Let’s try a thought experiment. I’ll start with a bit of background.
When I look at a lot of the “expert” advice in my social feeds, the emphasis is on how we reach and engage more and more customers. This is critical, at least in the thinking of these experts, because those customers we are trying to engage aren’t responding in the numbers we need. So the solution is to cast a wider net, to try to reach more and more.
Using this logic, at some point we are trying to reach the roughly 8B people on the planet (I’m exaggerating, but you get what I’m saying.) But we have a mindset and the advice of experts that “reach is power.” We obsess on the number of followers, how many emails we can send, how many phone calls we can make.
We have an orientation of going after more. If the first 1000 don’t respond, we go after the next 1000. Then we go after the next 10000, then 20000, then…… And ChatGPT enables us to do 1000 emails in 15 minutes. So we can keep extending our reach.
But this strategy is, increasingly, failing. While we keep extending our reach and the number of touches, the response/engagement rates are plummeting. We need to rethink what we are doing.
So this brings up the thought experiment.
What if our total addressable market was 100 enterprises? We know those enterprises could allow us to achieve our goals for several years. But that’s all, there are no other customers outside those 100 enterprises.
What do we need to do to maximize the business we get from those 100 enterprises?
We can identify the key people, based on our target personas, we should be engaging in each of those 100 organizations. We would know the people most critical to our success in those companies.
We would get very deep in understanding the business challenges, strategies, and priorities for each of those 100 organizations.
We would identify those areas of the business we could most impact, based on those strategies and priorities.
We would also go deep on the key people we are targeting in those 100 companies. Who are they, what are their roles/responsibilities, what drives them? How are they impacted by the key strategies and priorities executive management has established for the enterprise?
We then need to think deeply about what we can do to support the enterprise in achieving it’s goals. We need to drill down into those individuals composing our target customers in those enterprises, thinking, “How do we help them in achieving the enterprise and their personal goals?”
We’d soon realize, not all those 100 enterprises might have a need today, but we would have to work with them developing that need, incenting them to change, presenting an opportunity next year or the year after.
In those 100 enterprises, we’d prioritize those that we could work with this year, achieving our goals. We’d be deeply engaged in understanding them, their business, and the impact we could have on their current initiatives.
Next year, we would look at how we expand and grow that relationship, and we’d look at the others in that group of 100 that we could engage and grow our business.
And year after year, we’d look at how we can do more and achieve more with those 100 customers. The depth of our knowledge, the depth of our relationship would grow. And if we are doing things well, the depth of the value we could create with them would grow.
Those readers having strategic account assignments face this every day. They may have only one account or a handful. They have to continue going deeply into each account maximizing their share and growth in the account. They have to make sure they keep the customers in those accounts happy, and they are constantly bringing them ideas to continue to improve.
They have no where else to go, they have no other customers to pursue, so they have to get as much as they possibly can from the account(s)
We squander huge amounts of opportunity with our “reach” strategies. These strategies enable us to pursue only the “low hanging fruit.” Because we go wider and wider, we never take the opportunity to go deep, to find or create the opportunities we need to achieve our goals based on our deep knowledge of the business and individuals.
Several years ago, I worked with an organization. The sales people were very good, they had high win rates. But each sales person had over 1000 accounts. They made their numbers by reaching out to those 1000 customers. Their average deal size was $10K. But they were making their numbers because they had so many customers they could reach.
But we made a change. We gave each sales person 10-15 of the largest accounts of the 1000. We kept their quotas/goals the same. Within 9 months, their average deal was just less than $200K—and they were exceeding their goals. It turns out those deals had always been there, the sales people were just so busy with the smaller deals and the broader reach, they were missing those deals. And within 3 years they had average deal sizes of $1.5 million–again because they had a limited number of customers and they had to get very deep with each of those customers. But it paid off, they were growing those relationships, and their overall revenue growth was skyrocketing.
We miss so many opportunities because we are just skimming the surface of our customers. We are getting the low hanging fruit and we continue to search of low hanging fruit by expanding our reach. But soon the low hanging fruit is gone, it’s tougher to find, we expand our reach even further. But we miss the opportunity that’s already there, that exists within the customers, but that require us drill down more deeply (or extending the low hanging fruit analogy–we need to climb higher in the trees).
Try this experiment yourself. Rather than looking at how to expand your reach, looking at more and more enterprises and individuals, what if you focused on getting really deep into a smaller number of accounts. I suspect you will find huge amounts of opportunity you are missing.
Afterword: Please don’t mistake this as an Account Based strategy. While these principles are critical for account based selling, they are equally powerful for 100 or more customers. We have to stop thinking that we have a bottomless pool of prospects to pursue, but if we focus on a much smaller set, we can actually produce far more.