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A Collaborative Account Growth Strategy Drives Better Outcomes

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It’s common for sales leaders (and salespeople themselves) to look to their large, strategic customers year after year to sustain or drive increased revenue performance.

However, the availability of options, decreasing customer loyalty, higher expectations and constant competitive threats are making forcasted business from your best customers anything but a certainty.

All too often, account growth strategy and plans are isolated events and are missing one critical component – the buyer.

An enterprise-wide, customer-centric approach to working with strategic accounts is a mainstay of sales organizations that understand that markets change but that customers are always relevant. Because the business environment in which your customers operate has become more challenging, salespeople need to increase their proficiency in identifying and meeting needs to have credibility as a trusted adviser, one who helps the customer decide how to buy and doesn’t just sell.

4 Factors Affecting Account Growth Strategy

1. Renewed Emphasis on Price

Price has always been important in business. In today’s environment, funding is scrutinized. Customers feel like they should look longer and harder to justify why they are buying a particular solution at a specific price. As pricing pressures increase, more and more firms find customers trying to “commoditize” the solutions that suppliers offer.

2. Greater Complexity

The business environment has become increasingly complex. An IBM study of more than 1,500 CEOs cited increasing complexity as a major challenge to the managerial and leadership ranks of most companies. Most of the CEOs in the study did not feel confident that their organizations had the ability to successfully adapt and respond to this complexity.

3. Higher Levels of Ambiguity

Ironically, as access to information has proliferated, the level of ambiguity in the business environment has increased. This uncertainty makes it hard to determine what long-term strategies and short-term tactics will be most effective in reaching business goals and even whether those goals are still relevant. High levels of ambiguity create a tendency to preserve the status quo, although this is rarely an effective means of increasing revenue, saving on cost, or proactively managing risk.

4. Decreasing Customer Loyalty

The last decade has seen a divergence between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. It used to be that when a salesperson checked with a customer and the customer said they were satisfied, this meant they would pick them over their competitors. Now, a customer may say that they are satisfied or even very satisfied and still switch to a competitor. Long-term customer loyalty is eroding. What is the result of these forces on how salespeople sell to large accounts?

  • Customers take time to weigh value vs. price, which puts an emphasis on being able to quantify the value that a salesperson brings to the relationship.
  • Customers are struggling with complexity, so trusted business advisers are needed to help them organize that complexity and, whenever possible, simplify rather than add to it.
  • Higher levels of ambiguity mean that most buying decisions are now made by consensus. This involves many more stakeholders than before, and salespeople need to develop coalitions in favor of changing the status quo.
  • The decrease in customer loyalty means that salespeople need to be continuously bringing new insights and ideas about how to help stakeholders improve their business performance and gain recognition from those stakeholders for the value created.
Collaborative account development helps salespeople look at their customer’s needs from the point of view of the customer while bringing in an outside objectivity. The traditional account planning process - where you plan once per year - needs to be replaced by an ongoing process and approach where salespeople co-create value with customer stakeholders, resulting in a deeper understanding of their customer’s business and increased alignment between their own and their customer’s organization. Your salespeople will be able to elevate the level of your relationships with specific customers to have a “seat at the table” as their trusted business advisers.

Customers don’t care about a salesperson's latest product or your industry-leading service if it is not relevant to their goals, objectives and business challenges. What your customers want are ways to better manage their businesses, which is what a trusted business adviser does. By consistently following this process of understanding a customer's business intimately, aligning your account team with the client, and engaging stakeholders to validate and modify opportunities to work collaboratively together, you create value for that customer and earn a place in their decision-making process.

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