Eight Sales Rules to Succeed as an Account Manager
There must be a thousand job titles for a sales professional. Account executive, account manager, representatives of all shapes and sizes, procurement support specialist, etc.—organizations tailor sales titles to the nuanced role of their personnel.
At the end of the day, no matter what sales-related variant appends the job title, selling products and closing deals is the objective. The paradoxical nature of B2B salesmanship dictates that, most of the time, you will be doing something other than pitching a prospect. Ideally, sales personnel spend much of their time researching clientele, and asking a lot of questions before a pitch comes about.
1. The modern sales professional must know balance.
Doing your homework, building rapport, identifying pain points—all these actions take place ahead of the sales pitch. Even before the digital revolution, sales coach, Randy Schwantz, popularized the research-engage-solve approach in The Wedge: How to Stop Selling and Start Winning. The cold call is less effective. That’s a statistical fact. If all you’re doing is pitching, pitching, pitching, your efforts yield extraordinarily slim margins—Schwantz had this figured out way back in 1999.
2. Pitching without engagement—you will fail.
The Hollywood approach looks great when it works—Leonardo Di Caprio and Alec Baldwin inspire with the one-call close in Wolf of Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross. Realistically, in the vast majority of sales interactions, buyers control the cycle and purchasing happens on their terms. That old sales spiel—buyers sniff that out quickly and ignore you, unless you call at the right time, with the exact information they need. And you don’t have that yet.
3. Forget ‘Always Be Closing’.
Instead, ABC might mean ‘Always Be Communicating’, ‘Always Be in Contact’, ‘Always Be Creative’—qualitative facets of engagement for moving prospects through the sales funnel we love talking about. Marketing starts this process for you in the lead generation cycle. Ideally, sales leverages momentum from prospect interactions; by the time they reach MQL, you know the right time to call, and the right thing to say when you’re engaging.
4. Your “weak leads” gripe is probably legitimate.
If you’re cold calling because there’s nothing else to do, that is an indicator that management is not invested in marketing for customer acquisition. Sometimes that is a deliberate move—having sales reps dialing for dollars yields a lower cost per acquisition than running a marketing program—but this is rarely advisable in the digital age. In many cases, marketing has proficiency branding the company but passing qualified leads over to sales is a struggle. In either case, you don’t have the data you need to approach the customer in a meaningful way. So, communicate with Marketing about the leads you’re receiving. What makes a good lead? Which leads tend to close? From there, they can make adjustments to their MQL scoring and begin passing along stronger leads.
5. No matter what, focus on strong, smart follow-up.
It is cliché for sales staff to gripe about weak leads, so whether that’s the case or not, your job as a sales professional is the follow up. Do you start at the beginning of your book of business and just start calling? Complete A-D on Monday, E-J on Tuesday, etc.? Surely not. In fact, you can probably forget 80% of that book of business. Find the 20% of leads that are legitimate contacts with a likelihood of resulting in business. The things to look at:
- A business email domain. Don’t bother with yahoo.com and aol.com emails.
- Management signals in job title information. Look at your contacts list—what is the typical job title of a purchasing customer? Find more like that.
- Company size. The self-proclaimed CEO of a one-person operation probably doesn’t have much budget yet.
- A congruous fit with what you sell. Run a quick Google search on the company domain; does it make sense that this company would need your products and services?
- Recon work on social media—check out LinkedIn for signals that a lead fits the profile of someone you will have success with your selling.
6. Accept there is nothing “easy” about prospecting leads.
“Once you know the customer, engaging them to close the deal is EASY!” OK, sure. While this is obviously true, it’s empty advice because there is no other way to be successful as a sales professional, and it’s a gross oversimplification. It is not impossible to know the customer—see above for a great way to begin.
The hard part is it’s very time-consuming and resource-intensive to do the investigative work. Marketers hear this too: Once you know the right prospects to engage, it’s easy to strike up an online conversation with them. Or, produce great content, and the leads will come naturally. It’s just that easy! Let’s just be candid. Good prospecting and prioritization is hard. It takes a lot of legwork and a good deal of luck.
7. Use data tools and analytics to work smarter prioritizing accounts.
Predictive analytics and sales intelligence solutions, like DiscoverOrg, give Sales and Marketing teams a shortcut for the research and prioritization process. It takes some of the pressure off Marketing teams’ data gathering efforts, and helps them identify their audience more effectively. A good intelligence data set with tools for search, filtering, and analysis can tell you what businesses buy, how much they spend, who makes the decisions, and reveals patterns in their purchasing cycle. Learn more about ABM and how it helps Sales and Marketing teams work together.
8. Questions, patience, and persistence are the essence.
The only thing that pays better than customer acquisition is customer retention. At the heart of best practices for retaining clients is regular engagement. Do not confuse this with sales pitches. Instead, think check-in notes, links to relevant content, commenting on things their creatives cook up—basically interact like a regular (digital) human being would.
This is how you get the “10-12 touches before every sale” that coaches like to talk about. A good marketing operation uses automation tools to track touch points and apply metrics to every effort made for outreach. A good MAP makes justifying spend easier by taking the labor out of the reporting, but it will not ask the right questions and press the send button for you—at least not yet.
With account management, the goal is to stay top of mind, not to be constantly selling. Saying hello and asking questions lets customers know you’re there for them. When they decide to buy (ahem!) they know you’re on the other end of the phone or computer to help them.
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