Account Management Strategy 101

where-to-startOne of the biggest mistakes organizations make today is not having a “real” account management plan in place. Whether it is at the executive, marketing, or sales rep level, we’ve uncovered that once you peel back the layers of the onion, you find the strategy is nothing more than a bunch of names on a napkin defining a territory. Most organizations will define that account territory based on a list of accounts that match what “they sell,” starting with the largest or most recognizable accounts, and in some cases, every possible buying account in a given region. Once a territory is defined, it is then up to sales to start calling down the list and do their “sales” thing. Separately, marketing is on the other side of the wall doing their “marketing” thing. Sure it’s an okay place to start, but if an organization really wants to be successful, it has to take the account management strategy to the next level. In this article, we’ve defined a few strategies to tighten your account management strategy.

As a first step, you’ve identified your ideal account territory as it relates to the products you sell. It’s a start, but in order to be successful, more layers need to be put into place to identify where to start. A list of accounts is nothing more than a list of accounts; a lot of time can be lost before you find the ideal buying accounts within that group. However, there is a methodology that can be applied to that list of accounts that will allow your team to identify who they should be targeting first, and how much time they should be spending with each account. This is called the account tiering process. When you tier an account base, you are essentially grouping them into buckets in a fashion that gives focus to your account management strategy.

Factors in reviewing accounts:

There are multiple factors that should be reviewed when starting to tier the individual accounts. Here are a few:

  • Website – Is it clean and does it look like they spend money on marketing? Or does it look like it was coded in someone’s basement back in 1999? This is important as an indicating factor of whether they spend money on marketing and technology. If they spend in these areas, it means they could likely have available budget in others as well.
  • Employee size – Are they a one or two-person shop, a business of a few hundred, or an organization of tens of thousands of employees? Typically, you want to shoot for targets that fit in the middle. Midsize firm decision makers are easier to obtain direct access to, and the decision-making process is usually simpler. Stay away from smaller firms as they commonly have little to no budget and can easily turn into time sucks. Larger firms, although they provide great logos for the company overview deck, are usually extremely difficult to turn into buyers, take longer to pay, and typically have long vendor approval processes.
  • Tenure – How long have they been around? Are they a startup that just received funding, or are they someone who has been around for a while? Although first round start-ups spend money, they are someone to steer clear of until they get more established. Even if you get a startup to buy, you will most likely take up most of their available budget, and their likelihood to purchase again is low. On the other hand, an established firm will have a firmer budget and be more likely to spend again.
  • Pricing – How much do they charge for their product, and how much do you charge for yours? Are they selling high ticket items and can recoup their investment in one or two sales? Or is their sales price significantly lower, and if so, do they have the volume to recoup the investment? If you’re selling something worth $100,000 and their average sale price is $8 a month with a small customer base, you are guaranteed not to get a sale (unless they have huge funding).
  • Prior spend – Have they spent with your organization before? Prior spend is a great indication that they could spend again. Getting someone to buy for the first time is the hardest part.
  • Annual Reports and 10k’s – These are untapped resources for many companies. They will typically list key organization priorities, changes, and in most cases, budget for certain departments. Do their priorities fit yours?

Account Tiering:

All of these factors come into play with tiering your account territory as it all plays into ease of sale and their likelihood to purchase from your organization again. Once you’ve evaluated your account territory across the factors above, the next process is to begin to tier each account.

  • Tier 1 – These should be the accounts that are 100% in alignment to what you are selling without question, along with checking every box in the criteria above. These accounts are a direct home run fit, and the very first place to start. They should be the focus of 60% – 70 % of all activity.
  • Tier 2 – Although you cannot check all boxes from above, you can check most of them. And overall, they are in great alignment to your products & solutions. These accounts should be about 10% – 20% of your focus from an account management perspective.
  • Tier 3 – They fit less than 50% of the boxes above, but are still interesting. They should be about 5% – 10% of your focus.
  • Tier 4 – They fit one or maybe two of the boxes above. Focus 0% of your time on these accounts and figure out a nurture marketing campaign to target them. Let marketing automation do the hard work for you, as it will take too much effort to get a sale, and they will most likely not be a repeat buyer.
  • Global Accounts – Finally, the F500 or above. These organizations hit every one of the attributes above, but are historically the hardest accounts to crack. Most organizations make the mistake of targeting these establishments first, but so is everyone else. Not only are these accounts hard to crack, there is also an extreme amount of competition in the mix. Focus around 20% – 25% of your effort into these accounts. If you do things right, you will get them to buy over time, and they will be your greatest accounts without you having to sacrifice your short term gains by working on other accounts.

