Improving Account coverage isn’t just about a sales person or even assorted parts of the sales organization. It’s about engaging every part of the customer facing organization from Finance, to Operations, Logistics, Customer Service and of course to deliver a better experience. How often have you seen or heard about challenges with integrating different parts of an organization to align with how to best serve the customer?
Often the reality is more like Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” where Cobain screamed repeatedly about finding a “better way”. Companies often have individual and fiefdoms who fight including other team members over control of the customer. It makes for a less than a well practiced well prepared team. There is a better way to improve account coverage and the customer’s experience; set the tone from the top. Then give the them the game plan, the tools and the training to perform.
For the sports minded and with Spring Training right around the corner we’ve gone with the a Baseball theme including the downloadable “line up tool” at the end.
And Batting Clean Up is “The Sales Team”
There are so many sales titles and roles with “Account in them. Account Rep, Account Manager, Account Executive, Account Director, Regional this, National that, Global whatever, and I’m sure we are all waiting for an Interstellar something or other. Joking aside the first of many things to consider is how your company is structured and the various sales roles. Sales is the clean up hitter, they are the engine that help drive the revenue in the company. And it’s their job to get other parts of the organization across the plate. However moving from the offensive analogy to the other half of the game let’s assume this is the National League, there are no designated hitters and look at them as position players.
Sales is the Outfield
Looking improving account coverage in baseball terms think of the outfield. 3 players covering a huge area of the field, more than any other position.
Outside Sales is your Center Fielder
Not unlike having an Outside sales organization in Center Field, They cover not only the middle of literally everything for the customer but they have to move fast to cover the gaps to the right and left. Back up the other outfielders race towards the infield to be the 2nd back up on throws from home to second base when someone is stealing. All while communicating with everyone beside and in front of them. Center fielders are masters of saying that one is yours or calling them off and saying “mine” and taking the ball.
Inside Sales is Playing Right
Right field sees a lot of action too. Just like an inside sales organization. They may not have to literally cover as much territory but most days they see a lot more balls put into play that they have to react to. Covering infield throws towards first, charging if there is a bunt.
Sure they may not be face to face with customers that often or perhaps ever but they may be talking to dozens and dozens of them all day long. Preparing quotes, following up on opportunities, and a million other things.
Customer Support is Starting in Left
Left field guards the third base line. Much like a Customer support or Customer Success Organization. Customer service and supports teams can make or break the customer experience. Sure I can hear the joke about the poor kid in tee ball who didn’t have a great arm or a chance at a golden glove award being sent out to deep roaming left field. As the game gets more serious though that changes and they are the ones who keep singles from turning into doubles, runs from scoring from 3rd base on fly balls. And Customer service teams when it comes to improving account coverage and customer experiences are often the ones diving into the stands .
Getting the most out of Account Coverage from the Sales Team
Ask most sales professionals, and they admit that it takes a team to win and keep a customer. On occasion you get a few that only worry about their own stats. After all sales is the engine that makes what everyone else does necessary. Often the relationship is primarily between sales and the customer. It’s their “value”. And no doubt someone does have to own and control the messaging, the sales efforts, and the overall relationship with the customer. All true, valid and so often where things can go wrong. It’s a single point of failure. Like depending on a person on a hitting streak to drive in all the runs. Sure high lifetime batting averages are get but RBI’s need other runners on base. Great customer experiences need more than “just a salesperson” they know and love. They need a complete team.
This is where an aligned Senior Executive team and all the levels of sales management need to make sure they are all on the same page. Some places to start is a clear definition of
- Where outside sales responsibilities stop and inside sales begin?
- When, how and why does a hand-off of a customer occur, and to who?
- Are the same people who are responsible for recruiting new business the same ones that “on board” new customers? And if so how do they bring the other “players” and their roles and departments into the process?
- How does Customer Service (Sales Operations, etc) get introduced to the customer?
- What is the expected proactive activities of all those roles?
Cover All The Bases
If Sales is the outfield that means everyone else is playing the infield when it comes to account coverage. And that is dead on accurate. Every department is closer to the action once the sales is made. It comes down to everyone else to play their position and solid “defense” to ensure the customer has the best outcome and experience.
First Base – Accounting and Finance
Seems like an odd place to start after sales unless you stop and think about how a lot of long term relationships work. If you are selling on net terms, some type of financing, or a recurring revenue stream then it’s the finance department that is absolutely central to the ability to do so. They are also another set of ears on the ground when it comes to account coverage. They are the one who may hear about problems if payments are delayed, if your customer is unhappy with service or installation.
Odds are your finance teams aren’t working directly with the people who made the buying decision. They may be talking to your customer’s account payable’s teams, perhaps the purchasing organization. It is a way to spread support for your products and services into other area’s of the company. These could be the very departments who have a large say on consumables and repeatable business. Every positive experience helps and one bad experience can kill the account.
Second Base – Operations
If you have products that are being shipped, delivered, perhaps staged and customized prior to going out to your customers odds are there is a logistics and operations teams that is part of the account coverage model.
Keep in mind it may be a physical good but also it could be software licenses, activation keys, and a number of other possible digital wares. Ops may not be touching the customer directly with each order like finance does with invoicing and collections but they are right there in the middle of the mix and an essential part of the customer’s experience. Miss shipped, short shipped, or unexpected deliveries are a potential source of customer dissatisfaction.
Playing Short Stop for the Account Coverage Team is Engineering
Engineering can come in all forms of shapes and sizes from pre-sales roles with complex technical solutions, to implementation and deployment of software, physical equipment and even high margin professional services. Getting your engineering team plugged in as part of the account coverage model can make the difference between a won sale and lost one.
If you are in sales no matter how professional you are still in sales. Engineering covers a credibility in account coverage that most sales people, even the brightest most technical ones don’t. A great engineer is worth their weight in gold and one that is forward thinking, great with customers, and has just the right amount of savvy can help kill a salesperson’s quota.
A final word on engineers in terms of new solutions, often they are the early adopters, more likely than any other department to look at the customer’s needs and offer something new, exciting and different to meet the customer’s needs.
Third Base – Technical and Post Sales Support
Third base guards the line, has to have quick reflexes and a strong arm to fire the ball across the infield. Just like Technical and post sales support where issues come out of nowhere at lightning speeds. They have to dive to stop the problem, jump up and get the ball where it needs to go. In terms of account coverage it may be back to any of the other parts of the organization to either celebrate their success or to make them aware of things that are still outstanding and need resolved.
Catching – Business Unit Leaders, and Managers
In base ball catchers are the ones with their eyes on the entire field, have to be ready for every pitch and are the ones who are all over the infield and up and down the lines making sure that if something slips through they stop the loss and maybe even make an out. Business unit and line managers for every part of a business fulfill that role and not just in terms of account coverage. They help the team know when and where to shift as well as suggesting what pitch should be thrown and to where. Which brings us to the Executive team who are the pitchers.
Pitching – Executive Team
No doubt they are the ones who set the tone and their performance, direction and choices have the most impact on the over all approach to the customer. They choose the pitches in the sense they are the ones who decide what the business is, what the offers, products or services, ultimately are. In their own way they face the customer just like a pitcher faces the batter.
Now that the bases and accounts are covered…
It’s up to everyone on the team to not only show up on game day but also put everything they are working towards into play in terms of account coverage. From the Exec team setting the tone of how they expect it all to work to each and every department playing their position. Just like in base ball ensuring a better customer experience is a team sport. Each position although specialized, supports all the others, to cover the entire field and the account.
For additional thoughts on account coverage watch my YouTube video on this subject.