If you are new to the sales process, or are selling for a new company, you know the drill. You may be offered a draw to cover your initial income and expenses. You should be given a base of existing customers, the renewal accounts, to provide you with renewal income.
You can opt-out of the draw, depending on your experience and level of confidence. Let’s consider that customer base you’ve been assigned. Where did they come from? Who worked these accounts previously?
All that glitters in the renewal pan may not be gold. Your renewal base may turn out to be rubbish.
Inherited renewal accounts that have been turned in by your sales team, in order to provide sales newbies with a “base” of core accounts, can become both time-consuming and distracting. After all, you are planning on hitting the ground running and focusing on new customer acquisition. Your renewal accounts may have other plans for how you use your time. Naively making phone calls to introduce yourself may yield an earful of renewal customer dissatisfaction about your predecessor’s performance.
Before you are distracted by renewal accounts, follow these tips for keeping you firmly focused on new customer acquisition.
1. Conduct a renewal account autopsy. What’s their investment history with your company? Are they “in” one year and “out” the next? Do they have unrealistic expectations about the time frame in which your company delivers ROI? Is their annual spend high one year and low the next? This pattern may reflect the economic well-being of their company. Do they pay their invoices on time? Is there a different key contact name on the account from year to year? Understand your company’s can of worms as well as the renewal customer’s.
2. Create a strategic persona for new customers which aligns with your core sales competencies. Create a lucrative income stream for yourself and provide ROI for them. Identify which renewal accounts fit this strategic new customer persona, are candidates for strategic upselling, will become loyal to your brand, and therefore complement your core strengths as a SalesPerson of Worth. Compare the two customer sets: your new customer persona should align with that of renewal customers. Otherwise you are nothing more than a glorified customer service agent to your sales predecessor’s disgruntled renewal customer. You constantly will be pulled in two directions.
3. Decide your role with new customers as well as renewal accounts. Nurturing weak and tactically-oriented renewal accounts to “save” them is busy work. Not all of them are worth saving. Not all of them are good business people. Not all of them should have been prospected, let alone sold. These accounts may be someone else’s idea of low-hanging, easy-to-sell fruit. If you can’t easily align renewal accounts into your persona for strategic new customers, it’s time to turn them back in and stop wasting your time.
4. Check your sales pulse each week. How much time are you spending on acquiring new business vs. serving renewal accounts? Set time limits on the amount of time you devote to renewal customers. With the hire of yet another sales newbie, you may find yourself returning many of these time-consuming renewal accounts to your territory’s account garbage pail for re-assignment. It’s like passing on a hot-potato. It’s up to your management to decide when to cut their lifeline and jettison them.
You have better things to do with your time as a sales professional than muck about with garbage renewal accounts. Do your upfront account analysis, call it the way you see it, set a time limit on handling these potentially non-productive accounts, and stick to acquiring new, YOU type of business.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, is the catalyst for your business transition, startup growth and professional development. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers & Bloggers, 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on breakthrough business collaboration strategies and tools.