How to Prioritize Accounts to Create a Business Plan that Hits the Target


Your salespeople have one-million-and-one things to do—and a limited number of hours in a day to do them. Make sure they know exactly where they should be spending their time by helping them strategically prioritize their accounts. Join Lisa Rose, RVP of Sales and Will Brooks, COO, as they walk you through best practices for identifying accounts with the greatest return on investment—so you can help your reps create and execute on a business plan that hits the number.

In 19 hyper-focused minutes, we’ll cover:

  • Some of the most common reasons sales reps fail to hit their quarterly and yearly targets – and how to address them
  • The two most important criteria to consider when prioritizing accounts
  • An easy formula your salespeople can use to predict an account’s level of payoff
  • The most effective way to rank accounts and develop a strategic action plan for hitting target

Read the Full Transcript of the Briefinar Below: 

Will Brooks:    Okay folks, for those of you just signing on, you are in the right place. This is the Briefinar, so if you could just sit tight we’ll be opening this up in a minute. (silence)
Will Brooks:    Hello, and welcome to Briefinars for sales leaders. We promise to be brief, bright and bring it all to you in 19 minutes or less. This is Will Brooks, COO of the Brooks Group, and I’m excited to be joined today by Lisa Rose, Regional Vice President of Sales. Lisa has a passion for collaborating with sales leaders to develop an effective, motivational sales culture inside of the organization. 
Lisa Rose:    Hey Will, glad to be here today. 
Will Brooks:    So today we’re going to be discussing how to help sales people prioritize their accounts to be sure they’re spending their time where it matters the most. 
Lisa Rose:    That’s right Will. Sales people are always busy, but as sales leaders we have to ask, “Are they spending their time on high gain activities with the right accounts?”
Will Brooks:    You got that right, so let’s just jump right into it. 
Lisa Rose:    Sure. 
Will Brooks:    So I think the right place to start here is to ask ourselves why prioritize accounts? You know, we came across some really, I think, insightful and eye opening research here. So companies whose account prioritization exceeds expectations have 11% higher win rates than companies whose account prioritization needs improvement. Lisa, you want to talk us a little bit about your take on that?
Lisa Rose:    Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting. When you read a fact like this, there’s a temptation to think it’s only big companies, but really what we’ve found in our experience over 40 years is often the little companies see even bigger gains, so for instance, I have a building supply company that went through a process of prioritizing, and what they found was a drastic increase in business when they really focused on the right activities with the right companies. 
Lisa Rose:    So, it doesn’t have to be a big company to see this kind of change. 
Will Brooks:    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Often times inside those small organizations, they’re just out there busy trying to get what they can, so to add some level of planfulness to this, good returns. Good returns. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. Absolutely. 
Will Brooks:    Okay, so let’s take a look at the next one here. 45% of sales reps report needing help figuring out which accounts to prioritize. So what are your thoughts on that?
Lisa Rose:    Well you’ll probably laugh at this Will, knowing me, but certain behavioral styles our temptation may be just to go, go, go. Activity will turn into success, and that’s not always the case. So, instead of just being busy, spending the time on the right thing really pays off better, right?
Will Brooks:    Yeah. Yeah. I know some reps here, Lisa, who may prefer to avoid the plan. 
Lisa Rose:    Guilty. 
Will Brooks:    Yeah. Indeed, indeed. 
Lisa Rose:    Okay, so another element we had looked at was so 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect. 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop. 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop. Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts, and yet 80% of sales are made on the fifth and 12th contact. I got to say, Will, you told me this about a year ago and I thought, “Yeah, yeah.” I had to become a believer in this, but I know within our own company, adding somebody who was making appointments and following up consistently really has paid off. 
Lisa Rose:    Again, it’s not just little companies that don’t follow up. Some of the bigger opportunities are the ones that take more time contact to reach them. 
Will Brooks:    Yeah. You know, if you’re a company out there that relies heavily on inbound leads to drive your business, it can get frustrating. Somebody comes to your website, they request information, your reps follow up two, maybe three times, they don’t hear back. Well, all of a sudden that potential A account ends up down in the D category because they don’t get back to you. Meanwhile, people are just busy, and what we’re finding actually, it’s taking anywhere from 10 to 13 touches before we can even get somebody who’s requested information to actually touch base with us and schedule an appointment. 
Will Brooks:    I think it’s just because people are busy, so the takeaway here is don’t overlook good, solid accounts that may not be really, really ready right now.
Lisa Rose:    That’s right. Those leads are expensive, right?
Will Brooks:    Yes. I won’t show you that number, but they are expensive. 
Lisa Rose:    Yes. Yeah. 
Will Brooks:    Great. So having a prioritization strategy helps keep your reps organized and focused on the most important activities so they can be successful, so let’s explore the best way to prioritize accounts. I think this is really why the folks are here, Lisa. They want to get into the nitty gritty, the tactics. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. Yeah. Don’t get overwhelmed by this matrix, but it really, the basis of this is two priorities. So you want to look at pay off and positioning. So using that two criteria, it’ll allow your sales people to identify the accounts that’ll give them the highest return on their efforts. 
