Looking to improve return on sales? Try growing your current accounts …

Recently, we worked with a B2B services company who is a leader in their sector and who has a range of global, national and regional accounts. They wanted to focus on growth from existing accounts, while continuing to sign new ones.

As we worked with them, we identified characteristics of their organization that hindered account growth:

  • As a sales-based organization, their culture encouraged and celebrated the landing of new accounts with less recognition for sales to existing accounts
  • Their incentives included up front bonuses for bringing in a new account and declining sales commissions over time, limiting the pursuit of account growth opportunities
  • Management had limited visibility to the overall state of sales performance since sales reps found no value in tracking relationships, sales opportunities and account performance

In the end, we organized the organizational characteristics into a framework that we dubbed “OPTICS” – Organization, Process, Training, Incentives, Culture and Systems/Measurement. Our recommendations included:

  • Organization – Defining the structure and roles within the sales function
  • Process – Formally tracking account growth opportunities
  • Training – Implementing programs customized to the strengths and needs of each rep
  • Incentives – Increasing rewards for account growth
  • Culture – Increasing senior leadership’s share of voice around account growth goals and wins
  • Systems/Measurement – Incorporating their account growth goals into their CRM and financial reporting systems

When viewed in isolation, each of these recommendations had a common sense tone, but when implemented together, they provided the client with a launch pad for more wins within their accounts base.

Is the OPTICS framework right for your organization? Think of your sales environment and ask yourself the following questions:

Organization

  • Does each sales representative have a similar level of account coverage?
  • Are sales team members’ roles clearly defined by account?
  • Is the organization set up to collaborate in support of account growth?

Process

  • Is there a single, comprehensive view of each account?
  • Are there defined growth targets for each account?
  • Is progress against those targets reviewed on a regular basis?

Training

  • Do sales representatives have a defined, annual training plan?
  • Are training plans customized by individual, including a mix of hard (product knowledge) and soft (psychology, sales tactics) topics?

Incentives

  • Do sales incentives equitably reward new and existing account growth?
  • Are incentives tailored by role? (e.g. relationship lead vs. account manager vs. subject matter expert)

Culture

  • Is your CEO actively involved in selling to his/her counterparts at key accounts?
  • Do account growth wins receive the same executive acknowledgement as landing new accounts?

Systems & Measurement

  • Is there a single system that tracks all sales activity and is the basis of all sales reports?
  • Do your metrics of sales success extend beyond revenue to include close rates, building new relationships and client satisfaction?

How did you score? If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the above, then you are a leading edge sales organization that likely enjoys high win rates, deep relationships and a healthy returns on sales.

However, it is more likely that you answered ‘No’ on some of the questions. You’re not alone – many B2B companies struggle with one or more aspects of account planning and execution. The challenge today is that customers, even in the B2B space, have more choices of vendors, more information and deeper pricing knowledge to tilt the deal in their favour. B2B companies need to raise the bar on all aspects of their OPTICS, by getting good at all of them and great on a few of them.

The good news is that growth from existing accounts is typically a high return activity – as the saying goes, it is easier to sell to an existing customer than to sell to a new one. Investments such as role definition, process improvement and incentives changes can easily pay for themselves with a 10% or greater increase in sales that flows to the bottom line. Think about how that would change your company’s results for the year and see if it is time to improve your OPTICS.