Name Development:

You’ve taken your account territory, and you now have an organized list tiering out each target. What’s next? Name development! Both sales and marketing need to know who to target within each account. When it comes to name development, do not make the mistake of only finding one or two names within each account—it’s a losing battle. In order to set yourself up for success, you must target a minimum of five to ten names per account across multiple departments. Each account is a little different, and you never know who could be a key influencer, a core decision maker, or who left their position and didn’t update LinkedIn. Furthermore, as you begin to target these accounts, you should constantly add new names to grow out the list. With each new connection, you should go beyond your typical email and title, and ensure that you are connecting with them on social media profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Sales & Marketing Alignment:

Finally, once you’ve identified your account tiers and key contacts within each account, you can now start the planning with marketing. In most organizations, marketing and sales couldn’t be further apart; instead, bring these two departments together and develop a strategy. Marketing should know who your most important accounts, contacts, and opportunities are in order to develop marketing campaigns targeting these accounts and contacts. The sales and marketing strategy should be updated each week to include new weekly targets.

As marketing and sales get together to develop a strategy, there are just a few things that should be covered:

  • Social Media
    • Have these key targets been followed on individual and corporate social platforms?
    • How do we get these key targets mentioned in social media posts?
    • Are they posting any content that can be commented on, liked, or shared?
  • Content
    • Has there been any content that mentions these key targets directly?
    • Has any content published that they would be interested in?
    • Do they have a key strategy or use case that can be covered in a blog?
  • Email
    • Have these key targets been added to the newsletter?
    • Have they been targeted as part of an email marketing campaign recently?
    • Can a special campaign be created for them?
    • Are there any analytics that show they have been reading these emails?
  • Others
    • Do you know if they visited the website?
    • What pages have they viewed?
    • Does anyone have personal knowledge of these organizations?
    • Has executive leadership reached out to them personally?

Many of the items above, can help create marketing air cover for sales as they are making direct contact with your key targets. These activities show your key targets that your organization has taken genuine interest in them, while giving them educational material to help progress them forward in the sales process.

A proper account management strategy does not develop overnight and does not only include sales. Knowing who to target and how to target individual accounts will increase an organization’s efficiency from both a sales and a marketing perspective. This will lead to a faster sales cycle and increase overall deal sizes. Just because you have a list of accounts to call, it doesn’t actually mean you have an account management strategy in place.




The Fall of Big Box Retail in Calculator-Driven Economy

7th-Pay-Commission-520x306A few months back, United had experienced some troubled times. And after having time to reflect, it brings a few certain thoughts to mind around how the world has changed for both consumers and big box retailers. As of late, big box retailers have become increasingly calculator-driven, so much so that they have almost forgotten about the customer service aspect of business. As a result, consumers are voting with their wallets, and big box retail corporations are crumbling all around us: Sears, RadioShack, and J.C. Penney are just a few that have announced closing stores, bankruptcy, or both. In the case of United, one article points out their loss of more than a billion dollars in evaluation happening practically overnight.

These corporations need to realize that we are in a time where it is not business as usual, and they’re getting their butts kicked seven ways to Sunday. Power has flipped from these big box retailers to the consumer, and this has changed the entire dynamic of business forever.

