It costs about 7 times more to win a new customer than it does to retain and grow a relationship with an existing customer.

But most Sales Reps receive very little training on how to prioritize different customer relationships.  Just a little bit of work with your customer relationship management (CRM) system can mean a boost of 10% or more to standard commissions – and to overall sales!

1. Identify Your Key Accounts

The first step to managing your accounts is to know who they are.  In most CRM systems, you can quickly produce a list of all the accounts that you are responsible for.  But for many, this can produce a long list of accounts that is difficult to manage.  Having such a long list is one of the reasons why so many reps struggle to get their hands around it.  Try these suggestions for narrowing your list down a bit:

  • Use accounting data.  The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior – so the best way to identify accounts that are likely to give you more business is to find the ones that have given you business in the past.  If your company syncs purchase history with CRM, then you have everything you need in one place.  If not, ask accounting or IT for a report of the total spending for each of your accounts for the past few years.
  • Create a custom view of “top accounts”.  This can often be accomplished by using one of the fields in CRM to designate the importance of an account, and then creating a personal view that uses this field.  Check with your administrator if you don’t know how to do this.
  • Check a list of “neglected accounts”.  Many CRM systems have a report or view that allows you to view accounts that have not received contact for a while.  This can be a great way to scan accounts that you may have forgotten about.

2. Prioritize the Accounts and Contacts

Now that you have the list of accounts, you’ll need to prioritize them – and determine who you should contact at each of them.

How you prioritize will greatly vary depending on the configuration of your CRM solution.  Ideally, you want to be able to sort your records to determine who should receive different frequencies of contact.  You may have some contacts that you should speak with monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and annually.

Remember that different people within an account should be contacted.  We recently completed some research for a manufacturer that showed that their Sales Reps spent all their time talking to the Purchasing Agents at their distributors.  What that was important, they virtually never had contact with the distributors Outside Sales Reps.  In their case, the Outside Sales Reps frequently specified which product that they wanted Purchasing to select.  By ignoring the Outside Sales Reps the manufacturer was missing a tremendous opportunity to drive sales.

3. Remember Your Prospects

Depending on the sales process and structure used within your organization, you may not have the luxury of focusing exclusively on account management.  So you’ll need a process that allows you to also spend some time pursuing new relationships.

4. Become Activity-Centric

Once you’ve done your homework, follow the guidelines in the quick tip about becoming activity-centric.  As you complete each activity, schedule a follow-up with the contact the appropriate number of months into the future to ensure that you continue to keep up your focus on the account.