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Account Categorisation Triangle – How it helps to grow your sales

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The earlier posts concerning the process of account categorisation when taking on a new territory or “patch” are all to do with how you can best utilise your time by targeting the right accounts at the right time.

In this post, I will explain how to do this by using the Account Categorisation Triangle, showing how you need to critically assess your current customer base (using the Account Categorisation Template in this previous post and downloading the free blank template here), before you can look to transform your customer base.

Types of accounts

To recap, there are 4 types of accounts:

  1. Acquire (customers who do not yet spend with you.
  2. Develop (customers who spend a portion of their budget with you, but also spend with competitors).
  3. Farm (customers when you have a high share of wallet and you are perceived as ‘the incumbent’ or main supplier.
  4. Dismiss (customers who you have qualified out because they either do not have a compelling need for your product or they do not have the financial resources available to purchase – i.e. they don’t have enough money!).

When you take on a new sales territory, it can be all too tempting to engage with all customers at once, and spend a lot of energy dealing with time-wasters who do not have the means to purchase from you.  Because you are in a new role or patch, you are keen to work with them and fail to qualify properly as you probably don’t have lots of requests coming in at the start of your current sales role.  Yet, if you do not qualify these last set of customers out early on, then you will be wasting precious time when you could be targeting new customers who DO have the ability and resources to buy your product.

So to start… If you are taking on a new sales patch that has had little coverage by a previous account manager, then it is likely that if you segmented your accounts, the result may resemble this triangle:

Account Categorisation Triangle - Before your start working on your sales territory.

Reading the triangle

In this triangle, you can see that currently you have a small, thin layer of accounts who you can quickly “Dismiss” by qualifying out, leaving you with the rest of your spending accounts to focus on.

In acquisition accounts, the largest section on the triangle is given over to your “Acquire” customers, who are spending with a competitor.  Whilst this may appear concerning, it is actually a really positive sign as it reminds you of the opportunity you have to go after; useful for times when you feel that you are not making any progress.  Where there is scope for opportunity, there is a chance to increase your sales and win customers.

The next section up is for your “Develop accounts” – where you have customers that spend with you to some extent, but you are not seen as their sole supplier – therefore you need to develop the relationship further.

The smallest section at the very top of your triangle is the “Farm” section where your big-spending customers sit.  These are the customers who mainly spend with you over and above any other competitor where you have close to 100% share of wallet.  In a new sales territory, this section is at the top as it is likely you have picked up a set of accounts with little previous experience of you or your company.

How to change the triangle

Now, the aim of your activities in your new sales role, is to move the mix of accounts around.  You want to target your account base so that your account base starts to move in this direction:

Account Categorisation - Changing the balance
This triangle now shows how your account base should look once you have started to have an impact on your account base.  It is important to note that this Account Categorisation exercise is not just an activity to be carried out when you first take on an account set, but should be reviewed very regularly throughout your sales role to ensure you are continuing to move your accounts along their way – keeping them moving further along all the time.

Keep on moving

So, we need to ensure that developing accounts move along to becoming farmed accounts.  And acquisition accounts need to move along into becoming developing accounts, and so the cycle starts again.  It is unlikely, unless you are either very lucky or the world’s best salesperson, that you will move ALL of your customers to the “Farming” section.  If you do, then it’s probably time for a new challenge…

How your accounts move through the categorisation cycle.

Next steps…

The next set of posts will focus on the activities that you can apply to each of the key account types as the sales account management of these different types will vary.  I.e. the approach required for winning a new acquisition account will be distinct from that of how you would approach an account where you already have some relationships.