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The 'Pro' in Account Profiling

By Scott Karren

Sales people never like requirements for information about their accounts. They understand that some account information is needed by the corporation and may admit that managers have a need to know some specifics. Over the last 15 years as we have worked with over 10,000 sales people, we hear the same refrain. "We have to spend out time selling, not filling out forms." "Our accounts are private; they will never share this kind of information." "My account's main issues are discount and price."

All of these excuses indicate that the sales reps are still flunking Sales 101. When they say that the information is irrelevant, that it takes too long to collect, or that it is a waste for their valuable time, they are demonstrating that they do not yet understand the real reason for profiles. Most account reps still incorrectly assume that the data in the profile is for corporate marketing or sales management.

Directly or indirectly, all profiling data is for the benefit of the rep. Sure, sales management could use stronger profiles could to improve prioritization of accounts; marketing could use better profiling to create better campaigns, collateral, and tools; and corporate executives could use account insight to drive commitment to strategic plans. And all of this indirectly helps the rep hit quota.

But real sales professionals know that profiling is for them. Nothing has a greater impact on account productivity than a clear understanding of the account and the business performance issues facing that account. Profiling is merely a formal tool to collect, organize and analyze our accounts. Sales professionals use profiles to progress from data to insight to action.

Data: Data collection by itself is of value to the sales professional. It forces us to assess our account knowledge. It makes the gaps in our account knowledge obvious. It creates a dialogue with the account that is focused on them versus our products. Even if a genie could magically fill in all the fields for the reps, to be professionals they still need to spend quality time thinking about their accounts.

Insight: Analysis of account data creates business perspective. While most reps can recite statistics about their accounts, many have difficulty understanding the implications of the data. High level sales training courses such as The Executive Conversations' Executive Focused Selling helps turn reps into sales professionals by linking data to insight.

Profiles can help by organizing the information into key business areas such as financials, business model, management, key initiatives, background, competition and account history. Analysis activities like SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat,) market positioning, financial modeling, and comparative benchmarks also force the sales professional to review their account profiles, identify an interesting data point and ask "Why?"

Action: Business executives rely on people who can deliver results. For a sales rep to become a professional and a peer to a business owner or executive, they have to demonstrate insight and offer assistance. Connecting the proposal to the implication with specific data points and metrics is how the professionals build value add.

Profiling is hard work. Translating data into insight and action is even harder. Let's assume it takes 30 minutes to fill out an in-depth account profile. Contemplating implications and developing proposals could use another 60 minutes each. Twenty accounts will add up to 50 hours. As a sales professional, can you think of a better use of your time?

Scott Karren is the CEO of Channel Ventures, a specialized consulting firm that works with vendors and partners to build profitable channels. Mr. Karren has led his companies to successfully complete over 1,000 channel projects impacting over $150B of channel revenue.

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