Written by guest blogger Maurice Fuller
Written by guest blogger Maurice Fuller
I read some very interesting research the other day and learned that the likelihood for sales people and account managers to win new business in existing accounts is between 60 and 70%. Can you imagine closing 60-70% of your opportunities? Wow! On the other hand, when it comes to developing new business with brand new accounts the success rate drops to between 5-20%. If you knew your sales win rate could be that high would you take the time to effectively plan, measure and manage your existing accounts? I would sure hope so.
In my last installment of this series we talked about the dangers of taking an IT generalist position when developing new accounts. To recap, IT staffing firms without a niche face a number of challenges including but not limited to:
• Difficult to create compelling, relevant value propositions
• Requires unmanageably large candidate pools
• Lack of depth in the candidate market creates a reliance on job-boards and often allows the best candidates to go untouched
• Long recruiting cycles
• Perception in the market that you are a commodity
• Difficulty establishing credibility with prospects in need of specialized/hard to find talent
Your key customer accounts first and foremost must be protected and second, they need to be managed to grow to their full revenue potential. Failure to do so can result in financial ruin. Sales professionals including account managers need to have both short-term and long-term goals including a methodology for actively managing and growing strategic accounts. Without a strategic account development methodology including metrics to measure success, it can be difficult to assess if your account managers are simply passive “order takers” or as I like to refer to them, “relationship builders.”
In my experience “relationship builders” do nothing to help the customer or to move the relationship forward. Relationship builders are reactive in nature and simply try to find business but they can’t create business. Instead they focus on appeasing the customer and ensuring “they don’t step on people’s toes.” They don’t engage in the tough conversations because they don’t want to rock the boat. Perhaps this is one of the major reasons why IT staffing firms in general don’t engage in strategic account planning? This complacent behavior holds IT staffing firm’s hostage and eventually kills their business. Your key customers are far too important to your organization to be managed reactively.
What IT staffing firms need is a strategic account development methodology for effectively planning and growing key accounts. A strategic account development methodology provides both short-term and long-term planning for your key accounts. Like your opportunity funnel, good account plans provide milestones and expose your blind spots. They include measurable objectives that allow you to see if progress is being made. Equally important are indicators that help you identify and correct small problems before they become critical issues.
Some IT staffing firms have account managers who focus on farming and managing their strategic accounts while others have their sales people manage those accounts. Arguments can be made for both models, but what both fail to include is account planning. I’m talking about account planning that goes well beyond simply filling out an account profile template at the end of the year and never following through.
I understand that sales people don’t enjoy the planning process and the paperwork that comes with it. Account planning takes time and requires patience. I also understand that account planning doesn’t provide immediate gratification, yet requires an upfront investment in the form of time and energy with an unknown return. But when you fail to plan you tend to engage in reactive behavior and never give yourself the chance to become the incumbent vendor let alone the trusted adviser. With no planning you are not focused on your client’s critical business issues or goals. When you are not aligned and focused on helping your client achieve their goals and/or helping them solve their critical business issues you are seen as just another vendor, a commodity. And when you’re viewed as commodity the conversation always focuses on price. Do you see the pattern?
When you invest in strategic account planning you can align you service offerings around your client’s business goals, making them real business solutions. When you engage your clients in strategic account planning you can gain real insight and visibility into their business which enables you to become a part of the decision making process. This creates value for the customer, reduces pricing sensitivity when contract talks take place and makes it more difficult for a competitor to replace you.
When IT staffing firms engage in strategic account planning they;
To learn more about strategic account development and the planning process you can check out our five week strategic account development class that is currently open to the public.
Topics: strategic account development
One of the things I have learned over the years is that it’s very difficult for sales reps to develop and execute account plans. There are a number of strategies and methodologies to follow but there seems to be very little support and practical advice on how to best to put it all together into an effective and cohesive account action plan, without overwhelming sales reps. After all, what is the point of putting a strategic account development (SAD) plan in place if you don’t have the tools and action plan to execute?
You know what the most powerful sales management tool is to improve sales performance? Sales training? Nope. Reporting and business intelligence? Nope. Incentives? Nope. Performance reviews? Nope. CRM and ATS technology? Not even close.
Topics: sales coaching
Opening new accounts isn’t easy. That’s not news. Competition is high; prospects are busy and difficult to reach. This also isn’t news. The answer that many firms come up with to combat this is to utilize an “IT Generalist” go to market strategy. They believe that by being all things IT to all customers they will increase their opportunities to engage more prospects (True!) and that they will have an easier time generating new business (Not True!).
We have reached a new inflection point within the sales profession. Look around and you will see what I’m talking about. Decision makers are more difficult than ever to get a hold of. The lines of vendor differentiation are as murky as ever. Engaging prospects in meaningful dialog and gaining legitimate consideration (to do business together) has never been more challenging. The reason for all of this is buyer behavior has changed. The world of sales has reached a new inflection point.
An inflection point can be defined as a point in time for either opportunity or failure. Looking back on the history of the sales profession there have been two major inflection points. The first inflection point occurred when Dale Carnegie opened his sales training courses in 1912 and released his best selling book, How To Win Friends & Influence People in 1936. This book remains a classic today. His philosophy was that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s reaction to them. Many of today’s world leading organizations continue to apply these concepts.
Well here it is, 2015, a new-year which means new goals and new aspirations. After you finish celebrating 2014 it is once again, time to hit your number AGAIN! More than likely you will hear about this (hitting your number) at your sales kickoff meeting (if you haven’t already). Hosting a sales kick off meeting is one of the best ways to communicate your strategy and prepare your go to market plan. Heck, companies spend millions of dollars on these meetings to make them impactful. Yet most attendees fail to capitalize on the opportunity because they suffer from information overload from packed days followed with late nights (and usually lots of drinking). It's all a blur! Despite good intentions, follow up, reviewing and applying key data points and action items doesn't always happen. When that happens, you fail to see a change in behavior which means results don’t change either. Yet, you commonly see ‘A’ players knocking the ball out of the park year after year. What the heck are they doing at these sales kickoff meetings? What are they doing after the kickoff meeting? What are they doing to capture this data and maximize the opportunity?
Do you have a 2015 Sales attack plan? It's real simple, grow what you have and hunt for new! I know this isn’t news; it’s pretty much what you’ve been told to do since you started in this business, but I want you to ask yourself a few questions:
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