Rule 19: Prioritize Your Accounts and Opportunities

In my days of selling IBM computer equipment, I sold the first computer to a company called The Nature Company, a retail establishment with several stores in California. As a young sales rep I performed all the right steps in getting the sale closed and set up for implementation with the third-party software provider and the service team. As we often did back then, we celebrated the setup and installation of the system with a bottle of champagne, in this case on a Friday afternoon.

The following Tuesday there was an implementation scheduling meeting with the software company; the next week there was a “kickoff” meeting with the hardware service and support team. For the next five weeks there were meetings at the account dealing with the smooth implementation of the company-wide system. I was at every one of those meetings. As a good sales rep I attended these sessions even though they were not my meetings nor did they require my attendance. In the sixth week I went to lunch with The Nature Company’s Director of IT who managed the implementation. He told me he was extremely pleased with the whole experience, that all was going well, that he was pleased with our software recommendation and the service and support team was outstanding, and appreciated my involvement throughout the process. He then said, “But Mike, I have one question for you: Don’t you have anything else to do?” He said “It’s not like we’re going to spend any more money.” The question and comment hit me like a ton of bricks. He was absolutely right. I was spending unnecessary time with a comfortable customer when I should have been out finding and selling more new business prospects like The Nature Company. The lesson was not lost on me.

It was the beginning of a process of prioritization of my accounts that has stuck with me as a territory rep, as a sales manager, as a VP of Sales, and as strategic sales consultant and trainer. The Account Prioritization Matrix concept is deceptively simple, using a two dimensional ABC system of classification. This can be set up on a spreadsheet or built into a field variable within your CRM system. First, set up two variables with ABC designations. For instance, one set of variables might be based on the value of current customer revenues, such as A = $100,000+; B = $25,000 to $100,000; and C = $0 to $25,000. The next set of variables might be future potential revenues of a customer over the next 12 months. It could be the same variables, i.e., A = $100,000+; B = $25,000 to $100,000; and C = $0 to $25,000, or variables with differing values. When you align the various combinations you come up with the following:

Rating    Current $$     Future $$
  AA        $100K+          $100K+
  BA        $25-100K       $100K+
  CA        $0-25K          $100K+
  AB        $100K+         $25-100K
  BB        $25-100K       $25-100K
  CB        $0-25K          $25-100K
  AC        $100K+         $0-25K
  BC        $25-100K      $0-25K
  CC        $0-25K          $0-25K

By simply using this particularly variable scale and rating your top 20, 50, 100 accounts, you have begun to prioritize your accounts and opportunities like only a minority of salespeople. For example, the top group with “A” rated “Future” sales revenue over the next 12 months (by your own definition) represents a subset of your account that warrant significant more attention. My account, The Nature Company, would have represented an “AC” rating and would have signaled me to keep them satisfied but not to spend significant time with them over the next 12 months.

Are you effectively prioritizing your accounts and opportunities?