Time to Pivot From New Business to a Target Account Effort

Most media leaders and managers we come across organize their sales efforts around their long-held belief that new business – new money from new clients – is one of the cornerstones of building a successful year. It is evident in salespeople’s job descriptions and in the way they get paid. Indeed, it is common for new business numbers to be touted in earnings calls as leading indicators of future growth.

The reality, however, is that new business efforts contribute very little to growth. When you look under the hood of any media company, you discover that all those one-day sales, new business blitzes and phone jams, for the most part, fill the company up with empty calories. Sure, they make management feel like something is happening. But when you analyze the numbers like we do every day, you discover that all that activity results in hundreds of small, inconsequential clients that distract the sales organization, use up company resources and create very little growth.

Every time we show a management team their own numbers, they express amazement at the huge number of small clients they touch every year and how little value they get out of the entire effort.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that has been proven to create growth and that is so simple to explain to a sales organization that it could be set in motion immediately. Whatever time and resources leadership is currently dedicating to new business efforts should be refocused on growing Target Accounts.

Why Pivot from a New Business Effort to a Target Account Effort?

New business efforts are designed for volume and not to create big accounts. That’s probably why, on average, only seven New Key Accounts are created out of every 100 new clients the sales organization brings in.

Target Account efforts, on the other hand, have only one purpose: To produce New Key Accounts, which are the only new clients that contribute to year-over-year growth.

Successful Target Account Efforts Require Leadership Involvement

Having participated in many successful Target Account efforts, we know that the secret to their success is the degree to which executive leaders and senior sales managers are involved in launching them, tracking their progress and celebrating every win.

Here’s our best advice on how to set up and run a Target Account effort.

Set a Rational Target Account Goal

Every Target Account Effort is built around the accomplishment of a rational, clear and memorable revenue goal that every Target Account must reach.

The goal should be low enough for the sellers to feel like they can attain it and high enough that, when the account reaches it, it has a good chance of ending the year as a New Key Account.

The simplest way to set that goal is for the sales management team to go back to their 2023 account listed sorted largest to smallest and identify the revenue spent by the smallest Key Account. Then, add 30% to that number and, if necessary, round up.

For example, let’s say the smallest Key Account spent $30,000 last year (it is very important to remember that Target Account Goals are for the money you need the accounts to spend for the total year). Adding 30% would peg the minimum Target Account Goal at $39,000. But the sales management team wants a number that is easy to remember, so they round up to $40,000. From that point on, it becomes the job of the sales organization to grow Target Accounts to at least $40,000 by the end of the year.

We like to think of it as a simple game of growing accounts over a fence. The height of the fence is determined by the Target Account Goal. The game then becomes how many accounts can the sales team grow over the $40,000 fence by the end of the year regardless of how much they spent last year.

Help the Sellers Select Target Accounts Wisely

Armed with a clear Target Account goal, the sales managers help their sellers sift through their small and medium-sized clients, as well as their prospects, in search of good Target Accounts.

Managers should use a portion of their regular one-on-one meetings to help sellers think through which clients are worth the time it will take to grow them to the Target Account Goal. They will help the sellers grapple with questions like, Does the company have the right audience for the client being considered? Is the account in a business vertical that has experienced success using the company’s tools? Is there evidence that the client has the resources to spend that kind of money by the end of the year? Does the salesperson have the interest to put in the work it will take to grow the account?

Target Account Efforts Can Support Important Company Initiatives

Because Target Account efforts produce New Key Accounts, they are a powerful way to support important company initiatives. Well-chosen Target Accounts can accelerate the introduction of a new line of products or the development of a particularly desirable customer vertical. Radio, television and cable companies that are looking to increase their digital sales, could have their salespeople choose Target Accounts from among their small and medium-sized clients that are already purchasing digital tools.

Every time a Target Account reaches its revenue goal, it produces the double benefit of contributing to revenue growth while bolstering the company’s strategic initiative.

Track It

Everyone in the company who has an interest in revenue growth, most especially corporate leadership, should know at any given moment how many Target Accounts have reached the goal in every business unit and in the entire company. It should be someone’s responsibility to set up a method for tracking the progress of the effort in number of accounts that have reached the goal (typically referred to as a “converted Target Account) and total dollars created.

Celebrate Every Win

One of the best places for corporate leadership to make their influence felt is in recognizing and celebrating wins.

A well-timed email from the CEO to a young seller who grows a big Target Account can have a longer lasting effect than any bonus she could have received. (Don’t get us wrong, we recommend the bonuses as well!) The opportunities to stimulate the Target Account effort are only limited by the imagination of the leadership.

Keep It Simple

We know from experience that leaders and managers will be tempted to make the game more complicated by introducing additional hoops for salespeople to jump through. Resist the temptation. Keep it simple.

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