Target Account Selling

“Target account selling is about building long-term, strategic relationships with key accounts or customers by providing value and expertise, rather than simply trying to sell a product or service.”

– John Doerr

 
Target account selling (also known as key account selling or strategic account selling) is a sales approach that involves focusing on a select group of high-value accounts or customers, with the goal of developing long-term, strategic relationships with them. This approach is typically used in businesses that sell complex products or services to large, enterprise-level customers, and involves a more consultative, solution-oriented sales process.

The target account selling process typically involves four key steps, including:

1. Identifying target accounts: This involves identifying a select group of high-value accounts or customers that the company wants to focus on.

2. Researching the target accounts: The salesperson should gather as much information as possible about the target accounts, including their business, challenges, goals, and decision-making processes.

3. Building relationships: The salesperson should work to build strong relationships with key stakeholders at the target accounts, including decision-makers, influencers, and key users.

4. Sell and nurture the relationship: Once you are in and have built relationships, leverage one of the top-selling methodologies like SPIN, Solution Selling, MEDDIC, or GAP Selling to really understand their issues, needs and buying process, so you can tailor solutions to them. Furthermore, have the mindset of building a long-term relationship which means doing right by them all the time and not just looking for the next deal.

Overall, target account selling is focused on building long-term, strategic relationships with key accounts or customers by providing value and expertise, rather than simply trying to sell a product or service.
 

1. Identifying Target Accounts


Identifying target accounts involves identifying a select group of high-value accounts or customers that the company wants to focus on. This might involve identifying key industry sectors, geographies, or customer segments that the company wants to focus on. It might also involve identifying specific accounts or customers that have the potential to generate significant revenue or have other strategic value for the company. Here are a few strategies for identifying target accounts.

Identify key industry sectors or customer segments: One way to identify target accounts is to focus on specific industries or customer segments that are most likely to generate significant revenue or have other strategic value for the business. This might involve identifying sectors or segments that are growing rapidly, have high levels of demand for the company’s products or services, or have other characteristics that make them attractive targets.

Identify high-potential accounts: Some companies might also identify target accounts by looking for accounts that have the potential to generate significant revenue or have other strategic value for the business. This might involve identifying accounts that are located in key markets, have a large customer base, or have other characteristics that make them attractive targets. You can also analyze your existing customer base by performing a Pareto analysis (rank ordering customers by revenue) but also scoring the customer base by potential spending, utilizing external data or insights from the salespeople, to create a share-of-wallet model. Once you do this rank order the customer base by potential (the difference between total wallet/spend minus customer revenue). I know it may be difficult to come up with a precise number but directionally correct data or segments (very large, medium, small) can get you to a good answer.

Look for large, complex organizations: Another approach is to focus on large, complex organizations that are likely to need the company’s products or services. These organizations might have more complex needs or require more customized solutions, which can provide opportunities for the company to differentiate itself and offer value to the customer.

Identify strategic partners or suppliers: Another way to identify target accounts is to look for organizations that are strategic partners or suppliers to the company. These organizations might have complementary products or services, or might be key partners in the company’s supply chain. Building partnerships with adjacent/non-competitive partners can open the doors to large target accounts.

Overall, the key to identifying target accounts is to focus on customers or organizations that have the potential to generate significant value for the business. This might involve identifying industry sectors or customer segments that are most attractive, focusing on large, complex organizations, or identifying strategic partners or suppliers.
 

2. Researching the Target Accounts


Researching target accounts is an important step in the target account selling process, as it helps salespeople understand the needs, goals, and challenges of the customer and develop a customized solution that addresses those needs. This might involve conducting online research, talking to industry experts or other stakeholders, or using other resources to gather insights about the target accounts. Here are some tips for researching target accounts:

Gather as key information: Researching target accounts involves gathering as much information as possible about the customer, including their business, challenges, goals, and decision-making processes. This might involve conducting online research, talking to industry experts or other stakeholders, or using other resources to gather insights about the target accounts.

Identify key stakeholders: It’s important to identify the key stakeholders at the target accounts, including decision-makers, influencers, and key users. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of these stakeholders can help salespeople tailor their approach and messaging to address the needs and concerns of each individual.

Understand the customer’s decision-making process: Researching target accounts also involves understanding how the customer makes decisions about purchasing products or services. This might involve identifying and talking to the key decision-makers, understanding the criteria they use to evaluate potential solutions, and understanding the timeline for making a decision.

Understand the customer’s challenges and goals: Another important aspect of researching target accounts is understanding the challenges and goals of the customer. This might involve asking questions to understand the customer’s business and the problems they are trying to solve, or identifying opportunities for the company to provide value to the customer.

