Strategic Account Management & 5 Reasons Why Your Salespeople Fail At It

If your organization is like most others, you are leaving money on the table in the form of lost opportunities to grow current accounts. Whether these opportunities are missing internal referrals, missing external referrals, or growth of wallet share, ignoring strategic account management is likely the most expensive sales problem you face.

Likely Reasons Your Salespeople Aren't Growing Current Accounts


Head trash is characterized as negative thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and self-talk we subject ourselves to. Some of the most common self-limiting beliefs salespeople have that impact their ability to grow or manage accounts are:

  • “I’ve already got a fair share of business and don’t want to be greedy.”
  • “If they were going to refer me new opportunities, they would have done it already.”
  • “I can’t ask for more because they’re probably not happy with their current contract.”

If any one of these three has found a home in your peoples’ belief system, they are unlikely to even engage in strategic account management, let alone excel at it. But what if these beliefs were replaced with the opposite? (In reality, the opposite is likely true of each of these.)


It’s not only possible but likely that your people don’t have the skill sets necessary to be a great account manager. Only 7% of top reps have the skill sets necessary to be considered a competent account manager. And if your sales force is average? That number drops to 2%. Many of your people, in their current state, simply CAN’T farm.

Paradoxically, many of the skill sets that make a salesperson lethal when seeking and closing new business are harmful when applied to managing the existing account. For instance, a nagging need for approval is a deadly weakness when seeking and closing new business. But once that prospect has paid their first invoice, now they’re a prospect no more. They’re a client. And now, almost magically, we should care if they approve of us and the job we’re doing.

If you find yourself in this boat, you have three choices:

  1. Decide to not improve.
  2. Get new people.
  3. Train the ones you have.

Chances are, you’ll prefer the latter of the three.


There is a reason why many salespeople have the belief that asking for referrals (internal or external) or a larger wallet share feels awkward and pushy.

In a way, it sort of is.

But the fix is pretty simple: just get permission. Have you ever cashed in a favor from someone who “owed you one?” Or do you have a family member whom you are in a recurring cycle of reciprocating favors with? Why is asking these people for favors so much easier than your prospects? It’s simple - you have permission. And they might even owe you.


When you have permission, or when someone otherwise “owes” you, there is a tremendous difference in how they interpret the interaction.

When you’ve gained permission to ask for referrals during your post-sell step (the step directly after you’ve agreed to do business together), and they’ve agreed to give referrals, now giving you referrals is a fulfillment of a commitment they made previously. Everyone wishes to remain consistent with their word and fulfill their commitments.


Chances are, your people know some things about seeking and closing new clients. But they may not know the first thing about growing accounts. It’s not uncommon for an organization’s sole strategy related to growing accounts to be fulfilling orders as they come in. There typically are no proactive components of generating further opportunity or business.

Take a behavior as (seemingly) pedestrian as asking for referrals - where do you start? What do you say? What do you do with the willing prospect who is never able to come through? It’s not as easy as it would appear.

There are essentially five ways to grow revenue from current clients:

  1. Grow organically
  2. Sell to your client’s client
  3. Get introduced to the “family tree”
  4. Sell to a company alumnus
  5. Engage in a partnership or alliance

Each is worth building into your sales behavior cookbook.


If your people have a problem generating new business or maintaining and growing existing business, ask yourself if sales leadership has prioritized this strategy. Articulating a strategy is one thing, but does your sales infrastructure support it? Are all of the metrics related to strategic account management tracked as key performance indicators (KPIs)? Have you created an environment of accountability? Are you rewarding your reps for the behavior, financially or otherwise?

The best thing about competent and successful sales leaders is that they’re not afraid to look in the mirror when things aren’t going quite as they should.

So when it comes to growing business through strategic account management, what role do you play?

Want to train your team to grow sales by expanding business with your existing accounts? Contact Lushin today and see how our management consulting, leadership training, and strategic account management programs can grow your bottom line.>

Rob Lime

Connect with Rob Lime

For 25 years, Lushin has guided business leaders toward intentional, predictable growth.

Subscribe to get our new blogs delivered right to your inbox