As the “quiet Beatle” George Harrison sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” But if you have a destination, you need to plan your route. The same is true with sales account management. To keep your book of business growing smoothly while you focus on all of your other sales activities, you need to invest the time to plan properly.
I think about account management often because the subject comes up with every group of sales professionals in every training class, no matter what company they’re from. It was a big part of my 20-year sales career, and it should be part of every seller’s world. The reason it doesn’t get a lot of attention is because most companies are focused on driving new revenue and bringing new customers through the door.
Know What Business You’re Losing
What account management does is work to make sure the new customers coming in the front door are not slipping away out the back door. It is both an art and a science, as sales professionals strive to keep their existing accounts and ideally, grow them, while also adding new accounts.
What I ask sales professionals is this:
“Do you know what the retention rate is in your territory?”
Too many give me deer-in-the-headlights looks as they confess:
“No, my company doesn’t share that information with me.”
To this, I reply:
“You should always know what business you’re losing, so find that out.”
If sellers are going to be the CEOs of their own territories, which is what I contend they should be, then they need to know what accounts they’re bringing in and what accounts are going out the back door — because they need to replace all those lost accounts.
When you analyze what’s leaving, you need to discover if the losses are because of something inevitable — like an acquisition that takes over your customer — or if the accounts are being lost because you haven’t been managing them properly. If that’s the case, you need to know where the problem is so you can fix it.
Three Components of Sales Account Management
There are three components of account management:
- The Plan
- The Tools
- The Execution
I’ll start with the plan and leave the rest for subsequent posts.
Developing a Sales Account Management Plan
The most important point about the plan is to have one. You’ve got a territory and a book of business. The first thing to do is identify which accounts warrant a management plan. Usually, these are your top-tier accounts.
Next, write a plan for how you’re going to keep and grow each account. It doesn’t have to be long; it can be one page. If the plan is an annual one, be sure to check it monthly or quarterly. What you write is probably something you’re already doing but haven’t yet formalized in writing. If you want to excel as a sales professional, you need to sit down, think through what needs to be done, and then commit to paper your strategy for keeping or growing existing business over the next year.
This isn’t easy for some people because they’ve never done it before and may not even know where to start. I am often asked:
“Do you have a sales account plan template I can use?”
There are several options for templates. Some are integrated into CRM systems; others can be found through a simple Internet search.
The exact template is not important; what’s important is getting and using one. It should work for you, and you should work it with your accounts.
It’s fine to keep a stream of new accounts coming in the door, but you need to retain them and grow them, and that requires an account management plan.
Richardson can help you develop a sales account management plan. Download our Collaborative Account Development Program brochure for more information, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.