The 10-year transition from sales to account management … and how you can reverse it

 - 
Monday, May 6, 2019

In the last decade or so, the black and white contrast between sales and account management has become a large glob of gray. Common use of the Internet, efficiencies from the Great Recession, and mass digital marketing efforts have drastically changed the world of business-to-business buying and selling. One of the outcomes of this perfect storm is that customers no longer feel like they need sales people for information, and therefore, are much less willing to see sales people. 

Sales people have responded in their own way. As a whole, the attitude of sales people has slowly transitioned to: “If new accounts won’t see me, then I’m going to spend my time taking care of my current customers.” And here we are … sales and account management have become synonymous. 

As a sales leader or business owner, you know the importance of winning new business. You’re also aware that your sales team probably isn’t producing as much new business as you’d like. Don’t fret. You don’t have to rely on winning public bids at low margins for your expansion.  Below are five things you can do to reverse the trend and turn your sales people back into … well, sales people.

1. Communicate specific expectations of capturing new accounts. Most organizations state a quota for their sales people, but don’t provide more detail. If you want new business, clearly communicate specific and personalized goals to each person on your sales team. The seasoned person that manages your top seven accounts may have a goal to win two new accounts each year; while a new sales person may have a goal to win twenty-five new accounts. 

2. Prospecting isn’t dead, but it’s 180 degrees different. Don’t buy into the articles you read that use titles to catch your attention like: “Cold calling is dead” or “Customers don’t interact with sales until the opportunity is 75% of the way complete”. These statements and other similar ones are nonsense, created to sell some type of software or service and pray on your frustration of not winning new business. 

No, prospecting isn’t dead, but it’s changed. While successful prospecting used to be 95 percent volume and 5 percent creativity, today it’s about creativity and developing a perception of being the subject matter expert. The game isn’t obsolete … it’s just different. Do your homework, figure out the difference, and teach it to your team.

3. Compensate higher for new business. If you want new business, then reward people that win new business. It’s that simple. You can pay more for new accounts, pay a bonus for achieving the new account goal, pay an accelerator against all business after the new business goal is reached, etc. 

4. Target specific markets and accounts. Your company has probably become known for succeeding in certain vertical markets, regions, or applications. Focus on those areas.  Assign sales people to those markets and accounts so they can become known as the experts, receive the calls, and can easily be held accountable by you.  

5. Assign Strategic Account Managers to major accounts. Some accounts require account management. A rule of thumb to which I subscribe is to assign a Strategic Account Manager (SAM) to any account that regularly produces 10% or more of your company’s total revenue. The SAM should be a hybrid of sales and project management, able to manage a complex organization and penetrate to find more business. 

In summary, winning new business is very difficult today because of the transition that the sales profession has undergone in the last decade. However, there is an answer, but it relies heavily on a sales leader or business owner to drive a proactive and modern way of prospecting and winning new accounts. Try these five ideas, and watch your new business soar after a few months.

Chris Peterson is president of the Vector Firm, a leader in helping security companies improve their sales and digital marketing performance.