CRM and the Named Account Model – Square Peg, Round Hole?

David Needle

Updated · Feb 12, 2011

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are typically designed with a new prospect lifecycle that starts with Leads (someone who has said they want to know more, but is completely unqualified) and moves through the qualification and conversion process before the sales cycle really begins.

While there is frequent confusion about what is a Lead, a Contact, a Suspect, a Prospect and an Opportunity (I may write about this more in the future), in the CRM system there is a clear distinction between a Lead (which typically can't be attached to an Account) and a Contact (which must be attached to an Account). Leads are typically handled by marketing and lead cultivation/inside sales, and Contacts are handled by outside sales.

All that makes sense when you're using a lead-generation model of marketing and sales, typically with a set of geographic territories. Somebody does a download or registers for a webinar, then the marketing automation system takes the Lead through a series of targeted vertical campaigns. As the Lead learns more about your products and interacts more with your website, their score gets high enough that it's worth it for inside sales to have a qualification conversation with them. From these Leads spring new Accounts and Opportunities — the classic early-stage and SMB marketing and sales cycle.

At some point (typically after the sales force has grown), a Named Account model is set up. While the name might be “strategic accounts” or “global accounts,” the idea is that your most senior reps are focused on developing and growing the Fortune 500 customer base. Because these are big, multidivisional corporations, they need special attention from a dedicated rep who gets to know their businesses, their organizational structure, and the politics. The Named Account model often grows as an overlay on the geographic territories because those large accounts operate in several states, countries and vertical industries. For example, the owner of the Mitsubishi account may have to deal with ship-builders in Japan, car factories in the U.S., and bankers in London.

Just as the Named Account model typically causes some confusion on top of the standard geographic and industry territory definitions, it doesn't fit all that easily on top of a CRM system designed for those territories. For example, the goal of a regular sales rep is to get as many leads as he can so he can break open new accounts. In contract, the Named Account Manager (NAM) has a pre-defined list of accounts to grow, and his job is to develop the depth of penetration and repeat business in those accounts. The regular sales rep will kill for a few extra Leads, while the NAM will often view them as uninteresting or even irrelevant (if he's been doing his job, he already knows who the key people are). The regular sales rep may be measured by the number of phone calls made, emails sent and sales cycles started. The NAM is more likely measured by the number of golf games and the aggregate size of the opportunities closed.

David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book “ Secrets of Success” and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix has more than 50 clients in North America, Europe, Israel and India. David has more than 25 years experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or higher.

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  • David Needle
    David Needle

    David Needle is an experienced technology reporter, based in Silicon Valley. He covers big data, mobile, customer experience, social media, and other topics. He was previously the news editor for Enterprise Apps Today, TabTimes editor, and West Coast bureau chief of

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