every Salesperson I’ve worked with to capture that moment and never forget what it’s like to start from scratch. Building your client base from the ground up is one of the most rewarding, gut wrenching experiences you will ever have in your sales career. If you’ve ever done this, you know exactly what I’m referring to. It’s like building a house one stage at a time. It takes persistence, strong will and hard work.
Starting with No Account Base
Usually assigned to a Salesperson just starting their career, new business development comprises all of your day. Prospecting, cold calling and finding a handful of clients and decision makers to work with seems like an endless task. This is where your drive and persistence pays off. A good employer will provide Salespeople in this stage of their career a salary or guaranteed income to start.
Managing your account list is very easy because all of your activity is focused on building one. While a difficult process, it’s simple to understand what it takes to succeed – dedicated time invested in building a healthy sales funnel and consistent sales activity. You will have to become accustomed to rejection, gatekeepers pushing you away and decision makers that take many attempts at contact.
Here’s the positive. You are building your account base with the clients you want to work with. Your ability to qualify decision makers and have a long-term strategy will eventually payoff. It’s important that you and your Sales Manager are on the same page with realistic expectations and timelines for success.
This is also the stage of your career that you will yearn for some of the big accounts serviced by veteran Salespeople. Be careful of the “If onlys.” If only I had that account. If only my account base was full of large annual clients. If only I could answer my phone or email with large orders.
Know that the experienced Salespeople in your company started the same way many years ago. That’s how many of us learn the business and earn the privilege of working large clients.
Developing your Account Base
After a few months or quarters of hard work, you are probably now working with some recurring buyers that have seen the benefits of having a relationship with you and your company. You’re starting to see the results of your hard work, albeit slowly. Your confidence is building and you’re not questioning yourself so much. You could very well be over-servicing your clients, nurturing their evolution and starting to see more consistent growth in your monthly sales.
While you’re still doing a great deal of prospecting, some of your new customers are making a larger investment over a longer duration with you. You’re learning how to ask for bigger commitments and better deal with client expectations.
Your skill set is growing and you’re constantly looking to engage with the ideal customer profile who wants to start an ongoing relationship based on success.
You may be in the development stage of your business for a few years. You should be seeing a gradual increase in your billings quarterly with a more sizable bump each year. Your Sales Manager and trusted senior Salespeople in your company are a great resource for you.
When other Salespeople leave the company, you’re probably receiving some of their better accounts. This is because it’s thought that you will be able to service them well and potentially increase their annual billings based on your expertise, creativity and ability to solve client challenges.
The Seasoned Account Base
Your years of hard work and discipline have now paid off and you’re probably one of your company’s biggest billers. You have a number of annual clients whose investment increases each year due to your strong working relationship with them.
Your income continues to grow each year and your Sales Manager continues to raise your yearly target. Know that your Sales Manager is given the goal of appropriating those sales and wouldn’t give it to you if he or she didn’t think you were capable of reaching it.
You’ve grown to know your customers on a personal level and may be socializing with many of them outside of work hours.
You may be asked to take on additional responsibilities and provide some leadership to the developing Salespeople in the company. Your ability to handle challenges successfully is based on your personal experience doing it so many times.
You often see the new Salespeople being hired and quickly remember what it was like when you started many years ago. Perhaps, some of them are asking for your opinion and guidance in handling certain client situations. It’s a nice feeling to know that your opinion is valued on the sales floor and your Sales Manager’s office.
The Benefits of a Balanced Account Base
Smart Professional Salespeople know that the evolution of their account base is constantly in flux. The key to their success comes from the realization that their account base has a healthy mixture of all types of buyers within different stages of their account evolution.
As you might well expect, this doesn’t mean that great Salespeople stop working with accounts in any one given area to graduate to the next. Even though we would all love to have a number of huge clients making large annual investments, successful account management doesn’t work that way. In fact, there’s a real danger to it. Here’s why.
New Accounts Recently Prospected
The most experienced Sales veteran knows that these accounts are the lifeblood of new business development. Smart Salespeople still prospect on a weekly basis. While they may be looking to call on buyers with higher qualifications and potential, top-performing Salespeople make cold calling part of their regular routine to avoid panic prospecting when large annual clients decrease their investment due to competition or market conditions.
Should attrition be minimized, the proactive Salesperson benefits from having a record year. This typically occurs when spending is up across the board from clients in all categories.
To use a sports analogy, this can be likened to a single when the batter gets to first base.
Making a consistent commitment to the development of Secondary clients into Key Accounts creates a huge increase in their annual investment. Doing regular Discovery Meetings to stay focused on a buyer’s changing needs and revising your strategy to manage expectations is vital in increasing trust and development of your needs based relationship.
This is baseball’s double when you hit the ball well and get to second base.
Large Annual Clients
The epitome of what every Salesperson is looking for, the large yearly buyer is a necessity to meeting large sales target expectations for experienced Salespeople. In this stage of account, supplier consolidation is a regular topic of discussion, as you’re trying to get your unfair share of purchasing by having the best of working relationships.
Fewer suppliers means less time invested by decision makers in meeting with too many people. Consolidation also brings a cost savings element to the formula with fewer invoices and increased bargaining power with fewer suppliers.
You guessed it, this is a triple. We see them less often in sports and business, yet they can make a huge difference to our score and ability to win.
Home Run Clients
I strongly suggest that you always have a few Home Run clients in your sales funnel. These are the buyers and companies that would represent an incredible upside opportunity in investment and stature. They would make you look like a hero, giving you and your company the prestige that comes with landing them.
Ensure that you don’t rely on them to make your yearly sales target or you will fall on your behind when swinging the bat too hard on a curve ball strike pitch. They typically have a long sales cycle of a year or more and may have a host of decision makers. Several meetings and time will need to be invested to land them.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of landing a home run client. The rarity of a Grand Slam Home Run would most definitely further your reputation in your company and the industry you serve.
Working with clients in all of these categories simultaneously is the goal of the smart Salesperson. It minimizes your attrition, protects you in adverse market conditions and sets you up for successful years. It also works toward lowering your stress, budgeting for your family’s best interests and enjoying a great lifestyle.
Do you have any other suggestions toward developing a balanced account base? Please use the comments area below to let us know what you think. If you liked this post, share it on your favorite social media platform.
If you want to find out more about how to make this part of your future sales success, check out our online program The Sales Skills Incubator or our book SHUT UP! Stop Talking and Start Making Money. If you’re a Sales Manager wanting to invest in your team, contact us for fully customized training and coaching.
Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY