National Account Selling



What is a national account?

 A prospect or customer with locations in several sales territories that when sold, will respond to a coordinated national strategy rather than strategies that focus on specific locations.  A national account with an international scope is referred to as a global account.

Major accounts are

Companies which you develop on the supply side as partnerships, alliances, joint ventures, or distribution agreements,or customers or end users of your products. 

Major account selling is about understanding who the decision makers are, identifyting those issues, processes, procedures, and pricing startegies which when delivered will gain the long term loyalty of the customer.  In short your their solutionist! 

Rarely are the decision maker’s actual needs are articulated in the RFP (Request for bid).  Being able to identify the REAL buying decision elements related to your product is the key to major account selling.  The better you are at determining who is the decision maker is then finding out what their primary motivations are for making the decision for your service or product the sooner you will begin to develop selling consistency and higher closing rates.  Fail to do that and you will constantly behind the sales eight ball.  Solutions get products and services bought. 

For example, purchasing managers respond to purchasing requests from the field they are not strategic they are tactical.  They need it so buy it.   In those cases field decision makers are the ones demanding the products or services.  However, products have a greater chance of being driven by local request than services.  Servicers can respond to “contracts” or to other issues which are NOT related to the direct service.  That is where the national account or major account sales person earns their keep.

What do they want? (this is driven by an apparent local need) You can easily be “straight armed” by the field personnel saying “I make the decision on what we buy on this job, plant, department, division, etc)  In most national account cases that could not be further from the truth.  They can say no but they can’t say yes!  They can request the company purchase the product but cannot dictate from whom.  They don’t set the terms, generally because they don’t have any say about when the bill is paid.  How it is paid, what type of discounts are preferential, in other words they just don’t control the process.

One of the best ways to determine if your dealing with a real decisionmaker  (when asked correctly) he or she will tell you what the process is for for making the decisions for your product.

A non decision maker says:  “Well you give me this information and I will give it to my boss who then decided what to do about it.  Or I don’t know what happens to it after I give it to my boss but he tells me what and when we can buy it.  Don’t waste you time…they can say no but not YES. 

The decision maker says:  I determine what new products were going to used by our company.  Then our executive committee which meets on the first thursday of the month is presented with our new products.  We must be able to present a compelling financial story to them for their approval of the product.  If they agree I will be able to tell you one Wed of that week what the results of that meeting were and we can discuss a schedule for delivery.  However, if there are additional unanswered questions by the members I will be required to answer them and present them to our committee the following week.  So which one of these sounds like a decision maker to you?  

3. “Major account” can be a relative term

In another sense, major account selling is a relative term. Its meaning all depends on who you are talking to:

Some clients consider a major account one who spends $20 to $100 million.

Another could be more than 10% of your total revenue.

Another could be more than 500k.

Every company needs to delinate what they consider a major account then a plan to sell to them. 

I’ve had some personal situation where we considered only companies and their operating subsidiaries with Moody’s Baa and credit ratings as national account.  

Some were delinated as having more than 1000 vehiles.

You can be as creative as you like but you need to have a plan and it needs to be defined.

How are you going to treat your franchise’s when you sell into their geographic area with a national account.  Will they be required to service the customer?  Will you handle it from home office? 

What makes them the same is they are comprised of the biggest and/or most important business you will have.  Generally, they required more “account tailoring” and therefore are managed by the company.  It is a major mistake to have reps, distributors, or others in your sale team sell to these accounts.  The should be handled directly by the company, and they are (or should be) strategically planned, sold, and managed.

May we help you with major account selling?

For several decades I was the top National Account VP for several companies and for many of those years I  managed a group of top professional National Account Sales Executive.   I can help you with any aspect of a major accounts/national accounts, strategy, or training for executives in your company.  Don’ t be hesitant to asked me for my recommendation for your National Account/Major account issue,  there is not cost or oblication.  

Value-added services

At its most valuable level, major account selling is more than selling in volume to customers. It is adding essential services beyond your basic product that galvanizes an account and makes them invulnerable to competition. There are two levels of value-added services:

• Services that add functionality or utility (i.e. extended service and support, customization, etc.)

• Services that add customer revenue or profitability (i.e. how the customer can use your products to sell more of their own products)

Major account selling delivers both, but adding to customer profitability is the key. Most technology companies can provide product price and performance. Competitive advantage is built by helping to deliver more business to the customer at greater profitability to them.


6. Persuasion and performance orientation

Major account selling is often equated with “relationship” selling, but relationships are not at the heart of the matter; persuasion and performance are. What does that mean? It is the persuasive promise and delivery of measured results that sells and persuades, rather than selling skills or personal relationships. The entire process of planning, selling, implementing, servicing, and satisfying “sells” the customer team. And success is measured by results based on performance benchmarks, not on nebulous promises of value, someday, somehow.

If the promise fails to materialize, persuasion and performance must change, or customers renege on agreements, and major account sales never go beyond initial implementation. “The proof is in the pudding” in major account selling. If you promise the world, you better deliver it.


7. Your strongest major account customer candidates

Strongest Candidates Weaker Candidates

Current customers Non-customers or new ones

Growth or change mode Stable or declining mode

Strong reputation as “winners” Unknown or negative reputations

Win/win Win/lose business relationships

Total commitment Partial or neutral commitment

Large financial payoff potential Moderate or weak financial payoff potential

Open, accessible, and cooperative Closed, inaccessible, uncooperative

Investment or value orientation Cost orientation

Business status strong Business status weak or mediocre


8. Three phases of account development

There are three separate and distinct phases in every major account sale and relationship as follows:

• Making the sale

• Fulfilling the promise of the sale

• Growing the customer

In other words, unlike old-school selling, which was mostly about getting front-end commitment, major account selling is an ongoing process that only begins when the contract gets signed. The business relationship is of utmost importance. The value of the business relationship grows out of grooming the process. Each phase unfolds over time. As promises are kept the business relationship grows. Adding revenues and profitability to each party when successful—doing neither when unsuccessful.


9. What customers want

Customers are looking for measurable results:

• Increased revenue generation,

• Reduced cost, or

• Increased productivity resulting in one or another of the above

Quantifying these benefits and working together to achieve them is the heart and soul of the major account relationship.


10. Major account selling or major account managing?

People always ask if major account selling is a selling position or a managing position. The answer is that it’s both. It’s a selling position in that it requires the services of a major accounts salesperson who opens doors and initiates new relationships with new people—or new relationships with familiar people (existing customers). The hallmark skills of major account selling are rapport building, persuasion, and the ability to get commitment.

On the other hand, it is a managing position because it is also about fulfilling the commitments of the relationship—keeping promises and making things work. These are the skills of a planner, thinker, and implementer who fulfills the role of the major accounts manager.

New Account Salespeople Major Accounts Managers

Spontaneous Planner

Impatient Patient

Actor Director

Persuasion oriented Detail oriented

Apolitical Political

Closing Accountable

Hunter Farmer

Killer Cooker

People Processes

Charismatic Effective

Right brain (intuitive) Left brain (logical)

Promises (conceptual) Results (actual)

Selling Managing

It’s a rare individual who covers the most important ground on both sides of the ledger. Which is why major account selling is…


11. A team operation

Teams dominate both the selling and buying sides of a major account sale and operate best in a cooperative or collaborative mode. The best major account candidates come from happy campers already in your customer base who know and trust you. New or untested customers generally don’t have a sufficient track record to extend the trust necessary to make major account relationships work at their best.