• December 17, 2021

Here's Why 58 Percent of B2B Sales Organizations Miss Quota on Key Accounts

Ninety-five percent of chief sales officers (CSOs) expect higher growth from key accounts, but 58 percent of B2B sales organizations miss quota for key accounts, according to recent Gartner research.

A Gartner survey found that that 85 percent are prioritizing increased returns on key accounts in 2022. With this level of attention and investment, CSOs must first focus on defining and setting strategy around what key accounts mean to their organizations.

 "Our research shows 46 percent of B2B sales organizations have rebuilt their key account programs twice or more in the past seven years due to underperformance," said Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president in the Gartner Sales practice. "This is a trend we've seen for nearly 15 years now. This rinse-and-repeat approach to rebuilding key account programs has yet to generate any kind of systemic, predictable improvement."

"Instead of a sales-centric view, sales organizations need to start focusing on what key accounts mean to their broader organizations and determine what they are willing to invest in time, resources, and finances to maintain and grow those accounts," added Robert Blaisdell, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice.

Gartner research identified four key areas where CSOs and their teams should focus for key account program success:

  1. Define what a key account means to your organization: CSOs and their teams should establish enterprise-driven key account criteria to identify customers with true growth potential. Focus on being able to articulate the organization's vision for managing key accounts (like the value they bring to the organization and the value the organization brings to them) in a programmatic, enterprise-driven way. The largest accounts are not always the best candidates for key accounts. In fact, Gartner research shows that customers elevated to key account status due to their large spend are 51 percent less likely to increase that spend over time.
  2. Secure organizational alignment on key account support: Sales leaders must pursue a formal, iterative approach with cross-silo stakeholders to deliver on “nterprise key accounts. Leading sales organizations assemble early a cross-functional team to (re)define key account criteria, identify the resources available, and select key accounts. According to Gartner research, key account managers who report a high degree of cross-functional collaboration see, on average, three times higher spend from key customers. 
  3. Formalize the boundaries of key account partnerships collaboratively with customers: Sales teams should focus on engaging in bi-lateral discussions with each key account customer to jointly calibrate partnership potential and organizational compatibility. 
  4. Avoid overinvesting in underperforming key accounts: Sales organizations must systemically monitor the health of key account relationships and proactively re-tier those accounts for mutual value. Implementing a performance-based key account re-tiering strategy helps the organization stay ahead of issues that erode key account profitability and growth potential.

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