Account Strategy: Do You Really Have One?
Companies in growth industries can be lulled into a false sense of security when their growth is driven more by their industry than their planning and execution.
This false sense of security is more pronounced in account strategy. Many companies grow without an account strategy until industry growth slows. In a competitive market, companies struggle to craft an approach that is more than a revenue goal with several common tactics.
Unfortunately, something terrible has to happen before the account strategy is questioned by the Sales Manager, let alone the CEO. If you, as CEO, must wait for this to happen, the ‘bad moment’ should be the second you do not meet revenue expectations. As soon as you fail to hit your number, there is a disconnect, but where? Execution? Information? Leadership complacency? Personnel?
Account Stratey Fact #1
A number and a set of tactics do not make an effective account strategy.
How do you know you have a problem with your account strategy? Well, if not having one, to begin with, is a pretty good sign. Beyond the obvious, you will need to do some digging and sales-related soul-searching.
Questions every CEO must ask themselves:
- Have I adequately diversified relationships within our account base?
- Have I invested enough resources on the “how” of growth projections vs. formulating a goal and only passing it down the line?
- Am I exposing myself in the long term to get short term business that will be difficult (at best) to sustain?
Account Stratey Fact #2
Growing existing accounts is far more accessible and more profitable than acquiring net new revenue, yet many CEOs do not invest enough time to take advantage of this fact.
The CEO must see his or her role as enthusiastically active in account strategy, both in development and with follow-through. As CEO, you must be vigilant and involved in account sales strategy, as it is the most critical revenue-generating division of any organization. CEO involvement should not (and will not) be viewed as meddling but as welcomed attention. Further, this will strengthen the perception that sales are a priority starting at the top.
The CEO also must hold sales leadership accountable as it pertains to sales strategy. Sales leadership is responsible for clearly documenting sales strategy, and setting regular status touchpoints and milestones for frontline sales staff. Account strategy cannot be considered in passing or as an informal discussion.
The absence of an account strategy is as much of a sales leadership problem as a sales issue. This matter often goes unresolved by sales leadership because they are part of the problem! For this reason, the CEO must instill in sales staff that the account strategy must be followed and developed in meetings with frontline sales staff who are not “getting it.”
Account Stratey Fact #3
The CEO and Sales Manager should be viewing account strategy quarterly, while the sales staff should be looking at their specific account strategies monthly (or more frequently!). This should be dictated by the size and complexity of the account.
Many CEOs live by the credo, “If it ain’t, broke don’t fix it.” It may be tempting to ask: “if my business forecasts a 20 percent growth, and I hit 20 percent, why bother overhauling (or introducing) account strategy?” Ask yourself this instead: “I hit my goal, but how much money did I—via my sales management—leave on the table?”
Can you afford to wait for it to break before taking an interest in account strategy? Most CEOs rationalize their logic because they are top-dog and generally surrounded by “yes” people. This is a recipe for disaster–both in the crushing blow to the CEO’s ego and their bottom line.
The most common mistake with Account Strategy is leadership over-complicating the process.
Over complicating the process is often the result of management trying to improve upon account strategy. This exercise should be limited to the people involved with the account, which you can count on one hand: The Salesperson, sales leadership, and perhaps the CEO. Between these few people, the answers are all there. But how good are they about putting it on paper? How effective are they with having a razor-sharp focus and keeping things simple?
Effective account strategy is a compulsory part of any business that hopes to not just tread water, but succeed in highly competitive market conditions:
- It helps plan sustainable growth
- Identifies who the company should be targeting to develop and nurture long term relationships
- Establishes a clear message on expected organizational positioning in terms market segment and content needed to create awareness and education around this positioning
- Focuses on how to surpass the competition over time and ultimately box them out once you have passed them
- Highlights other internal or external risks which can minimize the success of achieving strategy goals
People Stretch Solutions can come in as a trusted advisor, untangle the twisted strategy on handling accounts, and put your organization in a position to succeed.