March 2, 2018

Where is Your Strategic, Finite Target Account List?

Selecting “Targets” is the first step in the New Sales Driver framework outlined in New Sales. Simplified.

Selecting Targets is first for a reason. It’s one of the very few chances we (in sales) have to be strategic. If we’re really honest, most of what we in sales do is about execution, not strategy. Those who excel at picking up new business typically do so because they become masters at executing the sales attack, not because they’re great sales theoreticians! The time we really get to engage our brains and to put serious thought into our strategy is when we are deciding whose business we want – which target customers and prospects to pursue for new business.

Another reason that Selecting Targets is the first part of the framework for outlining a success new business development-focused sales attack is because our target list should be driving what goes into our calendars and where we are intentionally investing our precious selling time. It makes sense: Your list should dictate where you spend your time. Unfortunately, however, way too high a percentage of salespeople spend (waste) the majority of their time living in reactive mode, hoping (an awful sales word)  for a lead, or that a customer will raise its hand looking for help.  And you know that as long as you are content living in reactive mode and earning a living by chasing opportunities under your nose, you really don’t need a target account list. But, and this is a BIG BUT, the moment that you decide to become proactive, strategic, and intentional about whose business you want and are committed to pursuing, the very first thing you require is a list.

If I was coaching you personally, within ten minutes of our initial conversation I would be asking you to show me your Target List. If you are serious about winning New Sales, then you must have a Target List. And notice I didn’t say “account list” or “prospect list.” Nope. I don’t want a list of your accounts. Nor do I want you to scroll through screen after screen in your CRM, or thumb through page after page in some Book of Lists. And I’m not asking to see your pipeline of current opportunities. I want you to have a strategic, finite, written (or printed) list of the accounts you are committed to pursuing – those from which you are willing to be held accountable for securing discovery meetings and creating new sales opportunities. That’s your Target List!

If your sales role is like most salespeople today, it is likely that you have some type of hybrid sales job. You are expected to maintain and grow revenue from your existing accounts, and you also charged with acquiring new business from new customers. That is why it is absolutely imperative that you invest the time and brain power to create a Target List for yourself that looks something like the image at the top of this article. You need a two-pronged list. On one side of the ledger I want you to list your Growable Accounts. I hope the key word there is blatantly obvious: Growable. Not all customers are created equally and not all deserve an equal share of your time, focus, and energy. If you don’t think the customer is Growable, then I don’t think you should put that account on your Target List!  I’m not saying not to “serve” the account, but I am emphatically saying that if you are serious about winning more New Sales, then you should not be focusing your precious selling time on a customer that you can’t grow. If they can’t buy more  – of the same thing, or new things (cross-selling), or bigger things (up-selling) – then they don’t belong on your Target List.

For some of you reading this article, that previous paragraph sounds obvious, and maybe even unnecessary. But based on what I’m observing recently in many of the companies where I’ve been leading workshops and speaking at sales kickoff meetings, I know for a fact that the message of strategically targeting GROWABLE customers  is actually like a bucket of cold water over the head for some sellers. Too many salespeople are operating on auto-pilot, doing a milk-run, cruising their territories and account lists while giving little or zero thought to which existing accounts are worthy of their time and attention. Friends, let this be one more reminder that, in sales, we are not paid to do work. Our job is not to cover the territory, or manage accounts – regardless of what silly title someone may have put on our business cards. Our job is to GROW REVENUE. And the best way to do that is to proactively, intentionally, and strategically over-invest time and focus working Growable Accounts and and Ideal Profile Prospects.

Can I encourage you to disengage the auto-pilot and engage your brain and that of your manager to invest the appropriate energy determining which of your existing accounts, if pursued with abandon, deserve more of your time and focus? I’ll cover tips on creating your list of Ideal Profile Prospects in a future post. For now, I wish you great strategic targeting and great selling.