Last year was challenging for sales people and this year won’t be any easier. It’s going to be tough to hit targets, so a renewed focus to grow accounts is the obvious place to start.
We all know it’s easier to grow an existing account than win a new one. The traditional approach has been simple: deliver great customer service and your accounts will grow organically.
Indeed, 88% of individuals recently surveyed by Gartner believe that providing above-and-beyond customer service is the surest way to ultimately drive growth. This belief is so widely held in our industry that we have even made it central to the way that we target our staff. Of the nearly 700 account managers surveyed by Gartner, 49% are measured by a single revenue goal that makes no distinction between retention and growth.
Good customer service won’t help you grow accounts
The problem is that simply delivering good customer service no longer means growth. In a report last year, Gartner surveyed roughly 750 individual customer stakeholders — all involved in an ongoing B2B relationship with a specific supplier to better understand the impact of various account manager activities on account growth. They found that high levels of customer service have no meaningful impact on growth.
So, if delivering good customer service no longer leads to accounts growing, what does?
Innovation leads to account growth
The answer is innovation. Growth is ultimately about asking the customer to do new stuff. The good news is that this is perfectly aligned with what our customers want. According to a recent SoDa Report, 70% of marketers believe “…being seen as an early adopter of new technologies in their marketing efforts is key or important to their brand position.”
In order to grow accounts, sales people need to be constantly bringing new, innovative ideas to their customers. Importantly, these new ideas need to be communicated in a way that makes it easy for the customer to buy. It’s a simple three step process:
- Provide the customer with a unique perspective on improving their business which explains why they should do something different.
- Lay out a vision for how you are going to improve their business.
- What you are going to do to make it easy for them to get sign off within their business.
How innovation impacts account retention
This approach also has an added benefit. Not only does it drive the growth of accounts, it also helps with retention. Here’s why: Your competitors are constantly trying to woo your customer. They will be bringing them new ideas and promises of a brighter future. You need to be doing that too and as the incumbent, that should be easy. You have insider knowledge of the account. According to Gartner this approach reduces the odds of your customer of considering a competitor by 32%.
As ever, hitting target this year will require that sales people grow existing accounts. However, this can no longer be achieved by simply delivering great customer service. Sales people need to give their accounts what they really want – innovative new ideas communicated in a way that makes it easy for them to buy.