Ruthlessly prioritise target accounts for new customer acquisition

Ruthlessly prioritise target accounts for new customer acquisition
5 minutes read

People who trot out phrases like “ruthlessly prioritise” are ‘firefighting’ at work i.e. running around trying to put out lots of small fires. From a sales POV, to ruthlessly prioritise should mean working only on converting the highest value deals that are most ready to close. However, as most in sales can attest, not all conversations result in a sale and each prospect is at varying stages in the sales and marketing funnel. As a result, maybe only 1 customer converts from 20 conversations, especially if you approached cold. Leaving pay plans aside, the best in sales seek out the best accounts and hold onto them, but there usually aren’t enough to go around. That might give them a 1 in 10 chance of a sale. For investors, such as private equity houses, they want more sales for less investment. So, let’s ruthlessly prioritise target accounts for new customer acquisition.


Top of the sales funnel ruthlessly targeted

At the top of the sales and marketing funnel is usually, awareness. This is the first time that they become conscious of your offering. Unlike in the B2C world, awareness in B2B rarely results in a sale. If you get really lucky, you catch them with an urgent need and you solve it in a timely fashion. Given the length and complexity of B2B purchasing cycles and approval chains, it takes a lot of luck to convert this way. If a sales team of 5 is presented with 5,000 companies to call, they will eventually get through them and a handful buy something. Some will have a follow up. Those that didn’t shut you down get sent some collateral. Some will be scratched off the list. For investors, this isn’t efficient. No, this is throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks.

Furthermore, B2B doesn’t really ‘do’ brand awareness, allocating little or no marketing funds to it. Pouring 5,000 sets of contact details into the hopper is inefficient and it doesn’t make for a happy salesperson. Sure, some will find a way to make money by applying their own logic to the data. Pay plans may even reward those few handsomely, if the business can afford to do so. Many will get frustrated and leave, either voluntarily or for poor performance. Like any recruitment, it is costly in terms of time and money to hire and train replacements. But, what if there was a better way than leaving the sales team to fend for themselves?


Ruthlessly targeting accounts by profile

Sure, you can choose a few companies that you recognise and pull together a one-page go-to-market plan for them. If you happen to have some contacts there, you may have a head start over a cold call. The little book of contacts does have its limits, however. Additionally, though it may appear from the list you purchased that all of the 5,000 companies are the same, they are not. Some may be growing, some may be debt-ridden, some may be family-owned, some may be public etc. Furthermore, the way they operate differs, their strategies differ, the channels they sell through differ and maybe even their cultures differ. Aside from their obvious readiness to buy, which can vary from “we just signed a new 5-year deal with someone” to “we need to replace some failed equipment in the next week”, it’s a tough ask to approach them all.

One option is to size your target market, which may return 20,000 companies in 4 industries. This may be too much for the sales team of 5 people. But what if this could be distilled into those who are more likely to buy – and buy big? Returning to investors, more money can be made quickly by selling into a few larger accounts than lots of small ones. So, even just focusing on the top 10% reduces your population to 2,000 accounts. Focusing on 2 industries with the largest players may further reduce the list to 800. Now, if we consider that what you are selling is a big-ticket purchase, usually paid upfront, such as heavy equipment, you may want to ensure they have good liquidity. Now, we have 500 very large target accounts, in the most preferred industries, with the means to pay outright.


Prioritising the target accounts

Without doing sales a disservice, much of the go-to-market planning out there is a high-level plan-on-a-page. In many cases, it is based on what the salesperson knows about the company from their experience or a quick Google. 500 accounts doesn’t sound like a lot but if your typical deal size is £5m, there is a huge amount of effort required to convert 10% of the list. If you have just purchased or invested in a business, you don’t wait 18 months to find that only 5 of them were converted. This would prompt heads to roll and new management. So, what to do with the 500?

We prioritise the order of attack for the 500 by understanding them and aligning them to our competitive capabilities and strategy. For that, a detailed research exercise would uncover accounts that most closely align to your strengths and how you operate. It may uncover new contacts, recent developments, cultural fit and sources of conversation. For sales, the beauty of this approach is that you get 500 accounts as opposed to 5,000. The 500 are more likely to convert. The 500 are prioritised so that the ‘best fit’ for your business, products and/or services are tackled first. Additionally, you have not pulled together a go-to-market strategy and plan because it was done for you. It saved you the work.

By working the larger, more aligned and more ready-to-convert accounts first, you could make more commission for less effort. Each conversation that you have is more informed, your products and/or services more relevant to them and your solutions more aligned to their problems. As before, the investors will demand results quickly, but at least you now have a fighting chance. Less frustration, less risk of leaving due to poor performance, more productive conversations and more commission.


Ruthlessly prioritise target accounts for sales

In conclusion, going from 5,000 contacts to 500 profiled, researched and prioritised accounts seems like common sense. So, why do so few businesses give B2B sales the tools to succeed with new business acquisition? Investors don’t put money into businesses to see flat results, they expect rapid growth in revenue and free cashflow. It therefore makes sense to focus on fewer, larger accounts that closely align to our business and that could give us a head start. Alternatively, continue to buy data lists, continue cold calling, let a few people earn high commission and the investors force your hand.

If you would like to speak with a specialist in B2B sales and marketing to ruthlessly prioritise target accounts, why not drop us a line? Alternatively, send us a quick email or submit an online request for a call back.

Finally, why not read a related article asking if ABM is wearing thin in B2B.