Let’s face it: when we think of a great salesperson, we often think of that hard-charging, fast talking, go getter that is in constant motion. When you catch them on phone, they are either in an airport, or in their car just arriving at a meeting or just getting out of a meeting, and so it goes all day long.
Don’t let this kind of frenetic activity get confused with being effective. In my experience, the most successful sales professional develops a focused sales call plan and then works that plan. One of the most successful sales professionals that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over my career consistently beat his quota. How did he get that way? Constant motion? No. He was a master of planning and execution. He developed and then worked a well-developed territory plan and had specific, and thorough, account plans for his highest potential accounts. So let’s take a look at both.
Let’s start with territory plans. Fundamental territory management requires that you develop a detailed out territory plan in which you identify the A/B/C level accounts within your territory. It should also have current revenue, opportunity potential and frequency for each account. Frequency of contact is a key concept in territory plans and it should be based on expected return.
Research shows that in any given territory,
- the top 15% of the total accounts produce 65% of total sales – let’s call these accounts “A Accounts;”
- the next 20% of the total accounts produce only 15% of total sales—let’s call these accounts “B Accounts;” and
- the bottom 65% of the total accounts produce only 15% of total sales—these are “C Accounts.”
Without a systematic approach to allocating time to existing accounts, sales professionals are likely to spend too much with their C Accounts. We have all seen this before, a sales professional spending too much time with an account that has limited upside (i.e., a C Account). Maybe the sales professional has a great relationship at the C Account, or maybe there isn’t much competition. Whatever the reason, this is a key driver of wasted time for many sales reps.
The key factor to consider in efficiently allocating time with existing accounts is to always consider the expected yield of each account. Reviewing this territory plan with a sales manager on a quarterly basis will help ensure that time and focus is being spent on A Accounts and that time is not wasted with C Accounts.
The second type of plan that is key for sales success is an account plan. An effective account plan starts with great research before the first call. Sometimes this means industry research (if the seller is not up to speed on the industry), but it also means that the seller must research the state of the account before they go in. I would recommend the following questions be considered before the first meeting:
1) Who are the top executives?
2) How is the company doing financially?
3) What can you learn from recent press releases?
4) What can you learn about the organizational structure?
5) What can you learn about the individual you are meeting with?
6) Can you find out anything about internal initiatives?
Many of these questions can be found through a multitude of online resources, including LinkedIn, that are readily available. Having this information will put you in good standing for the first meeting and you’ll be validating information that you have found rather than spending your clients valuable time asking questions that he/she knows the answer to.
Nothing is a bigger time waster than meeting with the wrong person. Unfortunately, with today’s “flatter” corporate organizations it is often challenging to identify (at least initially) who are the decision makers and influencers. We recommend that as part of each account plan you develop 2 X 2 Matrix in which you identify two people above your contact, two peers and two direct reports. This type of account mapping encourages you to build broader and deeper relationships within each account
Finally, for each meeting you should be prepared with 2-3 call objectives. To be clear, the objective is what you hope to get out of the meeting. This is different than the purpose of the meeting or agenda, which should have a customer focus. By having 2-3 call objectives, you is able to easily pivot and respond to the needs of the customer but STILL be able to move the call forward.
By developing and then working both a territory plan and account plans, your results will improve. The seller that spends time planning is the seller that will be most successful at the end of the day.