Account Strategy: Are You Having The Right Conversation?

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Account Strategy: Are you having the right conversation with your Sales VP?

It is not uncommon to encounter a situation where the CEO of a potential client is unhappy with his Sales VP after an impromptu discussion regarding account strategy. This conversation is happening on a seemingly random basis; the VP wonders where this sudden “interest” has come.

This will elicit a range of responses—from defensive behavior to paranoia about job security. As CEO, do not be surprised at this response following an impromptu discussion.

Doomed to Repeat History?

Understanding why these discussions happen can help CEOs avoid impromptu account strategy sessions. 

As CEO of the company, you have likely heard or seen something that stopped your breath, which is a significant, structural issue that can affect your business’s health. Maybe it has something to do with risk. 

Maybe the account you are concerned with will not spend as much with you, will leave you, or some other reason that has nothing to do with the account directly. Maybe you saw a market opportunity. Perhaps you read about a consultant that landed a huge account. What starts the process of a more structured account strategy is the CEO being unsatisfied with the impromptu conversation.

As a leader, your focus should lay in avoiding another impromptu discussion with your sales VP. Instead, ask yourself why you ended up with this kind of communication breakdown, and how you can prevent this.

How Much is Too Much?

The amount of information the CEO wants is what should dictate the process. But let there be no mistake—a process is essential. Impromptu is not the ideal solution; it is the least effective option. However, not every company has the luxury of implementing a new process before a concern arises. 

You must start somewhere: How much information do you need about the account to effectively strategize? 

To answer the question, ask yourself a few more questions. Do you feel disconnected? Where are you on the pendulum? 

The fundamental question CEOs grapple with is, “How much or how little should I be involved with account strategy?” Many CEOs do not take the time to consider the level of their involvement.

Changing The Culture — and Process

The CEO must ask themself several questions before initiating a new method for account strategy: 

  1. What is the core reason for taking a personal interest in this account? “To maximize earning potential” is not a reasonable answer. Dig deeper. Be honest.
  2. What do you think you are going to find in the details of the account? What is going to be your response if you do not find what you expected? 
  3. What risk is your company facing in the account concerning: 
    1. Available dollars? 
    2. Competition? 
    3. Status quo? 
    4. Access—or lack thereof? 

The results of the above questions are undoubtedly crucial. But the approach is as important as the data, for the wrong one will lead to wrong answers. 

Here are my tips for implementing account strategy for top-performing accounts:

  • Be self-aware when it comes to what you want to believe vs. what is there.
  • Allow VPs to prepare for an account strategy conversation instead of having an impromptu discussion that they may interpret as an attack. 
  • Prepare with questions around critical issues like:
    • available dollars
    • key relationships
    • competition
    • status quo: buying vs. implementing nothing
    • securing optimal access

The CEO should not try to do the job of the Sales VP. There should be a structured, consistent dialogue founded in the give-and-take of information; Not a monologue.

The larger a company is, the more impossible it is to grow when the Sales VP is not empowered—in perception, in the power structure, and trust. Your participation as the CEO needs to decrease as growth increases. 

The conversations in your company must change with a fluidity that only you can see from the top.

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