The most lucrative opportunities tend to come from major accounts – companies that have the highest amount of potential value. Yet, these deals tend to take longer than average.
If you want to maximize sales revenue, you need to put a method to the madness. Create a systematic plan to go after major accounts without dragging out sales cycles and inaccurately forecasting your quarterly pipeline.
The answer is to develop an account planning strategy (also known as key account management) for account-based selling (ABS), a comprehensive method of closing as many deals within a major account as possible.
Here, we’ll talk about how an account planning strategy can help you shorten your selling cycle and close major deals even faster than before.
When Do You Need Account-Based Selling?
Depending on your products/services, sales team objectives, and resources, using ABS as an approach may not make sense.
Generally, you’ll want to adopt this kind of strategy for target accounts that have:
- Larger opportunity sizes
- A higher number of stakeholders
- Longer sales cycles
Bigger deals can be more complex. They can require more buy-in from a larger and more diverse group of stakeholders with differing priorities and timelines. You may need to talk to more people to get enough information to create a winning proposal.
For these accounts, ABS offers numerous benefits, such as upselling and cross-selling; higher retention rates; higher close rates; and faster close times. The more successfully you can navigate the company hierarchy, the faster you can build consensus, overcome barriers, discover needs and pain points, and convince decision makers to close.
Demandbase conducted a survey and found that 60% of companies that followed an account-based selling approach for at least 12 months saw significant revenue growth. It’s worth the effort, especially if you can close deals faster.
Map the Account’s Buying Cycle
The buying cycle for every company is different, even within the same industry. But within a big account, buying cycles can also differ between business units, which makes it even more important for you to know the timelines your specific buyers have.
How do you do this? You need to have more conversations. To have more conversations, you need to find the right people.
Using a CRM like Salesforce with key account management support can help you map out the hierarchy of a major account. This will help you discover the relationships you can leverage to reach the people who know the answers to your questions. You can see who has influence; who supports what you’re doing and who doesn’t; and who will have a role in saying yes or no to your proposal.
You’ll also uncover crucial details like:
- Spending constraints
- Spending authority
- Special considerations
- Contractual obligations
All of this can help you shorten sales cycles through better timing. It can also make your deals fit better with how the company or business unit handles the process.
Get Decision Makers On Board Earlier
One reason why a major deal can drag on is because the sales team doesn’t enlist the support of all the decision makers that need to be on board.
Remember that these decision makers are more numerous and diverse than in smaller accounts. There will be conflicting priorities, timelines, and requirements that have to be addressed. Nothing is more frustrating than getting over one obstacle, only to stumble into another – and another, and another, and another.
If you’re mapping out relationships and buying cycles, you’ll speed up the time it takes to find these key personnel and build consensus between them.
The faster you get signatures on the deal, the faster it moves into the win column. ABS is the only consistent way to make this happen.
(Here’s more information on how relationship mapping can speed up purchasing decisions in a target account.)
Understand Critical Needs Faster for Your Proposal
ABS also helps by giving you the tools to speed up customer understanding.
One main reason why deals tank is due to a lack of understanding of the customer’s needs. And since a major account has multiple priorities and needs, finding the most important ones is a critical piece of the puzzle.
If your proposal can show management that you have a solution that covers all the bases, within the budget and buying timeline, your chances of success will skyrocket. That’s no guarantee that you’ll win the deal, of course, but the goal is to do as much as you can control.
Getting to the bottom of needs with true, detailed, in-depth customer understanding is essential, and key account management can help.
Adopt Account-Based Selling Into Your Sales Strategy
Sales reps can’t sell into key accounts ad hoc and expect top performance. Creating a strategy around key account management gives them a sales process they can follow to maximize efficiency and opportunity at every step.
The essentials of a strategy should include answers to these questions:
- What is our criteria for high-value accounts?
- What is the strategic account planning process when we identify a high-value account?
- What types of deals are we looking for?
- How will we coordinate between sales and marketing to get the content we need?
- How will we identify white space (opportunity for growth) and pursue it?
- Where will we keep track of data, including company hierarchy, influence levels, and relationships?
- How will we develop and deliver content to the right people at the right time?
There needs to be a roadmap for every sale – from first contact to deal. And since this is for a key account, the roadmap needs to be scalable. You want to pursue white space in an account with purpose and precision, while being flexible to roll with the punches and deal with shifting circumstances.
At the end of the day, account-based selling is about finding the right buyers and bringing them together on an enterprise solution that serves as many needs as possible. The only way to get more performance from your selling strategy is to shorten a lengthy sales cycle. That means adopting strategic account planning.
Put a method to the madness. Discover buyers and key stakeholders, identify customer relationships, build consensus, and win deals throughout the entire organization.