As sales forces in many organizations face a busy fiscal year-end, they are also planning for how to grow revenues in 2015. I’ve been working with clients who are looking for insights and ideas on how to increase their revenue footprint in their key accounts next year. In our discussions, we often discover that their organizations lack comprehensive understanding of where untapped opportunity resides in accounts – for example in other departments, divisions or business units, or other geographies. They also determine that they have operational barriers that inhibit sales teams from collaborating with each other to add more value to their customers. If you believe that your firm has untapped opportunities to better serve your customers across additional departments, business units, or geographies, now is the time to take action. But where should you start?
First, Figure Out Who Needs To Be Involved
To ensure that you maximize the potential of your key accounts, you need the participation of people beyond just your sales reps. To get this right, you need leaders from sales, sales operations, marketing, and potentially product groups and your tech management team, as well as front line sales teams, to come together to inventory your current key account presence or penetration.
Next, Ensure Your Sales Force Has Accurate Information . . .
To help your sales force plan and execute their key account growth strategies, you’ll need to ensure that they have accurate information about the legal and financial structure of accounts. Providers like Dun & Bradstreet utilize established legal and financial organizing structures (i.e., SEC) and data to gain accurate visibility into the legal, financial, and organizational structures of your accounts, as well as contact information.
. . . By Using New Tools To Update Your CRM Data
Unfortunately, the customer databases (e.g. CRM) of many, if not most, companies are incomplete and inaccurate. You must find and close gaps in information on business entities (departments, business units, or locations) and people (names and contact information for probable buyers) at your key accounts. The good news is that there are vendors with innovative technologies that can help you by:
■ Improving the data quality in your CRM system and other relevant databases. Resources from vendors like RingLead and Data.com can help you rapidly improve (and maintain) your data quality by cleaning up duplicates, standardizing naming conventions, and finding and completing missing or incomplete data.
■ Inputting missing account contact information. Salespeople don’t always enter contact information into the CRM system, and reps can’t enter information on contacts they aren’t even aware of. As a result, most companies have only a small percentage of relevant account business contacts in their CRM system. Vendors like Avention, Data.com, InsideView, and RingLead can provide more comprehensive contact information, enabling your salespeople to gain access to new decision-makers. For ongoing updates, providers like TrustSphere and LiveHive can mine email messages and automatically update your CRM system with active business contacts that aren’t currently entered.
Examine and Revise Sales Account Assignments.
Ensure that you assign all of the departments, business units, locations, and contacts of your key accounts to salespeople who will engage them. This is a good time to consider the needs of the people who make decisions on your solutions and what competencies they need from your salespeople. Make sure you're aligning the right salespeople with your buyers for 2015 so you make it easier for decision makers to engage and buy from you. See my reports "Why Buyers Don't Want To Meet Your Salespeople And What To Do About It", and "Do Your Salespeople Meet Your Buyers' Needs?" with associated sales team development tools for more insights on this.
Now, Build And Execute Key Account Plans
Knowing where potential opportunities exist and ensuring that your firm pursues them exhaustively are two very different things. Start by ensuring that your key accounts have actionable account plans. Then create visibility, accountability, and support for key account salespeople to ensure that they can effectively execute on those plans. Vendors like Revegy and The TAS Group integrate with CRM systems and provide solutions for key account planning and execution that can improve visibility into account opportunities, pursuit plans, and performance.
Finally, Remove Remaining Barriers To Success
To ensure key account coverage and to leverage relationships in one business or location to open up new opportunities in other departments, divisions, or geographies, your sales structures, rules of engagement, compensation, and coaching must encourage opening new doors and must support cooperation and collaboration across sales people and teams in different territories and geographies. This means identifying and removing barriers that are embedded in your compensation plans, creating planning processes that enable teams to plan and sell together across organizational boundaries, and revising your account rules of engagement to create expectations and processes that encourage and enable salespeople to work together on accounts.
Ensuring that your company doesn’t leave money on the table in key accounts requires hard work, but it’s the only way to start realizing your opportunities and aligning your resources appropriately. What other challenges do you see companies having in expanding their key account opportunities?