Selling to Named Accounts: A Working Definition of High, Wide, and Deep

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In a recent business review meeting, a client talked about his desire to go “high, wide and deep” with one of his named accounts.

Sounds good as it rolls off the tongue but, what does it mean? How does one define High, Wide, and/or Deep? Others on the call thought it a good aspirational goal but, it was clear, the exact meaning was unclear. I was asked to provide some common definition that each account manager could aim toward and, having done so, thought it worthwhile to share with a broader readership.

As is so often the case in sales, terms are used without standard, or even generally agreed upon, definitions. No attempt will be made to correct all this deficiency, but this is an attempt to define this phrase. Given my Miller Heiman background, I’ll use terms they have defined starting with Single Sales Objective (SSO). An SSO answers the questions: What? How Much? By when?

HIGH

In the most general terms, “high” means above the level you’re normally doing business or having meetings with. Too often, we do not know who the Economic Buyer (EB = Final Approver) is for an opportunity but, as long as it got approved, guess we were high enough.

This is a good way to delude yourself and, at the same time, lock yourself into lower levels (i.e., NOT high). If this seems too abstract, sort of like, “How high is UP?” there is some guidance that might be useful here, and with the terms that follow.

Even if your normal contact is, say, a hiring manager who is, in fact, the final approver for a hire, someone gave that manager the authority to do so. Whether the head of HR, a functional leader (e.g., head of sales or operations), or the CFO, the person empowering the hiring manager for this opportunity represents “higher.”

Remember: buying influences are defined by the SSO. The EB for hiring a replacement engineer is going to be lower than the EB for a $2M data warehousing initiative. Look at the SSOs you typically are working within an account, work to identify who really is the EB, then over time, look for and/or work to create valid business reasons (VBRs) for calling above this level.

You don’t have to get to the CEO or Board of Directors, though in some cases (e.g., digital transformation) you may. High means delivering on your company’s promise for each opportunity AND working to elevate the relationship and your level of access/contact over time.

WIDE

For starters, “wide” means not being single-threaded into an account — no matter how high or significant that single contact might be. Yes, having multiple points of contact is one version of wider. Another is cross-selling and/or up-selling. Think of McDonald’s’ famous, “would you like fries with that?” and Amazon’s, “Frequently bought together” or “Related items.”

The first would be “covering the bases” with respect to the various buying influences. As we’ve discussed, while there’s only 1 EB, there can be, and generally are, MANY User and Technical buying influences. Identifying and interacting with some representative number of these multiple influences would be one version of going wide.

The second version would be becoming a subject matter expert (SME). This could be expertise in their industry, trends in human resources, innovations in comp and incentive management, etc. Buyers seek out SMEs (2nd) much earlier than sellers (9th) when making decisions about something unfamiliar (an area in which the SME has expertise), risky (to me personally or my company), or complex.

It’s worth noting that these two versions of going wide are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are more likely mutually complementary. The more expert you become, the more buyers will want to meet with you. The more buyers you meet, discuss, test ideas, the more expert you become.

DEEP

Going “deep” in an account means thinking beyond the initial order you’ve received.

Yes, “deep” can mean expanding/extending an SSO. But in this context, you may want to be thinking more in terms of the buying company’s org chart. Are there other business units, divisions, locations that you could be introduced into? Are there adjacent units that would either be similar to and/or familiar with the work your company has done with the client?

If so, assuming things are going well with your existing contact, it would not be out of line to ask for an introduction or, at a minimum, a sketched-out org chart to provide you a roadmap and some coaching (even if they don’t want to personally introduce/endorse you).

The guiding principle is always to leverage strength. Strengths could be:

  • an identical need in a completely different part of the business.
  • a different need or set of players in the same business.
  • strong personal relationships your current contact would be willing to introduce you to.

Conclusion

As a big believer in the “Wisdom of Crowds,” I’m interested in both what you think about these definitions and whether you agree with these and/or how you would improve them.

What other strengths can you identify for going “deeper” in an account? Have you ever sustained an unexpected loss from not going high-wide-and-deep?

Finally, the 3 dimensions (high, wide, and deep) are also complementary and give a full measure just as length, width, and height would in describing a shape. It’s not High-Wide-OR-Deep; in this case, it definitely can be AND.

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