Three steps for driving sales growth in existing accounts

12 June 2023 4 min. read
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In today’s uncertain economic environment, landing new clients has become harder. As a result, 2023 has seen a renewed inward focus on identifying margin improvements and driving growth within existing clients. Chris Ginnelly, a growth expert at private equity firm ECI Partners, shares three ways for driving growth in existing accounts.

Upselling and cross-selling can often pose a challenge to Account Managers (AMs) or other team members who lead on a particular client but may deal day-to-day with a different contact to the original buyer.

Indeed, the original buyer might be in a completely different department to the day-to-day point of contact for the engagement. Upselling and cross-selling alike each require moving beyond business-as-usual activities, establishing a new buying point and proposing a compelling solution, without endangering the day-to-day client relationship.

Three steps for driving sales growth in existing accounts

With so much focus on targets, it can be easy to forget that there is a strong human element in play. So how can companies drive growth in existing accounts in a way that delivers value for clients, and works for all team members?

1) Starting these conversations with clients

Instead of immediately pitching, the first step is to focus on opening a dialogue and identifying common pain points and challenges. From there, the AM or other team member can assess whether discussing an increased or alternative scope of work is relevant to the customer at all. This approach also directs the conversation towards addressing the client’s specific challenges, channelling the conversation towards them and creates an open dialogue.

Remember – people buy emotionally, and justify intellectually, so a pitch shouldn’t be about a product or a company, but the customer’s unique reasons for purchasing.

It is common for AMs to be concerned about pressuring people into purchasing unwanted product or services. However, if they approach the conversation through testing for issues and helping to solve them, a new sale should come organically and will deliver real value for the client.

2) Breaking down goals

To achieve cross-selling and upselling goals, team members must clearly understand their individual targets and the behaviours they need to adopt on a weekly basis. Frequently, people have goals in mind, but struggle with creating a roadmap of the specific actions required to reach those objectives.

To address this, it is essential to reflect on past successes and the individual stages on that journey. From the goal, look at what was achieved to get there. If there is a revenue target behind this growth strategy, for example, how many proposals are needed to be sent to existing clients, at what average value, and how many conversations should be held to generate interest in these proposals altogether?

It can also remove stress from employees to break down ambitious and often nebulous targets, into clear and digestible steps that drive progress at all stages. Additionally, implementing a sales management process can help hold individuals accountable for their performance.

3) Leading by example

A key part of the up- and cross-selling journey is also making sure that all team members are prepared and ready to support in this process.

At ECI Partners, we recently conducted a session with managers to understand the impact of learning and development on sales. The managers we spoke to spent about 40% of their working week coaching – which is a high level of dedication. The impact of this on wider teams is clear, with only 43% of sales managers saying they have effective training before assuming their role.

For coaching to be effective, it needs to move beyond stock training or pipeline conversations. Line managers can deliver value through helping individuals improve their pitches and should dedicate time to demonstrating how to open conversations in front of salespeople and help them refine their skills.

Learning through example can be a powerful tool, and we have seen countless occasions of where teams pick up on phrases, questions and talk tracks used by managers. It can be useful to think of sales as a performance, and practice is a great way to embed conversational tools, build confidence and fluency, and help to integrate new approaches with personal styles.

Technology can be deployed here to assist, with call recording tools such as Gong providing methodology for observing client interactions and helping AMs improve at upselling. After coaching sessions, it is key to put follow ups in diaries to assess progress, identify what worked well, and determine areas that may require further attention.

In summary

As businesses increasingly look to cross-sell and up-sell as a means to drive growth, their teams need to feel well-equipped to hold those all-important conversations with clients to identify challenges and pose solutions.

Businesses must ensure that processes are in place to build core communication competencies across the board, ensure that all team members understand the firm’s growth strategy, and have the tools and skills to support the business in meetings these objectives.