Is Salesperson Devoting Too Much Time to a Few Customers?

A client asks, "One of my sales representatives spends an inordinate amount of time with their two biggest accounts. They will often personally deliver small items, a task typically handled by the U.S. Mail. These accounts are valuable to our company and I'm not aware of any major problems, but I worry that the sales representative is there too much and might be neglecting their other customers. How should I handle this situation?"

Just being aware of this is good management and you are right to be concerned. The salesperson you mention is acting like a "mother hen" with these accounts, and usually this does not yield high sales productivity.

Do Your Homework

Resist the urge to jump in and insist that they stop this behavior. Do a little detective work by reviewing their call reports for the last six months to look for trends. How many calls are they making per day / per week / per month? Which accounts are not being called on? Which products / services do they sell most often? Which do they rarely sell? How many of their accounts are up for the year and how many are down?

Schedule a Review of Accounts

Next, plan a one-on-one account review session with the salesperson. While a sales forecast review examines those accounts that have a high probability of buying in the next business quarter, a review of accounts examines each and every account in detail to determine if their potential is being maximized. In this particular case I would recommend starting with your salesperson's smallest accounts first and working your way toward the larger accounts, thereby focusing on the salesperson's entire territory rather than on the superstar accounts. Do not let the salesperson gloss over the accounts at the bottom of the list. Ask probing questions such as "Why is this account visited / called only twice per year?" "Why does this account buy only one of our products?" Set a goal to discuss each account for a minimum length of time. Depending on the number of accounts, this type of meeting can be lengthy, so the discussion can be spread out over several meetings.

Meet and Greet

If you haven't done so in a while, accompany the salesperson on some sales calls. Make sure the calls include the two accounts in question. Observe the salesperson as they interact with their customers. Where do you think they are strong? Where might they need some help? Discuss the calls afterwards. Solicit their opinion on how they went.

Discuss the Accounts in Question

After you have invested the time to find out how things really stand in your salesperson's territory, you can ask the hard questions about the accounts in question. Your first-hand knowledge of the situation will increase the chances that the sales representative will be more forthcoming. Share your observations and concerns with them. It may be that they didn't realize they were spending a disproportionate amount of time with those accounts, or they might have thought that you wanted them to be this devoted. Perhaps they made a mistake with the account and were overcompensating by being there all the time. Maybe they are concerned about competition in the marketplace. Possibly they are coasting on the commission from these two accounts. It could be that they are suffering from boredom or burn-out.

Whatever the issue or issues turn out to be, assume that they probably had the best of intentions. Work with them to uncover the problems, and then develop potential solutions. Keep working with them regularly to ensure that all of their customers are being called on and that all of their accounts are achieving their full potential.