Everyone knows earning new business is harder and more expensive than growing it. That’s why it’s important to capitalize on every opportunity for growth in current accounts. One powerful strategy for account growth lies in exploring the “white space” within your customer accounts.
Understanding the ‘White Space’
“White space” is defined as gaps between the solutions you’re providing your customers and the unserved needs your solutions could meet.
There are two common categories of white space – divisional gaps and product/service gaps:
- Divisional Gaps: These gaps arise due to differences between the divisions or business units that your customer has versus the areas within the customer where your relationship currently thrives.
- Product/Service Gaps: These gaps occur when there are discrepancies between the products or services your customer purchases and the offerings you provide.
How to Grow Into Your Customer’s White Space
Growing accounts by selling into your customer’s white space is a two-part process – analysis and strategic planning. To properly analyze your customer’s white space, you’ll need to consider the following factors:
Identifying the white space created by changing industry factors requires researching three key elements: what changes occurred, how they impacted your customer, and how your solutions can help customers capitalize on opportunities created by those changes.
Examples of divisional gaps arising from industry changes include the need for workforce expansion or new product lines. Examples of product/service gaps include the need to create efficiencies or access to new suppliers.
When analyzing your customer’s industry look for the following:
- Changes in the supply and demand
- Changes in market size
- Changes in industry or national regulations
- New or exiting competitors
- There are several places where you can find this information, including:
- Company financial reports
- Trade shows
- Social media
- Industry publications
Dig deep during your research. When you find something that sounds interesting, look for additional sources and perspectives to deepen your understanding.
Organizational and Relationship Changes
Understanding your customer’s industry provides a high-level view of what they’re facing, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Shifts in internal dynamics are common sources of new opportunities for partnership.
Examples of divisional gaps arising from organizational changes include the need for interdepartmental alignment or the creation of new teams to meet market needs. Examples of product/service gaps include the need for change management oversite or recruiting services.
To dig into this level, consider factors like your customer’s:
- Changes in leadership
- Changes in market share
- Talent pool
- Recent technology investments
Uncovering this information can be a bit more challenging. To get to it you can:
- Review your account notes in the CRM
- Search for recent press releases
- Conduct an exploratory account check-in
When you’re asking for an exploratory or check-in meeting, remember your customer’s time is valuable. Position the ask by offering something of value in return.
Thinking deeply about the needs of different stakeholders across your client’s organization helps you find new opportunities to serve your clients.
For example, a CFO might be looking for ways to improve the organization’s cash-flow while a departmental leader might be looking for opportunities to help their team get organized.
In addition to highlighting more white space opportunities, a stakeholder analysis also helps define the relationships you need to foster. This ensures your message reaches the right audience.
During your stakeholder analysis, answer the following questions about every stakeholder you identify:
- What is their role in the decision-making process?
- Who influences them?
- Whom do they influence?
- How much influence do they have?
- What matters to them?
- To what extent can they help you access other decision makers?
- What is your level of access to them?
- How strong is your relationship?
- How much are they allied with your competitors?
- What resources can you use to build a stronger relationship with them?
- Are they a good advocate for you in the decision-making process?
- How can you access this individual?
This analysis takes time, but the output will inform your positioning strategy and help create a roadmap for getting in front of the right people.
Understanding where and how your competitors are providing solutions for your clients gives insight into their gaps or weaknesses. By knowing these areas, you can identify what specific strengths you have over your competition. With this knowledge, you can pursue business you might be able to win from them.
To effectively assess your competitive position, you need answers to the following questions:
- What competitors are your customers working with, and how do they feel about them?
- How do you compare to them?
- What concerns does the client have with your company?
These conversations are high stakes, but the value is worth the risk, especially if you navigate the conversation with professionalism and accept feedback constructively.
Creating Your Plan to Grow Into the White Space
The final step in selling into your customer’s white space is to develop your strategy and action plan. Start with a clear definition of , customer-focused, relevant goals and objectives. Then map the actions required to reach them. Finally, socialize and share the plan with internal and external stakeholders to make sure you have agreement and start the process in a collaborative tone.
Completing a thoughtful analysis of your customer’s world will reveal new opportunities for growth, and using that insight to craft a powerful account strategy will help you take advantage of them.