Pipeline doesn’t grow on trees.
Sales deals don’t close themselves.
They both need focused salesperson activity.
That’s why it’s important to track activities. Especially the number and quality of activities on key accounts.
Key accounts are the customers and prospects you prioritize for time, resources, energy and business development activity. They are the accounts with whom you have the most valuable existing or potential relationships.
These are the customers and prospects you cannot afford to become neglected accounts.
Yet these ARE often neglected accounts.
Day-to-day work gets in the way. We visit customers with whom we have the warmest relationships. We avoid those with the biggest challenges. We put off until tomorrow more difficult work.
So, here are five recommendations that will help you refocus on neglected accounts. Especially those customers and prospects that are key accounts.
Recommendation 1 – Define Key Accounts
You want to make sure key accounts are not neglected accounts. Therefore, the first thing to do is define the key accounts.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to use a simple picklist field on the Account. This picklist value defines the segment for each Account.
Account segmentation picklist values
The picklist values can be anything you want. High, Medium and Low Priority if that suits you.
Some of our customers use a more imaginative approach. In particular, several use the relationship management segmentation recommended by Andrew Sobel (Expert For Hire, Steady Supplier, Strategic Partner).
Here’s the key difference between this segmentation approach and most others:
The segments describe the customers’ perception of their relationship with you. Most segmentation techniques work the other way round. In other words, they use terms that explain how the supplier perceives the customer.
Here are the values Andrew Sobel suggests:
- Expert For Hire. These customers know who you are and what you do. They know how to contact you if they need help.
- Steady Supplier. You work regularly with these customers. They like what you do. The customers don’t usually ask for quotes from competitors; they simply ask you for a price. In many businesses, large numbers of customers fall into this category.
- Strategic Partner. These are the small number of companies with whom you have super-high value, long-term relationships. You add value beyond the scope of the direct products and services your company provides. You have strong and deep relationships at all levels in the organization.
Strategic Partners are small in number but high in value. They are your key accounts. They are the accounts with whom you must have an entirely disproportionate number of activities.
You may have framework agreements established with many of these critical accounts. Whatever else happens, strategic partners must not become neglected accounts.
Steady Supplier relationships also need salesperson activity. They must not become neglected accounts either. Like Strategic Partners, many require their own, dedicated account management plans in salesforce. On the other hand, only those that you aim to migrate to Strategic Partners require deep, intense activity.
Expert For Hire relationships require less management. Nevertheless, they still need planned activity in order not to become neglected accounts.
Recommendation 2 – Report on Activities by Account Segment
Every dashboard should have a chart and underlying report that describes the number of activities completed by each salesperson.
It’s chart 10 on the GSP Sales Dashboard. You can download this dashboard for free from the AppExchange.
Extend this dashboard chart to show the number of activities by account segment. This chart shows whether salespeople are focusing activity on where it matters most.
In our example, we can see that the North region is working extensively with Strategic Partners. Relatively little activity is taking place on Expert For Hire accounts.
The situation is completely different in the East. In the West there are no activities at all on Strategic Partners.
Are the Strategic Partner customers in the East and West region neglected accounts? Does the West have any Strategic Partner accounts in any case? Are Expert For Hire customers in the North neglected accounts? Does the South region need to increase the number of activities on Steady Suppliers?
Only you know the answer to these questions in the context of your business and its customers.
However, the chart and report mean you have the information needed to review the focus of activities in your business. It’s the starting point to determine whether you have important neglected accounts.
Recommendation 3 – Frequency of Engagement on key accounts
The report in Recommendation 2 shows how salespeople and territories are focusing their activities.
The Frequency of Engagement report explains whether individual accounts are getting the attention they deserve. It identifies potential neglected accounts on an account-by-account basis.
Here’s an example:
The report shows the number of activities on each key account. Here’s how you might use the report:
- Aethna Home Products looks like a neglected account. There were two activities in January but nothing in February or March.
- Coeus Solutions had lots of activity in January and February. But there’s nothing in March. Is it in danger of becoming a neglected account?
- Fourth Coffee was identified as a neglected account at the start of the year. But things have picked up since.
- Genepoint also looks like a neglected account. If this is truly a key relationship then we need a remedial action plan.
And so on. You get the idea.
Recommendation 4 – Last Activity Report to highlight Neglected Accounts
Here’s another easy way to spot neglected accounts.
Run a report that shows the Last Activity Date.
This is what the Last Activity Date report looks like, displayed on a salesforce dashboard table.
It’s easy to spot that Aethna Home Products and Dubai Beach Hotels are neglected accounts.
Use the conditional highlighting on the dashboard table to draw the eye to potential neglected accounts. Limit the table to the top 10 results, ranked by the number of days since the last completed activity.
Remember, this type of chart and report do not only need to work at the overall company level.
Each territory, team and individual salesperson should have a list of key accounts. The accounts on that list shouldn’t fall into the neglected account category. So insist on the same level of reporting at each successive level in the sales organization.
Recommendation 5 – Conduct key account planning in salesforce
If key customers and prospects are to avoid becoming neglected accounts then they need proactive, robust management plans.
All your customers and prospects are in salesforce. Therefore, salesforce is the logical place to create and maintain those plans.
Here’s an example of how to do it.
Have your system administrator create a custom object, Key Account Plan. Link it to the Account object. Then create the fields you need to record the details of the plan.
These fields are likely to include Owner, To / From dates, Objectives, Stakeholder Management Plan, Internal Support Required and so on.
Then, if you want to go one step further, have someone create the code that automatically links Opportunities to the Key Account Plan.
Here’s an example of what that looks like.
In this case, the fields describing the account plan detail are blank simply to get the whole image onto the page.
This is powerful information. By linking the Opportunities to the Key Account Plan we have immediate, visual information on whether we are on track with the revenue target for this customer.
How To Build Key Account Plans In Salesforce gives more information on this approach.
No business wants neglected accounts. At least, not neglected accounts that you hope to do business with in the future.
The segmentation approach, reports and account planning approach we have described in this blog mean you can avoid neglecting accounts.
Here are some things you can also do:
- Download the GSP Sales Dashboard. This free dashboard gives robust visibility of sales performance and the sales pipeline. You can adapt the Activity report to run on the Account Segmentation field used in your business.
- Download the accompanying eBook. This eBook describes each of the 12 Charts That Should Be On Your Salesforce Dashboard and how to use them to drive sales performance.
- Create proactive business development plans by implementing key account planning in salesforce.
- Contact Us to get help implementing the Account Planning tool described in this blog post – or to increase the benefits you get from salesforce in any other way.