Sales and marketing

It’s Time for Sales Hunters in Your Major Customer Accounts


Recently, I’ve been having a number of discussions on account-based strategies, major/global account coverage. To be honest, I’m stunned with some of the thinking about growing account based businesses.

Most of the thinking is dominated by retention strategies. Keeping the customer, if you have a subscription type of offering, getting the renewal. Wrapped around this is some notion of upsell/cross sell, “Can we expand the relationship with the current customer (individuals)?”

Speaking with one colleague, he observed that too many organizations are focused on just “protecting” the current base, they are afraid of disrupting the relationship with the customer and it’s impact on the base business. (Imagine being afraid to disrupt the customer, isn’t that our job?)

Much of this thinking drives an “account maintenance” philosophy, as a result, we tend to look towards “farmers” or relationship builders as our account managers.

That's Just Wrong

This thinking causes us to miss huge growth opportunities, and short changes the account of the value we might create with them!

Before I go further, as I’ve mentioned a number of times, my mindset on accounts is that it’s our God-given right to 100% share of customer.  It’s the responsibility of the account manager to identify and pursue all opportunities in the account.

This mindset isn’t different from the hunter assigned a geographic or industry oriented territory. Hunters, in this scenario, are aggressively looking to find and qualify new opportunities in the territory. They relentlessly seek out customers in that geography/industry.

Isn’t that what we should be doing in our account programs? Shouldn’t we be aggressively looking beyond the current groups we deal with, expanding our coverage of the account to find new opportunities? Perhaps it’s an expansion of current solutions, finding everyone in the account that can get value from these solutions.  Perhaps it’s presenting new solutions to current customers in the account (upsell) or going to parts of the account we haven’t done business with, presenting these new solutions.

I’m hard pressed to understand why we have a different orientation to account-based growth than we have in geographic or industry based growth.  I’m hard pressed to understand why we don’t put some of our best hunters into these accounts to accelerate the growth of the relationship, the revenue we drive and the value we extend to all parts of the account.

Thinking Bigger

As a young sales person, I was assigned a single account—a major New York money center bank. The IT executives occupied the 11th and 12th floors of 55 Water Street in Manhattan.  As I engaged with those executives, they felt they had enough computing capacity to cover their needs for the coming 18 months. There were some minor upgrades, some maintenance contracts, and other things I could sell — but none that would enable me to achieve my quota or goals for the account. Out of desperation, I started thinking, “Where can I find more opportunity to drive greater computing needs in the account?  If I couldn’t drive the demand on IT, I couldn’t make my goals.

This desperation drove me to wandering around the bank. I visited Wire Transfer/Foreign Trade, Check Processing, Retail Operations, Trust, Credit Card Operations, Commercial Lending…….any group I could find.  I agressively looked for opportunities that could drive new sales and growth within the IT organization.  I found opportunities for new credit card processing systems, new point of sale applications at the retail branches, over the years I kept expanding my search, building the business we had from this account significantly.

It’s not any different from what we expect of our hunters, except the concept of the “territory” has changed. Rather than a geographic or industry orientation, it was a single account. Like any hunter, my job was to wander around the account, prospecting and finding new opportunities.  It wasn’t just to maintain the relationship and retain the current business.

Our goal in every territory is to maximize our penetration of the territory. It is our God-given right to 100% share of territory–but it’s our jobs as sales people to hunt and find that opportunity–whether the territory is defined by geography, an industry segment, or a single corporate logo.

Are you assigning hunters to all of your territories, are they maximizing your growth and penetration in those territories?

David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more. Read more of his blogs here.