It is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. In fact, increasing customer retention by just five percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent. These findings illustrate the benefits of training your sales team to source new selling opportunities, or “white space,” within existing accounts.
Finding the white space means analyzing key information about the customer, industry, stakeholders and competitive landscape. This information provides a jumpstart that puts the sales professional on the field early in the game, when he or she can have the greatest impact. Insights emerge as customer goals take shape. Strategic growth offers benefits like:
- Reduced acquisition costs
- Preservation of priority relationships
- Efficient use of resources
- A repeatable method for driving win rates
- Outpacing the competition
Creating opportunities means your sellers need to build their capability to position solutions that align with the customer’s goals, challenges and initiatives. Here are three steps in sales that are crucial to this process.
Select the Right Customers.
The key to effective account planning is choosing the right customers. Prioritize efforts by defining those accounts that represent meaningful opportunities. Do not focus on the accounts that have spent the biggest totals. Look for the accounts with the biggest potential for future purchases.
Consider “hard” factors, like revenue generated and product mix. Then, examine “soft” factors, like level of access, relationships and buying behavior. Explore which existing accounts have divisions, locations or departments with developing needs. Identify the customer’s unresolved pain points, and determine the key decision-makers and influencers. Though relationships exist, it is often necessary to form new ones. Stakeholders change, and businesses expand.
Consider the solution’s core value and which customers are likely to benefit the most from those capabilities. The right customer is positioned to buy and seeks a need that your solution can satisfy. Find the overlap between the customer’s strategic initiatives and your offering.
Collaborate With the Customer.
Sales professionals must stay up to date on the customer’s changing needs, and doing so requires consistent engagement. Without this level of communication, the sales professional risks presenting solutions and insights that don’t resonate. Regular dialogue not only clarifies evolving needs but also boosts profitability, because fully engaged customers are more profitable than average customers, according to findings from Gallup, offering 23 percent more “in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.” Moreover, engaged customers represent this level of value in times of a good economy and bad. In contrast, “actively disengaged” customers, with little or no interaction with sales professionals, show a 13-percent discount in those areas. Drive more revenue through consistent customer engagement.
Execute and Update.
The customer’s business is not static. Account planning must move in lockstep with changes. Additionally, new competitors regularly enter the playing field. Updating the strategy protects the relationship against these other players. Sales professionals need to use their access to gain feedback from the customer and adjust their approach.
Reevaluation is necessary because, as a strategic account planner, it’s critical to allocate resources to the sales that drive meaningful results. The idea is to cultivate accounts and avoid customer churn. Regular updates that respond to new developments and information ensure that the relationship stays in play. With strategic account planning, the research drives the approach, and without an ongoing dialogue, the information will become out of date.
Start Your Checklist.
Mapping a route to closing means hitting the right mile markers. While there may be many paths to success, the strategic account planner chooses only one. Developing an honest assessment of the target customers is essential, as it saves time, resources and effort later. Training your sales team to excel at strategic account planning requires:
- Defining which customers are your strategic accounts and evaluating ongoing fit, looking at both quantitative and qualitative factors
- Keeping up to date on what’s happening in your customer’s industry in order to understand customer drivers better and to identify insights
- Understanding the customer’s strategy, goals, objectives and issues and aligning your objectives with them
- Evaluating and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders
- Assessing the customer’s perceptions of your strengths and vulnerabilities and their perceptions of key competitors
- Identifying opportunities to create value
- Developing and executing a plan to achieve your objectives
Sales professionals need to be strategic if they are going to grow existing accounts and protect the value of their relationships from competitors. Doing so is a cost-effective way to ensure that sales professionals focus efforts where they will be most impactful. The more sales professionals communicate with their customers, the more equipped they become to position solutions that uniquely address challenges as they unfold. This immediacy maintains the customer’s momentum toward the sale.