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Account Profiling - How To Research Your Target Accounts

Updated: Jul 3


Account Profiling

Account Profiling is probably the very first step that any sales or marketing team takes in order to target a new account. It is therefore one of the most important activities that can be performed when investing in a new account patch or a new list of target accounts.


Viewpoint Analysis acts as a 'Technology Matchmaker' - and one-half of what we do is to help sales teams to understand their customers better. That begins with account profiling or account research.


What is Account Profiling?


Account profiling refers to the process of gathering and analyzing information about a specific account or prospective customer to gain a deeper understanding of their needs, preferences, and business environment. It involves researching and documenting relevant details about the account, such as its organizational structure, key decision-makers, industry, challenges, and goals. The objective of account profiling is to create a comprehensive profile that can be used to develop effective sales and marketing strategies, tailor communications, and build stronger relationships with the account.


Who uses the account profile?


A good account profile will be used by multiple people in the sales team. Invariably it is requested by marketing or the sales lead for a key account. When completed, we see it is used by areas like:

  • Sales

  • Marketing

  • Customer Success

  • Business Development

  • Pre-sales

  • Account-Based Marketing teams


What are you looking to uncover?


Account profiling typically involves collecting both internal and external information. Internal information can include data from previous interactions with the account, sales records, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. External information is obtained through research, which may involve exploring online sources, news articles, industry publications, social media profiles, and financial reports.


We are looking for account profiling to uncover areas like:

  • The company's strategy - what's important to them and how are they going to go about achieving success.

  • Who are the key contacts that we should be marketing and communicating with?

  • What language do they use? For example, do they refer to the business by an acronym or do they refer to employees with a specific term?

  • Financial results - how are they performing? What are they aiming to achieve?

  • News - what's the latest information about the business and can we use this for our communications and sales planning?

  • Partners - who do they work with? Is our company connected to them in some way?

  • Suppliers - do any of our competitors currently work with them?

  • IT Strategy - can we understand what they are investing in? What technology do they currently use? Do they have an IT plan that is shared externally or referred to by key personnel or partners?

Obviously, it will depend on what your business sells as to what information is important to uncover from an account profiling exercise.


Where can you find information to build the account profile?


Account or company information can be found in a variety of sources. This is good and bad. Running comprehensive account research can take time - for most accounts of a good size, it should take 2 or 3 days to conduct. This isn't what the sales team wants to hear - but it is an accurate reflection of the time it takes to really get the information that will transform sales and marketing communications.


The information can be found:


  1. Company Websites: Start by exploring the account's official website. It can provide valuable insights into their products, services, mission statement, company values, leadership team, and contact information.

  2. Social Media Platforms: Check the account's presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social media profiles can offer a glimpse into their company culture, recent activities, engagement with customers, and thought leadership content.

  3. Online News and Press Releases: Search for news articles, press releases, and industry publications that mention the account. This can provide information on recent company developments, partnerships, acquisitions, product launches, and any notable achievements or challenges.

  4. Industry Reports and Market Research: Look for industry reports, market research studies, and whitepapers relevant to the account's industry. These resources often contain valuable data on industry trends, market size, growth opportunities, and challenges.

  5. Financial Reports and Public Filings: Companies often publish annual reports, financial statements, and public filings that can give you an overview of their financial performance, revenue growth, profitability, and business strategies. These documents can usually be found on the account's website or through regulatory databases.

  6. Business Directories: Utilize business directories such as Dun & Bradstreet, Hoovers, or industry-specific directories to gather basic company information, contact details, and sometimes even financial data.

  7. Company Presentations and Webinars: Look for presentations, webinars, or conference materials where the account's representatives have spoken or shared insights. A good place to find these is on the investor page of the website. These materials can offer insights into their strategies, challenges, and priorities.

  8. Existing Customer Interactions: If you have had previous interactions with the account or they are an existing customer, review your internal records, CRM systems, and notes from sales or support teams. These records can provide valuable information about the account's preferences, pain points, and history with your company.


Key Contacts


Perhaps as important as the company research, is the key contacts within the account. In almost every case, the sales team will be unhappy with the number of contacts in the CRM system and how many key people are being contacted by marketing. At the same time, the marketing team will likely be unhappy that they are not able to get the right messaging to the right people - for the exact same reason.


Finding the right contacts - so that the sales and marketing teams can do the best job they can - is crucial. This does take time - but it is such a good use of time, if we don't have the contacts, how are we going to sell our product or service? We might know everything about the company - but it's in the messaging that we really see the wins.


What information should be contained in the account profile?


A typical account profile should contain the following headings:


Purpose of the report

Outlining the key reason for the account profile and what you are looking to achieve.


Key facts

A short area that should cover areas like turnover, website address, employee numbers, CEO name, revenues etc.


Who they are?

An overview of the company that should be easy to understand for anyone reading the document and should be a good one-page summary.


What they do?

What does the company do? What is their strategy, slogans, key service descriptors.


How are they organized?

How is the company structured? What are the divisions and departments? What does the high-level org chart look like?


Their strategy

What is their strategy? What are they looking to achieve? How are they tracking against the key metrics. What terminology do they use to describe their strategy?


Their IT strategy

What is their IT strategy? Can you find information about current vendors and success stories? What are they planning to do? Who are the key movers and shakers?


Key executives

Who are the key people of influence? Where do our sponsors and contacts report? How does the board function?


Key contacts

Who are the contacts that we know and need to know? Where do they sit in the structure? Where are the individuals working and how do they likely contribute to the strategy?


Other information

What else have we uncovered? Is there any latest news? Any independent commentary? Anything that is important to know but doesn't fit in the structure?


Terminology

What terminology do they use? Key words, phrases and acronyms are so important for personalizing content.


Summary

What is the summary of our findings? What are our recommendations?


What should happen with a completed account profile?


The completed account profile decays as time goes by. As such, it is important to make use of the information quickly and to then do two specific things:


  1. Use the content in the sales account plan or similar document.

  2. Regularly update the information so that it is a working document.


Example of a completed account profile


The finished account profile should be comprehensive and give a 360 degree view of the company and the areas that the person who requested it needs to see.


A good example is this study looking at the Bank of America account (please request a copy at the link). In this example, the hypothetical requirement is related to data technology.


Who should conduct account profiling?


Different businesses will have different viewpoints on who should be conducting the account research and profiling. It tends to depend on the size, shape, and resources that the business has at its disposal.


As mentioned earlier, account profiling can take a minimum of two days to do properly - and this is therefore a challenge for many businesses. They don't want to have the sales team spending time doing this and therefore it makes sense to do one of two things.


1) The first option is to delegate the work to a more junior staff member. This means that higher-value employees are not spending time researching the customer and can invest time in other areas. The challenge with this approach is that detailed account research is a skilled activity and very few people have that capability to uncover the most important research and make sense of it.


2) The second and most common option is to bring in an external resource. Viewpoint Analysis is a good example of this, we conduct account research for various global businesses (e.g. Informatica, Nexthink, Orange Business Services etc). This research can be for ABM (Account-Based Marketing), DBM (Deal Based Marketing), and general Account Profiling work.


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Want to know more about Account Profiling and the services that Viewpoint Analysis offers for Sales teams? Check out our Sales Team Services.


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