Here are just a few examples of the power shift:

  • Choice: There was a time when there wasn’t much of a choice for consumers looking to make purchases. Not long ago, the Sears Catalog was the premier way many would shop for items, and over time these shopping behaviors evolved to malls. In today’s market, you now have boutique stores popping up everywhere, including the internet with Amazon, eBay, and virtually countless others changing the retail landscape forever. The ever-increasing large amount of competition being injected into the marketplace has been a predominant force for stealing market share from these large retailers. This means that if they did nothing at all and continued business as usual, customers are going to leave and market share will fall.
  • Instant Gratification: With the increase of choice, also has grown the need for instant gratification. No longer are people willing to wait for weeks to receive items they’ve purchased. There was a point in time when malls kept locations fully stocked with inventory serving to this need of instant gratification; however, in today’s calculator-driven economy, big retailers have cut down on the amount of inventory on hand. With Amazon pushing Prime’s two-day delivery and Walmart following, customers now know that online will have a wider choice and delivery to their doors in days. Also, the smaller boutiques have caught on to this and have created equally strong online presences as they have in a physical retail setting. This allows them to keep a smaller inventory on hand and quickly pivot a customer to make an online purchase without losing out on the business.
  • Customer Service: Not only do customers want instant gratification, they also want strong customer service, and they are not afraid to let you know when you’ve failed them. Social media has leveled the playing field for the everyday consumer. Beyond United’s PR nightmare, you regularly hear something in the media showcasing sometimes nightmarish consumer experiences. As an organization, customer service needs to be at the highest level of priority, from the senior executive staff down to the shelf stockers. In today’s calculator-driven economy in big retail’s quest to cut expenses, they have forgotten all about customer service. Reduction in employee head counts and wages have left stores in absolute disarray with long lines and employees that seem less than enthused to help customers. Sears has been a prime culprit of these types of cost-cutting measures; Business Insider recently covered their demise in an article published in July. As a result, customers are opting to shop at more personalized boutique stores and online where customers are treated as if they are the only customer in the room.

In summary, unless big box retail can focus on the customer and find ways to innovate rather than ways to cut costs, they are going to continue this downward spiral. However, their downward spiral presents opportunities for small businesses to capitalize on where these big box retail companies are failing. Smaller boutique stores and online companies are winning the battle for customers because they are increasingly customer-centric in their approach, along with finding ways to innovate around the customer experience.

What Makes Your Business Different?

The other day skimming though LinkedIn and came across a post getting a great deal ofAAEAAQAAAAAAAAzTAAAAJDUwMjIxOTFiLTAyMzMtNDUwZS04ZTI1LTQyODMxODU3ODA2Yw.png attention. It was someone complaining about a response they received from a CEO after sending three prospecting emails…. The response from this CEO was fairly blunt, telling this person to stop wasting their time and the rep was offended by this response.

While reading, I thought to myself most reps tend to forget there is big world out there and everyone is fighting for executive attention. Just think, how many times has sales management said that in order to win “you need to be at the executive level”?

As an example of the current state of the market; this article points out over 700 Sale Enablement Technology providers out there today: Let that sink in for a minute, “700+ Sales Enablement Technology Providers”. We are talking about the fact that these 700+ providers are only for one market segment. Another article points out that there are roughly 3,874 Marketing Technology Providers in market as of 2016: As a result; executives today most likely receive prospecting emails from a majority of these two segments. Now to further compound the issue, there are other market segments also fighting for executive attention, for example: Financial Management, Supply chain, Order Management, HR, Legal and the list goes on.

To win in today’s market; you need to do more than just send prospecting e-mails, because everyone is doing the “exact same thing”… You need to think to yourself, what are you doing differently to make yourself and your company standout from everyone else?

16 Tips to Being A Great Leader

The other day I was having conversation regarding how a great leader can make work AAEAAQAAAAAAAAnNAAAAJGI2YjQwMTYyLTJlNjMtNGQyZi1iYzFlLTBmZjc1OTU0YmNlMwlife that much better, greatly affecting the business as a result. Regardless of the company, leaders are the ones that can directly impact the individual’s everyday lives. Great leaders can make people look forward to coming into the office and want to work that much harder. On the flipside, a bad leader can make work a miserable experience. Where people count the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the end of the week…

Great leaders can have significant impact on the business; happy employees = higher productivity. In the same breath; bad leaders can have detrimental impact on the business. Resulting in lower team performance and increased employee turnover, significantly driving up employee related cost.

