Milind Katti

Milind Katti

April 28, 2022

4 account penetration strategies to take your retention revenue to the next level

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One of the most important laws of growing a SaaS business commands that every company has to face the proverbial “valley of death”—long and dry spells of famine caused by several factors.

It’s par for the course that most high-growth SaaS companies stall out in the range of $20–$40 million ARR despite a breezy initial success in scaling their business from 0–1. Other times, external market forces—such as the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic—can cause growing businesses to hit a plateau in their growth trajectory.

In many ways, such episodes of growth impediment are sort of trial by ordeal to test the perseverance of a business and its teams. If a company is able to storm the rough weather, it will likely come out of it stronger and ready to take on any challenge. If they don’t survive the challenge—too bad, they probably didn’t have the mettle, to begin with.

One way ambitious companies and their GTM teams cope with the rough times is by shifting their focus on an area that is often overlooked, i.e. their existing customers. Of course, it’s tempting to double your business just by pounding out hundreds and hundreds of new leads every month. It’s the exact kind of growth playbook that makes you a VC darling and helps you secure several rounds of funding initially—but not when you hit a wall.

When your company is tumbling down the death valley, it’s more logical to focus on your existing base of users to extend a helping hand than to scream for help in a vacuum.

There are many upsides to refocusing on your current users to expand your retention revenue. An average sales cycle when selling to existing accounts is 50% shorter than closing deals with new accounts. That means little to no investment in new customer acquisitions, exploiting new revenue channels, and expanding your TAM potential.

In a long time horizon, most B2B companies earn 70% of their revenue from 20% of their customers. Taking that as an average, it’s only logical to have a pre-emptive account planning strategy to enable sales opportunities on your immediate radar.

Here are four strategic account penetration tips to expand your revenue potential, improve customer lifetime value, and enrich sales velocity.

1. Leverage account-based customer marketing

Account-based selling and marketing are nothing but evolved, perhaps more refined, versions of account management or account farming. Sales coaches and theoretical consultants keep adding new templates and playbooks around this topic to reframe it as a new concept, which has made ABS and ABM more complex topics than they actually are.

The result?

In one of its recent findings, CSO Insights reports that 54.9% of B2B companies have gaping holes in their account penetration strategies. Often, the culprit is the broken hand-off processes between cross-functional teams and information silos even when the teams are catering to serve the same account.

For account-based customer marketing to succeed, you should have a proactive strategy to implement your campaigns—not a reactive approach to upsell and cross-sell when an account matures.

Start by identifying the target accounts and engage in frequent conversations with them to understand their broader business requirements. This will help you gain visibility into their business environment, sales pipelines, revenue targets, growth bottlenecks, and end-customer needs.

Once you have the data, create powerful content stories and messaging to show them the opportunity cost around wasted money, process delays, and long conversion cycles. Strategically position your solution—through a blend of display and retargeting ads—to showcase how using your solution can help them not just to overcome their current problems but achieve their revenue milestones.

The idea here is to present your team and solution as strategic partners in their growth rather than mere software vendors or implementation partners.

Here’s yet another strategy to leverage account-based sales and marketing to expand revenue growth—use whitespace analysis for farming key accounts. It’s basically a tool to help you identify whitespace farming and mining opportunities, discover areas where you can grow your account, and align or map your resources to accomplish your goals. Whitespace analysis gives you the advantage of strategically positioning second-order selling opportunities with a clear view of the account landscape.

For instance, you can use whitespace analysis to identify potential cross-sell and upsell opportunities within your existing key accounts. With whitespace mapping, you can easily find opportunities for additional account penetration and expansion based on an account’s past performance, similar purchase patterns, and competitive landscape.

A well-done whitespace analysis of key accounts will help you identify your best selling offerings or products, see gaps in product or service lines, spot revenue opportunities with little to no competition, anticipate and build capacities, and maintain a high-growth pipeline.

To pull off most of the ABM campaigns successfully, you would need a solid partnership between marketing and sales because the silos between the two teams would jeopardize your chances of exploiting lucrative revenue opportunities.

A tight alignment between marketing and sales can lead to a 32% increase in year-over-year revenue growth. When the two teams join forces with each other, the partnership opens new doors of business opportunities for expanding your retention revenue.

For example, sales enablement is an arena where the two teams can come together to improve their team KPIs while bumping up their companies’ revenue. According to stats, businesses that have sales enablement as an integral part of their sales process have a 49% win rate on achieving forecasted deals.

This lends itself over to account penetration too. The marketing already has core first-party data that they can leverage to create impactful content assets and create account-based email drip campaigns.

They don’t have to open their purse to spend a dollar on acquiring new customers while the sales can borrow marketing’s expertise to create valuable sales collaterals like pitch decks, comparison docs, business cases, and so on. The collaboration is a win-win tactic for both teams and you can even tether the two teams to a common KPI to encourage a tighter alignment.

