Questions to Consider for Account Planning & Growing Existing Accounts
IT staffing firms should be selling more of their service offerings to their existing accounts but they’re not. There are a number of reasons for this including but not limited to:
• Lack of training, account planning tools or methodology on behalf of the sales team (account management team)
• Mixed messages sent to sales teams to “open new accounts” and “grow existing accounts”
• Sales people being afraid to “get out of their comfort zone” and develop new relationships in existing accounts
• Lack of resources (team members are spread too thin)
• Internal barriers to cross-selling (internal politics and turf wars, lack of collaboration)
• Territorial sales people (lack of trust, etc.)
• Don’t know nearly enough about their existing accounts and where else (and how else) they could be adding value (and billing additional consultants)
• Often wear “blinders” and don’t recognize the “blind spots” in their accounts for additional revenue opportunities
• Fail to collaborate as a team on how they can add additional value to the client and expand wallet share. They fail to develop account strategies and/or hold team members accountable to those strategies
• Lack the sales skills to sell up the customer value chain, cross-sell and create new opportunities and “box-out” the competition
When I ask sales professionals about the strength of their client relationships, most of them tell me “I have a really good relationship we have been working together for years. They championed me on the list.” And then they’ll say, “We go to ball games and play golf together.” As you can see by these responses, sales people tend to focus on “surface level” elements of the relationship such as rapport building and bonding. Not to say those are not important elements of a client relationship but account managers (and account management teams) should really focus less on how much they’re liked by the customer and more on the business value of the relationship (how the client perceives the value). This is where account planning comes into play.
In my sales trainings and workshops I often ask sales people “What problems do you solve for your customers?” I often get a blank stare with glazed eyes in response. To take it a step a further, I ask IT staffing sales people “When is the last time you asked your customer(s) why they do business with you and how does our service offering impact their business operations?” From my experience, most account managers are afraid of asking these questions. They would rather not know the answer to these questions then take the risk of hearing potentially less then flattering comments (and/or uncovering relationship issues) from the customer.
As you conduct your account planning and consider growing existing accounts and ultimately the value you deliver for your clients, consider the following questions:
• What would the impact be to the customer if they lost you as a supplier?
• How difficult would it be for the customer to replace you and your team (and service offering)?
• If you no longer served the client, how much value would the client feel they lost?
• What is the customer’s perceived value of your service offering?
I think you will find the answers to these questions can serve as building blocks to begin the process of developing an account plan for articulating and optimizing the value you offer and ultimately expanding wallet share. Expanding accounts and maximizing account “wallet share” comes back to the problems you can solve for your customers and the value you add. The more value you add the more likely your client will want to keep coming back and buying from you. And playing golf!
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.