To some, leadership comes naturally; others have to work at it… Here are a few tips to help you become a better leader:

1.      Protect your team – Protect them at all cost. One of the most difficult jobs of a great leader is protecting your team from everything such as; competing teams, compensation issues, and noise from upper management. The more you protect your team, the more faith they will have in you as a leader.

2.      Gripes go up not down – Never complain to your team! It’s a completely different aspect, when you relate to a common issue. But, when you start complaining, it will cause your team to think you’ve lost faith in upper management or the company itself. This more than anything can impact team morale in a very short amount of time.

3.      Find a buddy – It’s lonely at the top. Find a buddy, someone at least equal to your status. It’s a great way to discuss ideas, issues, and brainstorm and they can better relate to the situations at hand. You never know, they might have angles on ideas you’ve never thought of.

4.      Never stop learning – Whether you’re the leader of a F500 company or a sales team of eight, never stop learning. Every day on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other outlets; there is fantastic content being published… Take an hour a day or few hours a week to read up, you never know what might help push the needle forward.

5.      Learn everyone’s job – Even CEO’s should take the time to learn about the functions of their team. The more you learn, the more strategic you can be in your decision making and daily interactions with the them. Just think how many times you’ve uttered to yourself “this guy has no idea what they are talking about”… Yes, your team could be thinking the same thing about you!

6.      Adapt to the team, not them to you – This could be one of the single biggest mistakes leaders make. Everyone is different and requires different approach. When I was 16, I had the fortunate experience to run a martial arts school. Thrown right into the fire, at any time there could be 30 – 40 students. Ages ranging for 6 to 40+ and experience ranging anywhere from beginner to advance students. Quickly I learned, for my students to get the most out of my class, I needed to figure out a way to personalize different aspect of the class for each of their needs… 6 year olds and 40 year olds (after a long work day) are much the same. Too little time focusing on their needs and they get cranky.

7.      Do not play favorites – Touchy subject, I know… However, many leaders may never even know they are playing favorites but its human nature. People gravitate to people they like and resist the ones they don’t. Resist favoritism at all cost. Regardless of what you think, your team notices if you are… Treat everyone equally

8.      Cut the dead weight – In the same sense where you need to treat everyone equally, you also need to recognize the team members that are just not pulling their own weight. Given them an opportunity to self-correct but if they can’t, cut them. Your team notices when the dead weight is getting away with murder and it absolutely affects morale.

9.      Celebrate the wins – Even when they are small. There no need for a ticker tape parade, but your team works hard and recognition goes a long way (public or private).

10.  Be the first one in and the last one to leave – Your team notices if you always show up an hour late or if you’re sneaking out at four every day. They want someone to lead, someone that is willing to stay in the trenches and battle it out until the end. Plus, if they start seeing you leave at four, what do you think will happen shortly after you’re gone for the day?

11.  Don’t disappear – Your team notices when you disappear… Like I said before, your team wants someone that is going to be in the ditches fighting with them, not disappearing with the shit hits the fan.

12.  Don’t be too serious, or too relaxed – Your team may already be stressed out because of a crappy quarter, don’t make things worse by being a hard ass. However, don’t be the guy that does nothing and shoots the shit all day. You have to the leader that brings up a team when they are down or helps them focus when it’s needed.

13.  Always follow up on promises – You give your word, make sure you follow up on it! Nothing loses the respect of your team faster than when they’ve asked you to look into the same issue three times in a row and nothing has happened.

14.  Don’t be a good idea fairy – Idea’s of the day “almost” never work. I used work for this CEO that loved to read strategy books… Typically once a week he would come in with a new business revolutionizing idea. At the end of the day; some ideas where ok but many unfortunately where very very very bad. These “good ideas” ended up wasting a lot of the team’s time. Also he also lost the respect of his team for showing he really didn’t have a master plan (and quite honestly, for wasting their time).