2. Double down on partner selling

Most sales teams gloss over the fact that several big-ticket accounts often buy through partners. If you can attract the best channel partners in your niche, you can extend your account penetration plans to enterprises with deep pockets and ever-growing needs. Therefore, to strike gold—devise an account-based strategy to hire the best channel partners or to attract the ones that can help you sell to your target accounts.

Channel partnership is a strategic investment that most businesses make to expand their revenue potential. As part of their partnership with their SaaS clients, channel partners offer specialized services in return for a compensation package and represent your brand in their respective territories. And that’s where you can plug your account expansion strategy with selected channel partners.

Think of channel partnership as outsourcing your marketing or sales to a team of consultants who get a cut for every sale they make. They help you find new users, represent your brand in a location where your company doesn’t have a presence, and set up the product for the clients on your behalf—making your go-to-market (GTM) strategy more efficient. At its core, channel partnership isn’t much different than hiring affiliate marketers or middleman distributors to expand your business operations.

Treat this strategy the same way you would design an ABM campaign. For instance, the commission structure is one of the biggest incentives for channel partners in SaaS selling. On top of the referral fee, they get out of each deal they close, many channel partners make money by implementing a solution, training the client, consulting them, and offering technical support. You can attract a great many resellers to your pipeline if you can offer them a win-win compensation model.

3. Personalize business case for each account

Account-based selling almost always boils down to strategically positioning your solution to an account for a successful closure. But it’s easier said than done because a lot depends on how you actually align your solutions to their needs.

One of the ways to carry out this plan is to treat each account as an individual marketplace. You might want to lean on your colleagues from the customer success team to make this idea more impactful. Research each account in detail, craft the right messaging for them and draft a business case for each one of them.

Here’s a high-level view of how you should strategize a winning business case:

At the core, all businesses have the same goals such as to

  • Increase revenue
  • Improve productivity
  • Enrich customer experience
  • Ensure business security

Once you can identify what’s most important for a target account, the next step is to map the story to the account level. Figure out which team in the account has the highest pain and what solutions and products can help them overcome it. Map their requirements to the relevant solutions by plugging in analyst reports, earning calls, or industry findings to validate your business case.

When you are ready to make a contact, articulate the advantages of the solutions and help them see the outcome in real-world terms. Sometimes, a thoroughly prepared business case will take you from demo to closing in two weeks. Other times, it might take you two years to just land your foot in the door. Just know that the contract value that you get out of these campaigns can have a humongous impact on your pipeline and customer logos. Keep refining the business case until it helps you land a negotiation.

An important caveat to remember here is—that you can’t master ABS by playing the numbers game. Don’t try to templatize the solution narrative to execute this plan at scale—although it’s perfectly fine to have defined processes for behind-the-scenes collaboration. Creating a successful business case sometimes means spending about 20-30 hours in research each week to figure out how to help an account even before you can reach out to them. Sweating out the details is the only way that will help you stand out from thousands of other companies trying to sell to these accounts.

4. Leverage existing relationships to expand your reach

Just like doubling down on account-based selling—building wider, deeper, and richer customer relationships can give you wings that can expand your business horizons. You can leverage your existing user base to market your product to second-order customers in their network, incentivize it with financial rewards, and generate quality leads.

Deepening your customer relationships with existing accounts is also known to bring down your customer acquisition costs, boost sales conversions, and improve win rates.

Start by setting realistic goals for building relationships at scale. You obviously can’t build the same level of camaraderie with each of your existing accounts. Therefore, figure out what types of customers exhibit a better likelihood of reciprocating your relationship-building exercise—scrappy startups who have high-growth potential, deep-pocket enterprise accounts, or rapidly growing scale-ups with steady revenue.

Once you have the clarity, build relationships far faster so that you can execute this idea at scale. That’s because when acting on a new idea, speed matters more than anything else. Leverage your relationship intelligence to drive your sales cycles more effectively and increase your salesforce’s productivity.

The key to successfully pulling off this tactic is to enrich the massive amount of customer data that your company already has. Once you have high-quality information about prospects and clients, leverage the leadership in your organization to engage with the right decision-makers and key stakeholders in the customer account to identify sales opportunities and improve your win rates.

Modern sales need modern solutions

The sales world today is too dynamic—especially in the SaaS domain. Account management can’t afford to play by the old rules of trying to sell a condo to customers who only want to rent an Airbnb. Given the way how most of the tech products today are highly SaaS-led, the future of account management is also going to be heavily SaaSified. 

If customers want to have flexibility in their purchases—let them have it. Apply the same rule in your own account management—don’t make rigid plans in your account planning like you are selling to enterprises in the early 2000s. Today’s market is susceptible to high risks—or rewards—and keeping your account management process agile can help you adapt to the changing customer needs and stay ahead of the game.

Ready to discuss your Account Management Needs?

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Milind Katti
About the Author

Milind Katti

CEO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

Milind is COO & Co-Founder of DemandFarm. He co-founded DemandFarm to build smart software technology to bring Account Planning and Relationship Intelligence into your CRM, making Key Account Management data-driven, predictable and scalable.

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