The aim of any business is to drive sustained growth. But many companies fail to find just the right balance between the provision of high-level service and ongoing customer expansion. Why is that? Well, they are simply not using the right strategy to achieve it.
One of the main problems is that many companies — and managed service providers (MSPs) in particular — bet too heavily on their product. They often have a robust team of account hunters, or salespeople, to navigate diverse responsibilities including account management. However, one person can hardly close leads and dedicate sufficient resources to nurturing client relationships. The good news is: they shouldn’t.
Today, two-thirds of companies compete in customer experience – as compared to only 36 percent in 2010. With customer experience as the ultimate differentiator, it’s time to invest in a dedicated account management team that is perfectly aligned with sales.
How can you strike the perfect balance between account hunting and account farming?
Understand why you need both
By making a clear distinction between account hunters and account farmers, you can work better to bring in new leads while also proactively minimizing churn and promoting account growth opportunities.
While it’s true that both roles incorporate elements of sales, strategy, and client communication, they vary in responsibilities and skills. The primary objective of hunters is to grow revenue by closing leads. They deploy a variety of techniques to attract new clients, using selling points that speak to the pain points of the target audience. To achieve the best results, they often collaborate with the marketing team to identify the market gaps and exchange information with client services to learn more from existing clients.
Then, there’s the account management team: the farmers. They nurture the client relationship post-sale and develop into close clients’ advisors. Farmers’ focus goes well beyond customer service; positioned with a great opportunity to get to know the client and their strategic goals, farmers also become agents of growth – they can identify upsell opportunities and offer a wide range of specialized services.
Think in terms of the customer journey
When we think about customer experience, some of the most common frustrations are related to disjointed communication with conflict messages and forgotten follow-ups, insufficient personalization, or a lack of transparency. These usually happen due to poor coordination and little consideration for each customer’s journey.
Today, less than 40 percent of companies have a process to better map their customer journeys – and that’s a huge missed opportunity. MSPs should design comprehensive journeys and clearly define the role of account hunters and account farmers within them. This way, they ensure there’s a clear game plan and a responsible person at every single touchpoint. Subsequently, they can standardize processes, design account management strategies, develop solid internal and external communications, and find ways to incorporate automation effectively.
The customer journey is all about maintaining continuity. So think about your account hunters kicking off the ball and the farmers as those who keep the game going; the more in sync they are, the better they can collaborate towards common goals.
One of the key tests of this relationship is the hunter-farmer handover. The account hunter should guarantee a seamless onboarding process where they introduce the farmer and the rest of the team to the client and establish regular communication. It’s fundamental to centralize notes and sales assessment into one point at this stage. Since the first couple of months of the collaboration present the best opportunity to “wow” the client, you need to ensure that farmers have all the necessary information to work their magic.
What’s best for your growth?
According to McKinsey, the sales and support experience are the most important factor affecting the purchasing decision of companies, being twice as important as the price. Once you have your hunters and farmers clearly distinguished with a set strategy in place, you should think about how to further drive the best potential of both.
Account hunters should focus on higher quality leads and tailor proposals around clients’ needs and pain points. Investing time in understanding their prospects and their structures pays off: For example, by analyzing the IT infrastructure, they can come up with the most precise way to fit into this environment. In the case of complex solutions, this requires developing closer relationships, where the hunters become trusted advisors, articulating not only the value of the product, but their individual value as an ongoing resource.
But even account farmers can streamline their efforts to achieve more. From a more traditional perspective, their work is centered around customer service and the belief that keeping customers happy will improve retention. However, this above-and-beyond service isn’t necessarily the way to drive growth. It may persuade the client to commit to the same thing; but to truly drive growth, farmers should actively bring new perspectives and ideas to customers to help them see how they can truly improve their business. In short, farmers should leverage their knowledge of both the industry and client to provide unique and constructive perspectives.
When looking to drive growth, know that understanding the client and working to tackle their pain point is key. Both account hunters and account farmers can help work towards this – but both in different ways. By delineating their responsibilities, you can set up a collaborative strategy that follows the customer journey from the first step all the way towards continuous success.