Many sales professionals often ask us, “Where do I find more leads?” They want to know how they can expand their pipeline of sales opportunities, in order to improve their chances of reaching or exceeding their goals. We’ve discovered, however, that few salespeople do a good job of tapping into their most lucrative source of new business – their current customers.
This is especially critical today, when sales pipelines are generally leaner than usual. In their latest report on sales performance benchmarks, CSO Insights found that, on average, sales reps are generating over half (52%) of all of their own opportunities (with 24% generated by marketing and the rest from partners and referrals). Further, CSO Insights reports that almost two-thirds (64%) of all sales managers say that their sales teams need improvement in their ability to generate new leads. And, the majority of sales managers (57%) also say that their teams need improvement in their ability to farm additional revenues from existing customers. To recap: salespeople find most of their own sales opportunities, yet far too many sellers lack essential lead generation and account management skills.
Many sales professionals believe that sales opportunities emerge only after a customer has established a clear vision of a solution and is looking for the best way to fulfill it. This is indeed a legitimate source of sales opportunities, but it is not the only one. The most successful salespeople recognize that if they can help customers to recognize their pains (critical business issues or potential missed opportunities), and also assist them with their visioning process (helping them to see a potential solution to their problems), they can not only create new sales opportunities, but also do so in a way that favors the seller’s capabilities. This powerful method of finding potential deals is called latent opportunity development.
When serving a customer account, most salespeople spend their time working with people they know on needs they have defined. But salespeople that rely solely on their current presence in their accounts are vulnerable. They are missing the opportunity to create a defensible fortress of value and interdependence with that customer. Top performing sellers also push for deeper penetration by finding undefined needs that they can address, or by meeting new people in the account that may have similar needs they can help solve.
To develop new business in a current account, top sellers perform a “white space” analysis. By mapping the key business units in the account and identifying their principal pains, and then indexing these to your portfolio of solutions, sellers can find untapped veins of gold in the account — new potential sales opportunities.
We find that few sellers conduct this sort of exercise. They are busy reacting to the customer and serving existing needs in the account. But, a few minutes of analysis can reap huge rewards. By performing a simple white space analysis, sellers can increase the number and value of opportunities in their pipeline by 2 to 7 times – and in some cases, even more.
Even better, a white space analysis can be the foundation upon which you can build higher levels of relationship within key accounts. By identifying the most critical business issues in an account and finding creative ways to address those pains with your portfolio of solutions (or perhaps, a partner’s), you can demonstrate thought leadership and initiative, and provide additional value to your customer. This is how you become more than a vendor, and begin to elevate your relationship within an account, ultimately to that of a trusted advisor.
The white space exercise, while fairly easy to perform, can provide some insightful information about how you can add value in your account, and how you can create new opportunities to better serve your customer. We find that the number of opportunities in an account at least doubles, or more, after a seller conducts a white space exercise. In fact, you may find more opportunities in your account than you can reasonably manage!
By focusing on sales opportunities that not only produce high value for the seller – especially more revenues and profits – but also those that provide high value to the customer, salespeople can simultaneously improve their own pipelines while also elevating their relationship with key customers. SPI developed a structured methodology to enable sellers to conduct account planning effectively, built upon the solid foundation of white space analysis.
Good luck and good selling!