As the new year kicks in and sales organisations around the world gear up for 2016, they plan for growth in two key areas: acquiring new customers and expanding within their current customer base. Most companies have established systems in place for tackling new customers--marketing and sales teams have been working in tandem on this type of outreach for decades--but few have fully developed strategies in place for building out existing accounts.
The potential for increased revenue from existing accounts is massive: according to the Harvard Business Review, making small changes to existing customer strategy could boost gross future profits by 300%.
So how can companies effectively tap into those profits in the new year? The answer lies in creating a carefully thought-out account planning strategy. Account planning enables organisations to identify new opportunities in existing accounts, engage and operate more efficiently, and maintain happy customers while driving up revenue.
The right account planning strategy can deepen customer relationships, grow business acumen and lay the foundation for greater success. Here are four ways to use account planning to achieve greater success in the coming year.
1. Use account planning to help deliver mutual value to your business and your customers. In a world of better informed buyers and more competitive pressures, sellers who focus on customer benefits are the ones who develop long, sustainable relationships. By re-engaging customers on a regular basis, you stay top-of-mind and develop an on-going pattern of delivering value, so they come to depend on your product for all the day-to-day challenges their organisation faces. Create a timeline for that engagement to make sure you’re always on track to be their first point of reference.
2. Focus on strategy that emphasises understanding customer problems. Too often, companies plan accounts based on action, but by far the most effective way to sell to customers is to understand, and subsequently help solve, their problems. This type of planning involves running analytics and digging into your customers’ landscapes, so salespeople can grasp what impact their solution might have. It equips them with valuable insights that will help propel the customer’s business forward, meaning everyone ends up succeeding.
3. Plan accounts in such a way that new deals are sustainable for the long-term. Account planning lays a foundation for a long, trusting relationship, leading to more revenue and less competition. It can be six times more profitable to sell to an existing customer and the win-rate can climb to as much as seven times greater. In order to really maximise those profits, sales professionals will need to set up systems that scale, so that no account is left stagnant for too long, and no opportunity goes unpursued.
4. Use account planning to make salespeople into trusted advisors who play a real role in the customer’s decision-making process, making sales less of a pitch and more of a partnership. Account planning is, at its very core, relationship building. That means that account planning needs to be done with an eye to the long-term. Sometimes, that might mean taking a hit in the short-term, or deciding a solution isn’t a perfect fit for the client in favor of building long-term goodwill. If customers grow to know the salespeople that they work with, and to trust those people to make the right recommendations for their organisation, it will ultimately mean more sales in the long-run.
Account planning is an incredible opportunity to take you sales year to the next level, but by investing now in sustainable strategies for the future, you can win more customer loyalty and drive more revenue.