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Balancing Hunting and Farming In Your Sales Team

Contributed by Mary Tucker

The fundamental question is: What kind of activity do I need to sustain and grow my business?

Frequently, companies devote resources to new account acquisition and hope that solid operations and good customer service will sustain the existing base of customers. Over time you may lose contact with the decision makers in your customer base and find that that your day-to-day contact is with the shipping and receiving clerk. Your key clients are your competitors’ key prospects. When you consider the time and emphasis that you put on bringing in new clients, consider that your competitors are putting the same time and focus on taking your clients away from you. Losing existing accounts as fast, or faster than you bring on new accounts is a zero-sum-game. A solid strategy to actively manage your key client base will pay dividends.

Successful Farming:

  1. How secure is the customer base?
  2. How many key influencers do we know at each customer? Do they know our counterpart? (Does my CEO know my key client’s CEO’s? Can the same be said for CFO’s, CTO’s, Quality Control, Operations, etc.?)
  3. Do we share the account with a competitor? What is the plan to eliminate the competitor?
  4. Are contracts in place, current, about to expire?
  5. Do price increases need to be negotiated?
  6. Is our performance benchmarked on our client’s key-performance-indicators? Do our clients acknowledge our success as a trusted vendor/partner?
  7. Have we identified growth opportunities through upselling and cross-selling?
  8. Are we maximizing the referral process to secure introductions to new clients?

An important factor to consider is the amount of time it takes to successfully execute a farming strategy. As a rule-of-thumb, divide the top 20% of your clients into two groups. The top tier participates in a monthly conference call and receives quarterly on-site visits. The second tier participates in bi-monthly conference calls and may receive one or two annual on-site visits.

When you are on track with your farming strategy and confident that you will reach your growth targets, resources should be spread to hunting activities. Use your knowledge of the existing base of clients to maximize your hunting activities.

  1. Which market segments are most profitable?
  2. Where do we have existing subject matter expertise?
  3. Can we get a personal introduction/referral to a prospective new client?
  4. Has a key contact left an existing client to assume similar responsibilities somewhere else?
  5. Can we use our KPI benchmarking to communicate our performance?

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