Consultants: grow existing accounts with this 4-step plan


It’s a well-worn sales trope – it’s significantly more profitable to win new projects from existing accounts than it is to generate new business. According to Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.

But not all consultants have a strategy in place to land new business from their existing customers.

In this blog, we set out a simple 4-step plan to assess your accounts, identify which ones could provide more work and how to win them.


If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Again, it’s perhaps a cliché but cliches generally exist because they are true! In a recent webinar survey, the Consultancy Growth Network found that only 14% of consultants in the session had a consistent and up-to-date plan for growing key accounts. Another 40% had a plan in place but didn’t feel it was high quality or up to date enough to be effective.

So how do you create an effective plan that will help you grow revenue with existing accounts?


Identify which accounts you want to target for growth

Before we dive into our plan template, it’s worth pointing out that you need to identify which accounts present the best opportunities. A word of caution here. You may think that this is the biggest client on your books. However, we have found that the best opportunities are often where you can have the most impact, due to the scope for development.

You also have to be quite ruthless. You may feel that 75% of your accounts are “key accounts”. But to lean on another business tenet (the Pareto Principle), we recommend identifying no more than 20% of your accounts as “key accounts.”

This isn’t necessarily a case of identifying those that already spend a lot on your services. Yes, you obviously want to earmark the clients that will have the budget to further invest with you, however, it’s more important to identify those that:

  1. Have the greatest growth prospects
  2. It will enable you to have the greatest impact and help the client realise their potential


Keep it simple

Consultants are often guilty of analysis paralysis and over-complication. Account planning is no exception, with some consultants producing 100-page plans on how they intend to grow business with specific accounts, without actually implementing them.

Alan Morton, joint managing director of SBR, says: “In our experience, lots of people overcomplicate account planning, which is why it doesn’t get done.” This is why we recommend keeping it simple with our 4-step ‘plan on a page’.

With this plan, you can establish exactly what you want to achieve with the client (both in terms of helping them achieve business objectives and increasing your revenue with them) and how you deliver it. While you won’t want to share every detail of your plan, the most effective account management strategies are those that are created and shared with the client.


Download the ‘Plan on a Page’ PDF


Step 1: Establish the current situation

The first step is to assess your current standing with the client. This can be done with a simple scoring approach. Getting as many members of your team to contribute is important, as junior members of your team may have information from their counterparts that you don’t.

Out of 4 (with 1 being unknown and 4 being absolute certainty) honestly assess:

  • Client knowledge – how well do you understand the client’s business issues and existing programmes and projects that are taking place?
  • Financials – how clear are you on the current share of wallet and revenue under contract?
  • Relationships – do you have access to ALL the key stakeholders?
  • Propositions – can you identify services you offer that the client isn’t using but would benefit them?
  • Competition – Do you know who and what you are competing against and how you can compete?
  • Service delivery – Are you delivering to the client’s expectations and understand the measurable value you are adding?

So why don’t you take that first step now? With an account in mind, quickly fill out our Account Management Diagnostic to see how deep an understanding of your accounts you have.


Step 2: What does that mean?

Now you need to establish the risks, strengths, and opportunities of the current situation. Obviously, the areas where you have scored lowest are the areas that need the greatest attention. For example, if you only have a relationship with one senior stakeholder, this presents the risk of a single point of failure.

What happens if they change roles or retire? How much influence do you have over other decision-makers?

Likewise, if you know your client is speaking to a competitor about a particular service or project, is this something you can offer yourself? If you already offer this service and have an existing relationship with the account, it’s obviously a strength and an opportunity. Again, this is is where junior members of your team may have better insight than you.


Step 3: Where do we want to be?

Once you have identified the risks, strengths, and opportunities you need to establish your objectives. This is the process of identifying the actions needed to mitigate the risks and leverage the strengths and opportunities.

Let’s take the example of stakeholders. Imagine a scenario where you have been working with a client for several years. The contract is up for renewal in seven months. You then hear the head of the department you are working with (who brought you in and is your biggest advocate) is retiring in six months.

This means you need to deepen your relationship with the other stakeholders that could decide your fate.


Step 4: How will we get there

Let’s continue with the example of building bridges with additional stakeholders.

According to the Corporate Executive Board, there are an average of 6.8 stakeholders in a B2B decision-making unit (if you ever meet 0.8 of a stakeholder, please send us a picture!).

But all joking aside, not only do you need to identify who is in the DMU, but you also need to identify how much influence they have (can they overrule others?) and what they feel about your organisation and proposition.

Again, this is where insight from junior members of the team is invaluable. Their relationship with their counterpart’s client-side may mean they may have a clearer idea of other factors that come into play. For example, someone who (based on their job title) you think may not have much influence may be a rising star in the department, whose opinion is valued.

You may find that someone you worked with on a previous project has moved companies and could be a strong advocate. The more insight you gain (whether that’s from LinkedIn, on-the-ground info, or from other sources) the stronger position you will be in. We recommend ranking stakeholders in a simple traffic light matrix as illustrated below.


A simplified approach

Every client and account is unique and we have given some broad examples here. We advise consultants to adapt each strategy to the individual client. At SBR we have a range of tools and frameworks that can help you grow your consultancy business by taking a tailored approach to account management.

We also recommend downloading our White Paper: Why the old approach to winning work is no longer effective for consultancies. In this paper, we examine the dominant trends that will continue to impact the industry and how this affects consultancy’s approach to business and client development.


To talk to us more about account development, then please get in touch by emailing or call us on +44 (0) 207 653 3740.

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