15.  Team Outings – Get everyone outside the office every once in a while… Team gatherings outside the office are some of the best bonding events. Bonding events = stronger team work.

16.  Donuts – It’s a small gesture; donuts, coffee, lunch, and beer every now and then goes a long way.

A team will follow any great leader into any battle…. Always be striving to become a better leader for your team. You will all perform better, making it easier to hit performance metrics and they will absolutely thank you in the end.

The Morale Killing Compensation Plan

As fiscal 2017 budget planning comes to a close for most businesses, I wanted to share a AAEAAQAAAAAAAAkCAAAAJDA1ZmY1YWM1LTkwNWEtNDhhZS1hZGViLTc4YTQ5OTJhMDAzMAlittle food for thought as compensation planning comes into full swing.

Over the years, I’ve seen more than a fair share of commission and bonus structures (Some good, some bad). Historically I’ve found best plans to be ones that do not require an abacus or legal degree to comprehend. However, there is one type of compensation plan that I always urge caution around developing…. The “all or nothing” compensation plan: hit 100% of your metrics – get your bonus, miss by 5% – get nothing. Nothing can kill the morale or demotivate a team more than the feeling of working for nothing.

There are few core reasons “all or nothing” compensation plans typically fail:

–         So Far Behind: When a team member is so far behind their number, they realize mathematically it would be impossible to hit. At this point, most people take the foot off the gas or start looking for a new job. With the thinking; why put the effort in, when they are not getting the benefit on the backside?

On the flip side, you can financially motivate that same team member by just a change of the compensation plan. Creating a plan that compensates based on actual quota obtainment, will motivate someone to go just that much further. Because at the end of the day 90% vs 80% of a bonus, is a much better than knowing you’re mathematically out of a bonus completely.

–         Morale Killer: The “all or nothing” compensation plan is also a huge killer of team morale. There are always those team members that putting in a solid quarters or years’ worth of effort, to only miss a bonus by 5 or 10%. Noting makes an employee feel more unappreciated than missing out on a bonus by only a few percentage points.

Compound that by a few employees (because it’s never just one), and you now have a real morale problem throughout the team going into the next fiscal quarter or year.

–         Overachievers Get Hurt by This Model Too: Typically, with all or nothing plans you’ll have steps and or compensation caps in in place. Especially with caps, you are demotivating your best reps to only perform up to the cap, because there is no motivation to go beyond it.

One organization comes to mind, where there was a compensation cap of 125% in place, anything beyond would receive no additional compensation. Every year in November, there were a few teams that would hit their 125% ceiling and would effectively take the remainder of the year off. Great for them, however the company lost almost two full months of employee productivity.

Additionally, another aspect to consider when planning out a compensation plan, is removing all roadblocks to paying out on plans. Nothing is more demotivating to a team, than when they have to fight for the compensation they’ve already earned. It gives them a sense that the company really doesn’t have their backs.

Let’s face it that in today’s talent market, financial motivation plays a big role (of course it’s not the only reason) in why your employees want to work for your company. It’s also a big motivation factor of keeping your employee’s happy and motivated while they work for you. Choose your commission and bonus plans wisely, and ensure that your team is compensated properly when they do hit those commission or bonus triggers. Otherwise you’ll have morale issues and productivity will take a huge hit.

The Lifecycle of a Customer: Why is it Important to Track?

The liAAEAAQAAAAAAAAejAAAAJDk2YTQyMTIxLTcyODgtNGUzZi04NzI0LWNiZjQ2M2I4OWU5NQfecycle of a customer: why is it important to track? Ultimately it’s because the customer lifecycle directly links to increased sales velocity and higher client retention. Pareto’s Law, if you’re not familiar with it; is the rule of 80/20. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20% of your customer base. When you can begin to understand how such a relatively small percentage of your customer base drives the majority of your revenue, you can then start to understand how to better extract value from the reminding customer base.

