Being a Quota Crusher™ doesn’t stop at closing net new deals. Account managers, those who work with an existing book of business, are extremely valuable to organizations. Their role is critical for retention and revenue expansion.
For a company to retain and grow revenue (especially during an uncertain economy, when it’s harder to close new deals), they must focus on account management in addition to net new business. Mastering account management goes beyond upselling clients and getting referrals. It means mapping unique, strategic account plans for each of your customers in order to maximize all potential revenue opportunities, and finding creative ways to deliver so much value that your customers would never consider leaving you.
Sounds pretty good, right? Keep reading for the exact steps you need to take to master account management and to get access to the templates that we use at Sales BQ® to strategically map and manage your existing accounts!
Start with Client Tiers & Build a Revenue Map
You probably know that not all clients are created equal. In fact, when I first started in sales, I received a list of 2,000 clients to contact! It was overwhelming, but I had to find a way to make sense of the chaos and decide who to start with. I couldn’t give each of those clients equal priority, or I would have never left my desk. So, I took that massive list, segmented the data, sorted it, and used my findings to determine exactly how to go after those clients, and in which order. Even if your list isn’t 2,000 customers long, you should still be doing this. Segmenting your clients into tiers is the first step in strategically growing revenue from your existing accounts and keeping your most valuable customers happy.
Start with a data dump. I like to do this in an Excel spreadsheet, and you can use our Revenue by Client Template to get a head start on this part. Next, follow these steps to sort the data:
- Make a list of all of your clients.
- Create headers or columns to identify important static data points. Fill these out for each client. This may include information like how long they’ve been a client, how many locations they have, or how many employees they have or their size in revenue. Include the data points that matter most in regard to what you’re selling.
- Create headers or columns for each product you sell. Or, depending on what you sell, it may make more sense to make columns for potential volume increases instead of unsold products. Customize these columns to represent the opportunities for upsell potential with your existing clients.
- Fill out the columns for each client. Mark an X to indicate that the client currently uses a product, and write a dollar amount representing the total opportunity for revenue expansion under the products the client is not yet using. This allows you to see your client list by size, current value, and upsell potential—which we call ‘revenue sitting in the base’ at Sales BQ®. Total up the sum of the dollar values in each column for each client to determine the total potential value of each client. By building this map, you can begin to build a specific revenue strategy for every client.
- Sort your list by tiers 1, 2, and 3.
- Tier 1 is for your MVPs who generate the most revenue or have most every product and service you sell. With these clients, it would hurt your company to lose them. They’re your brand ambassadors and your most important clients. You should be going above and beyond for them and involving your marketing (for capturing case studies or testimonials) and executive teams to ensure they’re getting an amazing experience.
- Tier 2 is for clients who represent the greatest potential to grow revenue. Anybody in your high-growth tier should be treated as a prospect. This means you should conduct discovery and put them through your prospecting funnel so you can gather all the information you need in order to make a plan to upsell them.
- Tier 3 is primarily for your ‘PITA’ clients. Can you guess what PITA stands for? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with ‘Pain In The….’ These are the clients who fill you with panic when you see that they’re calling. Sometimes, with a little time and attention, these clients can move into one of the other tiers if you can figure out how to solve the problem that makes them a PITA. Other times, there may be clients who you just shouldn’t put much effort into. It may make sense to let these clients fall off naturally. Either way, you should discuss with your manager to determine the best course of action for your PITA clients. Tier 3 can also represent small clients who don’t qualify for the products and services that need growth. They may not be a PITA, but there’s not much potential there, either.
Execute Growth Strategies by Client
We coach salespeople to customize the way they approach each unique prospect, and we should be treating existing customers the same way. To do this, you first have to gain a solid understanding of the value you’re providing and exactly how important you are to the customer. To start, create an account profile for each client to track their information, opportunities, and build a strategic plan that is specific to each account.
- Profile every client. Ideally, this information should be easy to find in your CRM; otherwise, put it in Excel. Here’s what you should focus on:
- Include everyone. This profile should include every single contact in your account, from influencers to decision-makers to power-users. This is important because, when a new contact comes in who has a relationship with one of your competitors, you can easily lose the business. To prevent this, you need to have a relationship with every single person who can influence that decision. You should introduce yourself, understand a day in their life, connect on LinkedIn, put them through the email funnel, and ultimately, find a way to be friends with each contact and show them you’re invested in their success. For Tier 1 clients, this effort takes time. For Tier 2 clients, this is an opportunity to grow revenue, and you should be focused on finding new opportunities. With large companies, this may mean you need to speak to multiple divisions.