Will Brooks:    Tell us a little bit about these different areas, Lisa. So I’m looking here, let’s see. You’re talking about several factors. Growth potential. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. Yup. 
Will Brooks:    Profitability. Perception of your value. 
Lisa Rose:    Yup. 
Will Brooks:    Degree of account maintenance. That’s a funny one to me, and then alignment with your business offerings and philosophy. Do you have any thoughts on any of these areas? I think there are some traps that it’s very easy to fall into with some of these. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. So growth potential, you’re looking at within the accounts, opportunity for growth within the accounts, and accounts that can be leveraged to grow other accounts through referrals. So looking at that. Profitability, the actual profitability of your existing accounts, or the potential profitability of your target accounts. It’s easy to spend time on the squeaky wheel, or the one that’s reaching out to you all the time, but is there pay off there, right?
Will Brooks:    Absolutely. 
Lisa Rose:    Then perception of your value. How do your accounts perceive the value you offer? The higher the perception of that value, and the less price sensitive these accounts will be so qualifying. So how are you, how qualified is the opportunity you’re spending time with? This is one of my favorite ones. So the degree of account maintenance. How much time you must spend with these accounts in relation to the business you’re going to do with them. We say internally here, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” 
Lisa Rose:    The amount of time you spend squeezing them. Are you going to get enough out of it for you to really spend time?
Will Brooks:    In my experience, you know I’ve worked with the reps over the years, maybe in the absence of having a lot of really good, strong opportunities on the go at a certain point in time, they have a high maintenance account. Maybe not a whole lot of yield there, but man, they’re talking to somebody and they feel like they’re servicing an account. Well, it’s not a great pay off. 
Lisa Rose:    Yeah. They really like us. 
Will Brooks:    They really like us, and they’re always willing to take my call. They’re always calling me, so I feel important. 
Lisa Rose:    Exactly. Yeah. That’s this last one, alignment with your business offerings and philosophy. Are the accounts a good fit for what we offer, or what your company offers and how they do business, right?
Will Brooks:    Yeah. I think a lot of, in this context, I think about can we, should we? So just because we can provide a service or product, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
Lisa Rose:    Right. 
Will Brooks:    That goes back to a high maintenance account, or maybe the cultural alignment isn’t there, or any number of reasons, but I think this is a valuable factor to consider. 
Lisa Rose:    Yeah. So your higher priority accounts will have the high growth potential, a high perception of your value, a reasonable level of account maintenance required, and then a close alignment with your business purposes, right? I would say from our standpoint, those are the accounts that we see the most growth out of. 
Will Brooks:    Excellent. So, let’s jump over next to another grid that I feel confident you’re going to explain thoroughly to us. The positioning grid. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. 
Will Brooks:    Talk to us about this. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. So positioning, in addition to pay off or account attractiveness, your sales people need to consider their positioning with these accounts. So how do your teams accounts view them. Personally, how do they view your organizations, your offerings compared to the competition? A favorable rating in any of these areas pushes the account towards the high side of the spectrum versus the low. So let’s talk about positioning. 
Lisa Rose:    I think we have a sales person internally who has great positioning within accounts, and he can tell that, and we can tell that, because they call him to consult on topics that aren’t even related to what we sell, right? They may ask him about realignment, they may ask him about a career planning for some of their people, whether a sales person would make a good manager, those types of things. So, it’s positioning really is everything in a lot of ways. Part of what we’re going to do after this webinar, we’ll send you a copy of the recording, but we’re also going to send you a questionnaire that’s kind of a diagnostic on how your sales people are positioned within their accounts. 
Lisa Rose:    But this might be a good exercise. If you have your sales people consider their best accounts, how do their best accounts rank them in terms of pay off? So how growth potential, profitability, how do they rank in terms of that, and the positioning? So where would they place their best accounts on this matrix? It’s just a good activity. We find that the accounts with the best profitability, the best opportunities for growth, et cetera, will have the highest potential for your sales people and the largest return on their investment of time, energy and talent, right?
Lisa Rose:    So those accounts that would be in quadrant one and quadrant two, the blue quadrant and the green quadrant, those are the accounts that should take the highest priority. So does that make sense? Highest pay off, highest positioning. 
Will Brooks:    Makes perfect sense. So, we’ve talked about pay off. We’ve talked about positioning. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty here of actually how to prioritize the accounts. 
