Account penetration and development - Sales Management

The supplier’s objectives with an account will depend on whether he or she is selling products for re-distribution (retail) or for use in industrial establishments.Effective key account penetration is essential if the account is to be managed to maximize your sales and profits from each key account. Account penetration revolves around two aspects of knowledge:

  • in-depth knowledge about the buyer and the buying team
  • in-depth knowledge about the account interns of its goals and objectives, how it operates, and how your products fit in to its operations.

It takes time to build up knowledge in both these areas. Knowledge is added to rather as building blocks in Figure. The key account manager should develop the edge over competition by ensuring he or she works to develop knowledge at the level offline detail on each key account, and then to use that in planning his or her sales and marketing strategies and proposals. Checklists at the end of this chapter expand on the range of key account information useful for developing account penetration strategies.

Agreeing a modus operandi for account management

It is important when managing a key account to have a framework of standard systems and procedures – a modus operandi. This provides meaning and focus to meetings. Issues to be agreed by discussion with the account will include:

  • the frequency of calling on the account head office buyer (and other related functions, such as the merchandising department)
  • the annual account development planning process
    • annual sales performance targets
    • terms of trade
    • promotion plans
  • branch outlet calling frequencies and activities
  • meeting agendas, agreed and prepared in advance
  • exchanging information
    • account and product performance
    • market intelligence
  • recording details of meetings
  • meeting contact reports, or other written confirmation of meeting discussion and content.


A formalized structure to account management meetings reduces the risk of time wasting meetings. Every meeting should have a selling purpose: the account manager should avoid falling into the trap of ‘courtesy meetings’,just calling on the account to pass the time of day with casual conversation – the common excuse for this is maintaining relationships,but it quickly slides into a negative form of relationship where the buyer learns that he or she can have a meeting and avoid discussing business issues or making commitments.

It is useful with most accounts to schedule ahead quarterly review meetings, specifically:

  • monitor detailed performance within the account against annual sales objectives by brand and account development plans,and compare with overall market performance
  • consider any corrective action promotion activity to counter shortfalls against sales targets
  • update on the key account’s strategy in its markets and with its outlets
  • update on the key account’s overall performance in the market place against its objectives and competitors
  • update plans for the balance of the planning year, and fine-tune plans in detail for the coming quarter
  • discuss product developments (new products, pack changes, advertising campaigns, etc.)
  • exchange relevant market intelligence.

Preparation for meaningful key account meetings is time consuming, but essential if the role is to be conducted in a serious business development fashion, and not just be treated as any routine call on a smaller customer.

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