Modern buyers are seeking trusted advisors and not vendors, which is why simply knowing the product or service being offered is no longer enough for sellers. With the average sales manager devoting just 9% of his or her time developing direct reports, there is a tendency for sales coaches to focus on training sellers on the ins and outs of the products or services they are selling. Looking ahead, sales leaders need to focus on modeling the right behavior to positively impact their customers for successful account planning.
A recent report by management consulting firm McKinsey revealed that B2B businesses engaging in a digitally-focused account planning strategy see the five-year growth rate of total returns to shareholders nearly double compared to other firms. This should focus the mind of all large enterprises when putting together their own long term Account Planning strategy.
Behavior modeling that improves the customer experience in sales can be achieved in three main ways: coaching, mentoring, and a center of excellence.
Coach Your Reports on Benefits of Account Planning
At a base level, everyone deserves to be coached, so the question is how to effectively train employees in a space where revenue is the main driver of success. A well-designed and customer-focused coaching program can educate sellers on the benefits of the account planning system so that the whole revenue team, from sales to marketing to customer service, is on the same page.
The promise of account-based marketing (ABM) rarely exceeds expectations when it is not built on a foundation of account planning. Sellers are constantly collecting information about their customers – their needs and goals, who the key decision makers are, who influences those decision makers, and more. This baseline knowledge builds the flywheel on which successful ABM campaigns are built.
Using tools to automate the collection of this data to be used for personalization can streamline the process and also provide valuable insights for coaching. Such was the case for Altify customer, Autodesk, which leveraged a Customer Revenue Optimization (CRO) platform to integrate directly into their existing CRM, which ultimately aggregated better data and gave coaches more clarity into the process. Autodesk also found success in coaching by hiring two full-time sales coaches. The result of this “black hat coaching” is that revenue teams can get help and insight from a coach not directly on the sales team and who doesn’t have a quota.
Mentor Others to Share Experiences and Knowledge
Given the depth of knowledge veteran sales people have about their accounts, mentorship of new team members is invaluable for building an effective account planning strategy. A mentorship program will give experienced team members an opportunity to share their knowledge with new sellers. Even as professionals move up in an organization, managers are still getting coached. No matter an employee’s level of expertise, training is important.
Think about world class athletes: they train everyday, and they are heavily coached. This same philosophy should apply in sales. Sales teams should be coached on how to manage their time, how to qualify their leads and deals, and – moreover – how to share their expertise with others. In fact, the companies that are investing time and efforts into training front-line employees will not only see results in increasing revenue growth but also in developing effective sales leaders.
Deal review meetings are one example of an effective form of mentorship in sales. By gathering internal stakeholders in an account’s sales process — from reps to leaders — the revenue team can use insights and metrics from across functional groups and departments to improve account planning.
Develop A Center of Excellence
A center of excellence offers a one-stop-shop for resources, like these aforementioned metrics, that encourage continuous learning and improvement in an organization. Enterprise sales can be so complicated, and, especially today, with sales turnover increasing, it’s important to develop a technology that provides real-time coaching so that new employees can succeed.
With lower employee retention, it is easy for more time to be spent onboarding new hires instead of training current employees on maximizing existing customer relationships.
Aside from selling the most desirable customer experience, salespeople need to understand the clients and their growth objectives. A center of excellence should provide resources for current employees to improve their sales practice using insights into the revenue team’s strategy, a customer-centric methodology and technology to automate data aggregation.
In today’s world, with customers seeking more and more highly tailored experiences and sellers often moving from job to job more frequently, the reminder that all people deserve to be trained, coached, and mentored rings all the more true. As we look ahead to the next decade, sales leaders will need to focus on modelling the right behavior for their customer’s experience to grow and sustain a successful account planning strategy.
Sean Broderick is the product marketing lead for Upland Altify and is passionate about sales enablement. He is also the host of the Upland Altify Podcast Revenue Optimization Radio.