When we begin to work with a sales management team, one of the most eye-opening experiences is when we help them organize their business into what we call Individual Enterprises. In our system, an Individual Enterprise is the portion of the total business -- including active clients and prospects -- that is managed by an individual seller.
When managers look at Individual Enterprises for their top performers, they are not surprised to see some of the company's largest and most important clients but they are usually taken aback by how many small accounts their top performers are managing.
Their immediate rationalization: Well, yes, but those accounts don't take a lot of time.
This one, for instance, spends $5,000 a year and, to get that money, she just has to make a couple of calls and write a couple of emails.
Our reaction: Exactly!
It's because she dedicates so little time to it that the account stays small.
Your top performers have developed an innate sense of which accounts should be doing business with your company. So, the fact that they are holding on to them tells you that at least some have the potential to be much larger.
Because they are also managing your most valuable clients, these sales people don't have the bandwidth to exploit the potential of those small accounts. If you think about it, it makes total sense. How does a sales person who is already managing 20 of the company’s largest accounts also have time to do the work that needs to be done to grow 50 of the company’s smallest accounts?
So, here's what we propose:
First, have your top performers look through their list of small accounts and select a short list of the accounts that they are committed to growing. Perhaps it will help if you agree on a rational horizon, like the next six months.
Then, for the remaining small accounts, have the hard conversation and reassign them to sales people who have time to grow them.
This is when you are going to have to be firm for the benefit of everyone involved. Your top performers are going to fight you tooth and nail to keep those small accounts because it will feel like you are shrinking their business. In reality, they will benefit because now they will have time to focus on the accounts, large and small, that they really want to cultivate.
Your newer sales people will benefit by gaining billing accounts that they can grow into large accounts. In the best situations, those newer sales people will even get some advice from the top performers on how to grow those accounts.
It will help you grow your business if you don't let your top performers keep your small accounts small.