One of the biggest mistakes organizations make today is not having a “real” account management plan in place. Whether it is at the executive, marketing, or sales rep level, we’ve uncovered that once you peel back the layers of the onion, you find the strategy is nothing more than a bunch of names on a napkin defining a territory. Most organizations will define that account territory based on a list of accounts that match what “they sell,” starting with the largest or most recognizable accounts, and in some cases, every possible buying account in a given region. Once a territory is defined, it is then up to sales to start calling down the list and do their “sales” thing. Separately, marketing is on the other side of the wall doing their “marketing” thing. Sure it’s an okay place to start, but if an organization really wants to be successful, it has to take the account management strategy to the next level. In this article, we’ve defined a few strategies to tighten your account management strategy.
As a first step, you’ve identified your ideal account territory as it relates to the products you sell. It’s a start, but in order to be successful, more layers need to be put into place to identify where to start. A list of accounts is nothing more than a list of accounts; a lot of time can be lost before you find the ideal buying accounts within that group. However, there is a methodology that can be applied to that list of accounts that will allow your team to identify who they should be targeting first, and how much time they should be spending with each account. This is called the account tiering process. When you tier an account base, you are essentially grouping them into buckets in a fashion that gives focus to your account management strategy.
Factors in reviewing accounts:
There are multiple factors that should be reviewed when starting to tier the individual accounts. Here are a few:
- Website – Is it clean and does it look like they spend money on marketing? Or does it look like it was coded in someone’s basement back in 1999? This is important as an indicating factor of whether they spend money on marketing and technology. If they spend in these areas, it means they could likely have available budget in others as well.
- Employee size – Are they a one or two-person shop, a business of a few hundred, or an organization of tens of thousands of employees? Typically, you want to shoot for targets that fit in the middle. Midsize firm decision makers are easier to obtain direct access to, and the decision-making process is usually simpler. Stay away from smaller firms as they commonly have little to no budget and can easily turn into time sucks. Larger firms, although they provide great logos for the company overview deck, are usually extremely difficult to turn into buyers, take longer to pay, and typically have long vendor approval processes.
- Tenure – How long have they been around? Are they a startup that just received funding, or are they someone who has been around for a while? Although first round start-ups spend money, they are someone to steer clear of until they get more established. Even if you get a startup to buy, you will most likely take up most of their available budget, and their likelihood to purchase again is low. On the other hand, an established firm will have a firmer budget and be more likely to spend again.
- Pricing – How much do they charge for their product, and how much do you charge for yours? Are they selling high ticket items and can recoup their investment in one or two sales? Or is their sales price significantly lower, and if so, do they have the volume to recoup the investment? If you’re selling something worth $100,000 and their average sale price is $8 a month with a small customer base, you are guaranteed not to get a sale (unless they have huge funding).
- Prior spend – Have they spent with your organization before? Prior spend is a great indication that they could spend again. Getting someone to buy for the first time is the hardest part.
- Annual Reports and 10k’s – These are untapped resources for many companies. They will typically list key organization priorities, changes, and in most cases, budget for certain departments. Do their priorities fit yours?
All of these factors come into play with tiering your account territory as it all plays into ease of sale and their likelihood to purchase from your organization again. Once you’ve evaluated your account territory across the factors above, the next process is to begin to tier each account.
- Tier 1 – These should be the accounts that are 100% in alignment to what you are selling without question, along with checking every box in the criteria above. These accounts are a direct home run fit, and the very first place to start. They should be the focus of 60% – 70 % of all activity.
- Tier 2 – Although you cannot check all boxes from above, you can check most of them. And overall, they are in great alignment to your products & solutions. These accounts should be about 10% – 20% of your focus from an account management perspective.
- Tier 3 – They fit less than 50% of the boxes above, but are still interesting. They should be about 5% – 10% of your focus.
- Tier 4 – They fit one or maybe two of the boxes above. Focus 0% of your time on these accounts and figure out a nurture marketing campaign to target them. Let marketing automation do the hard work for you, as it will take too much effort to get a sale, and they will most likely not be a repeat buyer.
- Global Accounts – Finally, the F500 or above. These organizations hit every one of the attributes above, but are historically the hardest accounts to crack. Most organizations make the mistake of targeting these establishments first, but so is everyone else. Not only are these accounts hard to crack, there is also an extreme amount of competition in the mix. Focus around 20% – 25% of your effort into these accounts. If you do things right, you will get them to buy over time, and they will be your greatest accounts without you having to sacrifice your short term gains by working on other accounts.
You’ve taken your account territory, and you now have an organized list tiering out each target. What’s next? Name development! Both sales and marketing need to know who to target within each account. When it comes to name development, do not make the mistake of only finding one or two names within each account—it’s a losing battle. In order to set yourself up for success, you must target a minimum of five to ten names per account across multiple departments. Each account is a little different, and you never know who could be a key influencer, a core decision maker, or who left their position and didn’t update LinkedIn. Furthermore, as you begin to target these accounts, you should constantly add new names to grow out the list. With each new connection, you should go beyond your typical email and title, and ensure that you are connecting with them on social media profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Sales & Marketing Alignment:
Finally, once you’ve identified your account tiers and key contacts within each account, you can now start the planning with marketing. In most organizations, marketing and sales couldn’t be further apart; instead, bring these two departments together and develop a strategy. Marketing should know who your most important accounts, contacts, and opportunities are in order to develop marketing campaigns targeting these accounts and contacts. The sales and marketing strategy should be updated each week to include new weekly targets.
As marketing and sales get together to develop a strategy, there are just a few things that should be covered:
- Social Media
- Have these key targets been followed on individual and corporate social platforms?
- How do we get these key targets mentioned in social media posts?
- Are they posting any content that can be commented on, liked, or shared?
- Has there been any content that mentions these key targets directly?
- Has any content published that they would be interested in?
- Do they have a key strategy or use case that can be covered in a blog?
- Have these key targets been added to the newsletter?
- Have they been targeted as part of an email marketing campaign recently?
- Can a special campaign be created for them?
- Are there any analytics that show they have been reading these emails?
- Do you know if they visited the website?
- What pages have they viewed?
- Does anyone have personal knowledge of these organizations?
- Has executive leadership reached out to them personally?
Many of the items above, can help create marketing air cover for sales as they are making direct contact with your key targets. These activities show your key targets that your organization has taken genuine interest in them, while giving them educational material to help progress them forward in the sales process.
A proper account management strategy does not develop overnight and does not only include sales. Knowing who to target and how to target individual accounts will increase an organization’s efficiency from both a sales and a marketing perspective. This will lead to a faster sales cycle and increase overall deal sizes. Just because you have a list of accounts to call, it doesn’t actually mean you have an account management strategy in place.