How a strategic account sales team increased selling time 63% Case Study
A large company offering water filtration systems to the foodservice industry struggled to maintain its growth and accurately predict revenue trends. Over several years, the division general manager tried many approaches to maintain the growth rate. He was unsuccessful.
The general manager had seen repeated successes with the firm’s production operations using Lean methods. When he learned the same principles and practices might be applied to the sales process, he was intrigued. He wondered if this could turn around his deteriorating market position.
Client Discovery & Root Cause Analysis
The client went through a guided discovery and diagnostic process. This uncovered a set of previously unrecognized causes for the division’s dilemma. Fortunately, these were issues they could address. Their key findings were:
- The division historically serviced their customers through regional distributors. When larger customers began to request service directly, the division set up a strategic account team. Unlike the distributors, though, the division lacked the infrastructure and processes necessary to directly service these customers. The result was an inconsistent service level for customers and a chaotic environment for sales.
- These larger accounts also wanted more services than traditional customers. Their engineers needed to test various configurations before ordering in large quantities. The division did not have a sales supply chain to support them post-sale. This led to frequent customer crises that absorbed an increasing amount of the salespeople’s time.
- There was no internal agreement on what an ideal prospect looked like, or what their core value propositions were. They could not predict the timing and amount of sales or revenue recognition.
Before Sales Process Excellence
The company’s strategic accounts had widely varying requirements, and their account managers had different backgrounds, technical knowledge, and expectations of support from internal departments. Customer service, field service, and product managers struggled to respond to the new expectations of their salespeople and their large customers.
As revenue targets increased, there were not enough sales opportunities to meet them. Large deals often languished in the sales pipeline for many months as salespeople struggled unsuccessfully to close them. Stress and uncertainty increased. Things seemed to be unraveling.
The Sales Process Excellence Approach
The general manager launched a team to find solutions to the problems. This team learned how to use data to define business problems properly for a large-account selling environment. They interviewed customers to clarify what “value” meant for them.
They mapped out their customer’s journey to make the flow of opportunities visible. This framework improved everyone’s common understanding of the causes of their problems. To decide what to work on first, they assessed the risk versus reward of various possible improvements, again using operational excellence tools to do so.
The team found, due to the reasons mentioned above, that customer service issues consumed more than 80% of the account manager’s time! They decided that the first priority was to improve order servicing. They needed to minimize mistakes and clarify responsibilities. This required working with customer service and field service to develop and agree on a standard “hand-off” package. They also set up an inside sales position dedicated to strategic accounts to provide a focused resource on the Voice of the Customer.
These remedies reduced errors immediately. Customer satisfaction scores improved. The account managers’ time was freed-up to develop new accounts and find new opportunities in existing accounts.
Unlike before, the uniform approach they established provided evidence when they were prioritizing opportunities effectively. They were now looking for data to define customer problems properly. Their problem-solving skills enabled them to begin developing powerful methods and tools for prospecting and expanding account relationships.
The team’s measures of deal quality improved sales productivity. Forecast accuracy increased. Most importantly, they were able to cut through internal tangles to focus more productively on how to create value for customers. Key results were:
- Account managers’ time available to sell increased 63%.
- Proposals to new accounts grew 35%.
- Deal quality went from unmeasured to measured and forecast accuracy exceeded 80%.
- Errors with customer transactions declined by 65%.
- Customer satisfaction ratings went up by 50%.