- Then, identify the challenges specific to their industry. Keep up with industry changes, how current events are affecting them, find out what’s going on in their world, and get ahead of the conversations before your competitors do. Identify threats, triggers, and opportunities that are industry-based or market-based, and use them to drive your conversations by finding ways to solve the challenges they’re currently dealing with.
- Next, identify each account’s personality. Yes, accounts have personalities! Consider whether they are high-maintenance or low-maintenance, hands-on or hands-off, what their expectations are, how you dress when you meet them (this can tell you a lot about the client), how you adjust your tone, speed, or style to this client to better mirror them, etc. Each of these markers adds up to give you a big-picture view of an account’s personality. Understanding these factors allows you to adjust your approach and ensure each client feels a connection with you and sees that you’re emotionally invested in taking care of them.
- Execute your client-specific strategy. With Tier 1 clients, we often recommend continuing quarterly business reviews. There are mixed opinions on this, so if you’re not sure, look back and identify whether you tend to see account growth following a QBR. In many of our situations, we’ve identified that QBRs lead to growth. If you want to find a way to engage the client without the formality of a QBR, find another way to boost the relationship to make them feel valued. You should be making the relationship so strong and making them feel so taken care of that they would never leave. When your competition is knocking on the door (which—trust me on this—they are!), are you absolutely certain that they would never leave you? You’re responsible for creating that certainty. For your Tier 2 clients, you should be continuously studying them, identifying market triggers, and coming up with outbound communication that is specific, relevant, and valuable. Find ways to solve their current problems and make them feel important. Create a plan and strategy to sell each product of yours they aren’t using. This starts with creating a list of prospecting questions, reaching out, and discussing the different pain points that each of your products solves with them. You’re responsible for being creative enough to find ways to start these conversations in ways that feel meaningful. At Sales BQ®, we always say that clients and prospects have a radio station playing in their heads called “WIIFM… or, What’s In It for Me?” and, on top of that, clients don’t want to be sold anymore. To get past these barriers, you have to be smart about your approach and find ways to bring extreme value in order to close that upsell.
- Monitor results & adjust accordingly. Track the conversations you’re having, the communication you’re sending, the actions you’re taking, and measure the results. How engaged is each Tier 1 client? How happy are they? Are you successfully upselling each Tier 2 client? If you’re not delivering these results, adjust your account plan accordingly for the clients who aren’t meeting your goals.
Get Social Proof: Referrals, Case Studies, & Testimonials
Are you leveraging your happy clients to help you sell more? You should be—and there are ways to do this that will make those happy clients even happier. This is how we approach leveraging happy clients for references, case studies, referrals, and testimonials:
- References. Because social proof helps build trust in the sales process, references are a powerful sales tool. When a client says they need to talk to a company that’s similar to theirs in order to buy, you should have the reference ready to go. Of course, if a client loves you enough that they’re willing to be a reference, don’t abuse that relationship. Be sure to take care of them, and never blindly introduce them. Each time you want to use them as a reference, reach out and explain the prospect and their problem to the client first, and ask if they’re willing to speak to the prospect. The benefit of these reference conversations is that your prospect will have a much more candid conversation than they would with a salesperson, because the reference client isn’t selling to them. Once the conversation has taken place, reach back out to the client and debrief with them. Find out what your prospect asked and what their concerns were. Repay your clients who act as references by sending gift cards, meaningful thank you notes, and find ways to show them how much you value their testimony.
- Referrals. If you want a referral, never start by asking your client who they would recommend for your product. Instead, do some research. Find out if any of their LinkedIn connections are potential prospects, and ask for referrals to those specific people. If you’re trying to grow within the client’s specific industry, ask them what relationships they have right now that are strong enough that they feel comfortable making an introduction for you. Or, make a list of target prospects and ask your client if they know any of the people on the list well enough to orchestrate an introduction. Afterword, follow up by showing the client that you value their referral.
- Case studies. These are gold for content and marketing teams. If you can get a client to talk about the problems you solved for them, your marketing team will make it look good, and do all the work to get it on your website, where it will help move interested leads through the funnel.
- Testimonial letters. Sometimes participating in a full case study or serving as a reference may feel overwhelming to a busy or shy client. With these clients, ask them to simply put it in writing that they have good things to say about you and your company. These letters can work well when you are upselling a Tier 2 customer on an ancillary product and they need just a bit of social proof.
Now, you should have the fundamentals that you need in order to become a master account manager. Cheers to all the revenue growth that this important step will help you drive!
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