In sales, we all bundle our accounts, clients and prospects, into logical groupings to add clarity and understanding to our efforts. We use vertical categories, assembling together our healthcare, consumer products, technology accounts, and others. We also differentiate by geography, adding efficiency in territory management by bundling accounts based on physical locations. Account size also dictates designations as we band together organizations of similar annual revenues, numbers of employees, or other relevant metrics. And, of course, we typically segregate commercial accounts from those in the public sector. We create these groupings in order to be more efficient in our efforts to win business, which makes a lot of sense. Of course, having fundamental, descriptive information about accounts is helpful, but what do the categories really tell us about the actual traits and tendencies of these accounts? How meaningful is the information in helping us build actionable strategies to win, grow, and keep major clients?
Consider this – in the animal kingdom, creatures are also bundled into categories that provide scientific classification. But what practical value do you gain, for example, from knowing that two creatures are both snakes? While King Cobras and Garden Snakes are technically in the same group, their individual traits and tendencies are dramatically different, to say the least. Similarly, in the spider family, it would be much more valuable to be forewarned about the behavior you can expect from a Black Widow versus a Daddy Long Legs than simply knowing they’re both spiders. So, while scientifically accurate, knowing that creatures are grouped in certain categories really tells you nothing about the actions that you should take when you encounter them. The information is simply not actionable. Truthfully, the King Cobra has much more in common with the Black Widow than with the Garden Snake. Why? Because they’re both killers. And understanding their traits and tendencies earns you the right to take appropriate action. Like get out of there and fast!
The same is true with accounts, while perhaps at not such a life-threatening level. But understanding the differences in accounts in terms of traits and tendencies can be as valuable as knowing that you’re far better off with a Garden Snake in your house than a King Cobra.
How, then, do you build meaningful profiles for your clients and prospects? Let’s start by considering four types of accounts – Keep, Attain, Recapture, and Expand. Keep accounts are your typical, average clients. They’re not rain-makers, but their category likely generates the majority of your revenue and you’re happy to keep them on board. Attain accounts are your profile prospects. You target them and work hard to win their business. Recapture accounts are previous clients that are no longer active. Unlike past customers whose business you consciously choose not to pursue, you would love to welcome Recapture accounts back in the fold. Last are the Expand accounts. These are your most treasured active clients. You have invested in them and would look to invest further to promote closer partnerships and future growth. These are the strategic clients you want to tuck in at night. They are your future.
Of course, one selling organization’s Keep, Attain, Recapture, and Expand accounts will have different attributes than another’s, so you must build your own meaningful profiles by crafting your own attributes in each category, specific to your business model and organization. Once you’ve built these custom profiles for Keep, Attain, Recapture and Expand accounts, you can then position your accounts into the appropriate profiles. And you’ve then earned the right to build common actions for each category, actions aligned with each KARE profile, which you’ve already customized to map to your world. For your Recapture accounts, for example, you’ll identify the actions to take to win them back. While you’ll certainly customize individual account pursuit strategies, the common Recapture account actions that you craft will apply to each of these past customers, saving you time and effort. The same applies to your Keep, Attain, and Expand accounts. There’s no need to start at ground zero to build individual strategies because remember, the accounts in each profile share the same attributes, the same traits and tendencies. That’s the beauty of having profiles that are truly meaningful.
Some of you might ask, “What about current clients I need to stop doing business with, accounts I need to fire?” A great question. Most organizations perpetuate some account relationships, hopefully not too many, where margins might be pitifully low or where communication and executive contact simply don’t exist. The fact of the matter is that there’s no KARE profile for these accounts. There’s simply an action to take. If the relationship with the account is so fractured that ties need to be severed, the action does not make a to-do list. It needs to be taken quickly and addressed directly with the account. On the positive side, sometimes taking difficult actions can prompt constructive dialogue to improve things. Open communication can change things for the better. Margins might improve and doors to communication could open. But if this doesn’t happen, so be it. Break off the relationship, move on and apply your energy and focus to deserving clients. You owe it to yourself and your entire organization.
As you might imagine, KARE is a very powerful sales management tool as well. In providing a clear account roadmap, it breeds effective communication and team accountability.
So, know your accounts well. But don’t be complacent and think that you’ve done enough by identifying the Black Widow and King Cobra as spiders and snakes respectively. Take it to an actionable level and understand their traits and tendencies well enough to know they belong in the Killers category. Then, you’ve earned the right to take truly meaningful actions.