Understanding your customer or prospective customer is critical to sales performance. That's why account research really matters if you want to open doors, book customer meetings, and differentiate your team compared to your competitors. In this article, we look at why performing account research can make a difference and lead to a higher likelihood of success.
What is account research?
Account research is the act of researching your customer or prospective customer's business. It may entail researching the company accounts, its strategy and plans, key personnel, shareholder presentations, and more. The aim is to try to understand enough to demonstrate empathy and solve problems that your product or service may be able to help with.
What are the different types of account research?
Account research can be conducted for a number of different reasons. For example, at Viewpoint Analysis we conduct account research for our clients to achieve a variety of different things:
Onboarding - bringing new salespeople up to speed with their new territories or account patches.
Marketing activity - particularly for Account-Based Marketing plans.
Strategic Accounts - to enable the 'one to one' or 'one to few' account managers to really understand their key accounts at a much deeper level.
Sales Pursuits - to quickly bring the sales team up to speed with a new sales engagement.
Depending upon the size of the company, account research can take anywhere between 2 to 4 days to complete. It can be laborious and time-consuming but it is an investment that can really pay dividends.
Why is it important to run detailed account research?
Account research should be important for every salesperson, whether they are managing a strategic account or running new business sales. Here are the key reasons for putting the time and effort into account research.
Talking with authority
It is difficult to show empathy and talk with authority without sufficient knowledge of the business. It is important to understand the business, its market, and key personnel as an absolute minimum. With deeper knowledge (e.g. of the strategy, recent performance, competitive pressures etc) it enables the salesperson to elevate their role in the eyes of the customer.
Differentiating vs the competition
Putting effort into understanding the business can be a real differentiator. In many cases, the opposing salesperson will not have invested the same time and effort. This really will stand out to the person you are meeting - particularly if they are senior in the business. It can elevate the sales team to a different level.
Getting a meeting with key customer contacts can be difficult. Demonstrating an understanding of their issues and how your company can help them can be the difference between getting that first meeting and not.
Account research is fantastic for building the all-important account plans. It will enable the salesperson to decide to select one account for more priority than the other, or to focus on particular areas, technologies or strategies. Without researching and conducting account intelligence, it makes account planning almost useless.
Attaching value to your product or service
Good account research should enable the salesperson to pull out the key customer pain points and needs. If they are well understood, it is easier to assign value to the product or service and sell to the appropriate person with the appropriate understanding of a likely return on their investment.
Knowing who to target
A key aspect of account research is assessing the key personnel within the business and who should be the most pertinent contact points. Knowing this, and getting the contact strategy right, can be a game-changer.
Internal language and three-letter-acronyms
Every business has its own internal language and TLA's. They can often be found in various locations such as the company report, shareholder reports, internal message boards, and LinkedIn profiles. Finding them can mean that marketing and sales messaging is able to be more personally aligned with the key contacts.
Account research can be such a differentiator for any and all salespeople. It's easy to push it back to the bottom of the pile of things to do. It's never important compared to forecast calls and customer meetings - but failing to take the time and effort to really understand the account can come back to bite you.
Spend the time, invest the hours - but then demonstrate (through world-class account plans, targeted customer communications, thought leadership etc) that the work has been put in and really wow your customers. It's what sets the average sales team apart from the world-class sales team.
If you need to understand your accounts but could do with some help to do so, take a look at how Viewpoint Analysis Sales Team Services can conduct the research and report back with the key metrics.