Most B2B sales leaders know that the majority of revenue and profits come from existing customers. So building and growing relationships with target clients and existing accounts is typically a crucial component of any successful sales strategy. Here’s the good news: selling to an existing account is much more profitable and predictable than trying to win new business.
I recently had an interesting conversation with a sales leader for a high-growth technology company. We discussed what would happen to this year’s revenue if they lost just one of their strategic accounts. His answer: “The thought alone is too painful to even consider.” We then discussed what would happen if they added an additional strategic account to their portfolio. His answer: “Retaining and acquiring strategic accounts is the foundation of our sales strategy. Adding another strategic account would make all the difference.”
Unfortunately, losing key accounts happens to us all now and then. But the closer you keep watch, the less likely it is to occur without warning and without an opportunity for you to rescue the account or make necessary adjustments.
A critical part of strategic account planning is recognizing just where there is risk of loss and acting quickly to save the situation. So if retaining and acquiring strategic accounts is a large part of your sales strategy, here are three warning signs that should put you on alert:
Your Primary Contact Leaves the Organization
First, make sure this is not your only high-level contact. If this is a key account for you, you should have multiple connections throughout the client company. If your major champion is no longer there, what will the impact be? Who will be the replacement? And will they bring on their own favorites? Make sure that you stay in close touch so you have advance notice of a staffing change and can protect your interests as much as possible.
Account Activity or Revenue Decreases
Often, there are good reasons for fluctuations in an account—both up and down. But you need to check into why there is a downward shift. Is activity slowing because the competition is taking more of the action? Has the company changed direction and no longer has a need for you? Is there a cap to what you provide that is drawing near? Though it is tempting to let a productive account slide while you mine new territory, you need to stay connected so you can stay on top of the reasons and impact of declining revenue in this account.
Major Organizational Change Occurs
There are usually storm warnings before a major corporate change. Know what is happening in the industry. Read company reports regularly. Besides checking the obvious annual reports, stay in touch with company conversations through website blogs, press releases, company newsletters, and by phone with your contact at least weekly. Set up regular meetings with your primary contact hear the news as it develops, not after it has happened.
The Bottom Line
Smart strategic account planning takes discipline. Do not let yourself risk losing an account through your own neglect or ignorance. It is up to you to be alert for red flags and be forewarned of any potential loss.