The key to tracking the lifecycle of your customer is a proper web analytics tool that has the ability, not only to track what people are looking at on your website, but also to track the journey of a customer from the minute they first hit your website to the last support ticket they filed with your customer service team. Tools like HubSpotMarketoSalesforce’s Marketing Cloud, and Oracle’s Eloqua are some of the more popular tools available on the market today.

When tracking the customer lifecycle, the first step is to consider the customer base from both pre- and post-sales perspectives. Post-sales analysis will begin to show which customers drive the majority of your revenue and tend to generate lower expenses over time. Factors typically underlying good customers could be:

  • A higher demand for the product going into the sales process
  • The quality of the sales team’s interactions with the customer through the process
  • The post-sales team was more effective working with the customer in the setup process
  • The setup process itself was more effective, resulting in reduced customer service calls
  • The customer uses more features and functions of the product
  • The customer consumed a wider array of marketing and educational content

These are only a few of the factors that your organization can look into to understand what makes a top customer. Once, you have this information, you can then find operational improvements in people, process, and technology enablers to influence optimal behaviors throughout your customer base. This is also where a good marketing automation tool will come into place. Collecting the data to conduct these analyses can be done manually, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to do with tools specifically built for this purpose.

Once you trace the anatomy of a good customer, you will wish to begin dissecting their habits as well as investigating how they become a customer in the first place. You’ll do this by looking at questions such as:

  • What marking campaign or traffic source first brought the customer to the website?
  • What content or collateral did the customer review and at what stages of their journey?
  • When did sales get involved?
  • What were the stages and the sequence of the sales process?
  • What information or collateral did sales share?
  • What information did the customer review right before making the final decision?

The same principles we applied when we thought about driving customers to be better customers, we apply here to help drive changes in sales strategy that generate faster-closing, higher-quality leads.

Progress is cyclical. Once you know what your good customers do, you can then start to encourage those same behaviors across the rest of your customer base. The same can be said in the pre-sales process: once you know what you did to acquire those good customers in the first place, you can formally incorporate them into your pre-sales methodology.

How to Properly Measure Marketing in Today’s Market

You wouldn’t believe how many businesses do not properly measure their marketing AAEAAQAAAAAAAAj_AAAAJDJmNGVjOWY3LTcyOTktNDc0OS04MTE2LTgzNTNkMGMyZTk5Ygprogress in today’s market. Often I still read articles insisting that marketing’s key measurement of progress should be the quantity of leads generated or community growth. This in my opinion is short-sighted. The true success of marketing is measured on multiple levels that align them closer to the sales teams they support and the ultimate goals of the business itself.

Businesses struggle with how to properly measure marketing activity because so many marketing activities have indirect results. Consider: how does one properly quantify the end results of a social media campaign or magazine, newspaper, or TV ads? Before a marketing department can set proper goals, it needs a starting point. In order to do that, you need analytics and measurement tools that provide a baseline of activity over a period of time. Few organizations know what they should be tracking before they start. In my opinion, that means you should start with everything you could possibly track, including but not limited to: website traffic, page visits, traffic sources, social traffic and community growth, downloads, and leads. These metrics all give a sense of the momentum that results from your marketing efforts. From here, you can start to add tangible goals to marketing activity. However you cannot stop there because that only solves for marketing quantity. What about quality?

A common myth is that marketing is responsible for leads and sales is responsible for closed revenue. The reality in today’s market, marketing is responsible for closed revenue more than you think. A strong marketing team can revolutionize a sales cycle, enabling an extremely effective and efficient sales team. As a result, marketing shouldn’t be solely measured by traffic, community, or leads generated. Its performance must also be measured by: opportunities, demos, and (most importantly) closed revenue generated. Measured in this way, a strong marketing team can then find ways to increase the quality of leads and help focus the sales team on highly qualified buyers and closing revenue. This all leading to faster overall sales cycles and increased sales team revenue.

Agree / Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts below… In future articles I’ll dive in to more details around individual stages of above and how to actually track the lifecycle of a lead and customer.