Overall, researching target accounts involves gathering as much information as possible about the customer and understanding their needs, goals, and challenges. This helps salespeople develop a customized solution that addresses the specific needs of the customer and helps build a long-term, strategic relationship with them.
 

3. Building Relationships


Building relationships is an important part of the target account selling process, as it helps salespeople establish trust and rapport with the customer and position themselves as a trusted advisor. Here are some tips for building relationships with target accounts:

Network like crazy: Finding the first key relationship within a target account is typically the most difficult step. It can be a numbers game, but once you’re in, network like crazy to start understanding the key stakeholders, needs, issues, solution sets, etc.

Be Strategic: Remember the goal is a long-term relationship, so build deep relationships with the key stakeholders. Focus on getting to know the whole person, their issues, and how you can be of service to them. Don’t just be another salesperson, be a problem solver for them.

Understand the customer’s needs and goals: Building relationships with target accounts involves understanding the customer’s needs and goals and working to meet those needs. This might involve asking questions to understand the customer’s business, challenges, and objectives, and then using that knowledge to provide valuable insights and ideas.

Build trust: Building trust is an important aspect of building relationships with target accounts. This might involve being responsive to the customer’s needs, following through on commitments, and being transparent and honest in all interactions.

Be responsive: Being responsive to the customer’s needs is critical to building relationships with target accounts. This might involve being available to answer questions or provide support when needed or follow up on requests in a timely manner.

Communicate regularly: Regular communication is key to building relationships with target accounts. This might involve regular phone or email communication, or in-person meetings. The goal is to stay connected with the customer and provide value on an ongoing basis.

Building relationships with target accounts involves networking, regular communication, understanding the customer’s needs and goals, building trust, and being responsive to the customer’s needs. By building strong relationships with target accounts, salespeople can position themselves as trusted advisors and help build long-term, strategic relationships with the customer.
 

4. Sell and Nurture the Relationship


Target Account Selling is a long-term game and strategy. You often have to start with a small sale to prove yourself and your solution’s value. Utilize a top selling methodology like SPIN, Solution Selling, MEDDIC, or GAP Selling to get that first sale and subsequent sales. Once you get the ball rolling, and the trust, you can start picking up more share of wallet with the key account.

Always remember the end-game with Target Account Selling is to become the account’s number 1 or 2 suppliers which can often take years. Focus on continuously deepening relationships, solving the key stakeholder’s problems, and overdelivering on value. This will ensure long-term sustainable growth with key target accounts.
 

4. Create a Key Account Plan


On an annual basis, with quarterly reviews, create a key account plan outlining the strategies and plans for key accounts. A key account plan is a document that outlines the strategy and tactics that a salesperson or sales team will use to manage and grow relationships with key accounts or customers. Key account plans typically include information on the target accounts, including their needs, goals, and challenges, as well as the specific actions and activities that will be undertaken to build relationships with those accounts and grow the business.

Key account plans can include a wide range of information, including:

Key account profiles: Key account plans often include detailed profiles of the target accounts, including information on the size, industry, location, and other characteristics of those accounts. These profiles can help salespeople understand the specific needs and challenges of each key account and tailor their approach accordingly.

Account objectives: Key account plans typically include specific objectives or goals that the salesperson or sales team aims to achieve with each key account. These might include increasing revenue, expanding the product or service offering, improving customer satisfaction, or other objectives that are relevant to the business.

Account strategy: A key account plan should include a description of the overall strategy that will be used to manage and grow relationships with key accounts. This might include information on the specific tactics and activities that will be undertaken, such as regular meetings, calls, or other forms of engagement, as well as specific projects or initiatives that are designed to add value to the customer.

Account action plan: A key account plan should include a detailed action plan that outlines the specific actions and activities that will be undertaken to build relationships with key accounts and achieve the objectives outlined in the plan. This might include activities such as regular communication with the customer, meeting with key stakeholders, or developing customized solutions that meet the customer’s needs.

Key performance indicators (KPIs): A key account plan should also include a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure the success of the plan. These might include metrics such as revenue growth, customer satisfaction, or other measures that are relevant to the business.

Overall, a key account plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the strategy and tactics that will be used to manage and grow relationships with key accounts or customers. It provides a roadmap for salespeople to follow as they work to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.
 

Other Sales Methodologies

Solution Selling
Target Account Selling
SPIN Selling
The MEDDIC Selling Methodology
GAP Selling
The Challenger Sales Method

 

Check out our guide to Sales Strategy

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