Lisa Rose:    Right. So once they’ve identified what quadrant their accounts fall, they can prioritize them. When the pressure is on to close deals, sales rep sometimes focus on accounts they’ve been working with for a long time, rather than the accounts that give them the greatest return on their time investment. So, it’s moving out of that comfort zone, right? Having a prioritization strategy helps keep your reps organized and focused on the most important activities with the most important accounts. So your rep’s approach will differ based on where each account falls on this priority scale. 
Lisa Rose:    So for example, accounts in quadrant three, so that black quadrant on the lower right side, would receive a maintain approach. They’re accounts that bring in business, but they should not be the focus of cultivating and developing, because you can see your positioning may be high but the pay off is low. Accounts in quadrant four, the red quadrant, should receive little or no attention from your sales people because they’re low pay off, low positioning. So you’re not going to do well with time spent in that area. 
Lisa Rose:    Whereas planning efforts should really focus on the top two quadrants and minimize the efforts in the others. In other words, the top two quadrants here, in the green box, it’s high pay off, low positioning, so now I’m going to work on my positioning, and the blue box, you have high strategic alignment, high positioning, so why not spend your time there when you’re already down the road. 
Will Brooks:    All excellent points. 
Lisa Rose:    So where do you start? It starts with a business plan, right? How do you get organized in the very beginning? What we find is if you can get your sales people to divide their accounts into these three categories, it starts. So there’s no size fits all template. Your sales reps plan should be organized on their growth strategy as well as their own individual goals. At the Brooks Group, we generally recommend categorizing them into target accounts, so accounts that have been partially qualified, but haven’t done any business with you. 
Lisa Rose:    So they’re accounts belonging to a competitor, for instance. The second category would then be growth accounts, so they’re qualified accounts that are doing some business with you, but there’s growth there. So there’s potential to grow that even further. Key accounts are accounts that think of you first, right? You can’t forget them because they’re usually the ones that bring in the money, but spending a lot of time with them may not necessarily move the needle. So based on your unique goals, determine how much time, total time should be spent on each segment, and then prioritize the accounts within each segment by completing that prioritization exercise we just covered. 
Lisa Rose:    Again, you’re going to get a recording of that after this Briefinar, and you’ll be able to review it because it seems a little complex in the beginning, but once you get it, you can really coach them through how to use it. 
Will Brooks:    Well, and we offer a workshop that actually helps the company to build out their plan around that. Speaking along those lines here, our sales territory planning workshops, day and a half in length, can be customized to your organization, and your sales reps are going to come away with detailed action plans. I love this workshop. In fact, we’re going to be doing it internally for our own sales organization, Lisa. Aren’t you excited?
Lisa Rose:    Yes. I am. 
Will Brooks:    Oh yeah. To build out our 2018 plans, because if reps have a solid blueprint for meeting the number, all of a sudden it becomes far less intimidating. Every single day, every single week, they know they can take a step forward towards that number. So all of a sudden it’s not this looming, huge, it’s like how do you eat the elephant, right? 
Lisa Rose:    Right. 
Will Brooks:    One bite at a time. So would love to talk to you about this more. Of course, Lisa’s available to you if you’d like to discuss that. There’s a URL here on this slide where you can learn more about that program. 
Lisa Rose:    Yeah, and it’s interesting too, because as sales people, again, certain behavioral styles, we don’t want to slow down to do this. Will’s teaching me a bit because I’m guilty, again, but taking the time to do it. It actually, once you get into it as a sales person it’s fun, because you’re talking about your own accounts, so you get engaged because you’re talking about specifically what you can do. Other people bring ideas to the table too, so it’s not all on you. In some ways it’s a great way to start the year. It kind of gives you a fresh look. 
Lisa Rose:    Makes you go to the top of the trees and look at the forest, but it also builds in accountability from a manager’s standpoint and from a sales person’s standpoint. From a manager’s standpoint, there’s something to coach to, so I know Will will always be pulling up my sales territory plan, but it also gets from a sales person, it keeps you honest. It keeps you really focused on high gain activities, which is where you want to be anyway. 
Will Brooks:    You bring up a good point, the whole idea of the group dynamic, and the group brainstorming, I mean as long as the team’s got a healthy dynamic, folks want to help each other and who knows what kind of creative ideas for prospecting account development can come out of that. 
Lisa Rose:    Oh yeah. 
Will Brooks:    So, anyway, like I said, would love to talk to you about that. A very popular program, but that being said, I think that wraps up our content today. 
Lisa Rose:    We’re giving people a little extra time back for lunch. 
Will Brooks:    Exactly. Exactly. Well Lisa, you know I appreciate all the insight. I think there’s some really good value here, and to our listeners, thank you so much for joining us and we’ll look forward to seeing you next month. 
Lisa Rose:    Sure, and if you’d like to reach out to me individually, my email address is lrose, like the flower, [email protected]. I’d love to work with you. Take care. 

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