A while back, I wrote about migrating over from act to SalesForce.com. Here is another tip for new account managers that are accustom to managing contacts.

Before your IT guy starts to migrate your data from ACT into SalesForce.com, sit down and map out your major accounts. If you starting out with a bunch of contacts distributed along various companies, take out the company with the largest number of contacts, and start doing some discovery research on it.

Start with the company’s website. Find the parent company, subsidiaries, divisions and satellite offices. Find everything you possibly can on the company and its related divisions.

Then, draw out the relationship hierarchy. Identify which company is at the top of the hierarchy, the parent company. Then identify the child companies at the next level, using lines to draw out the relationship. Continue this tactic with rest of the companies obtained in your discovery process, identifying their position within the hierarchy.

After you have completed this hierarchy and you have all of the addresses and account contact numbers, you can begin to populate the companies with the corresponding contacts. You can even extract additional contacts from the website, if you haven’t already done so .

An additional resource you may try at this point is the Harris Selectory database. It will cost you some additional coin, but it can provide invaluable account information in addition to contact names, like corporate structure, number of employees, number of employees at any particular branch, annual revenue, industry type, SIC code, etc… All of this can be integrated quite nicely into the Salesforce.com database structure and giving you insight into additional opportunities.

If the account you are researching is public, you can also look at the annual report, which should be readily available from the company’s website. Another resource that you can use it the Investing section on Yahoo Finance. Merely type in the company you are researching and if it is a publicly traded company, it’s stock ticker will pop up. From there, you will be able to see a wealth of information, including how your company stacks up against its competition.

Performing this exercise will cause you to do a few things that you probably haven’t done before if you are accustomed to performing sales executive type activities:

  • You will find relationships that you previously overlooked. The head of that company that you’ve called on for the past 18 months may give you some leverage in breaking into one of the subsidiary companies previously overlooked. If you’ve been in contact with the head of a company and you discover that it’s a division of a much bigger organization, ask your contact who you should be contacting in the parent company.
  • You will start asking questions you previously overlooked. For example, if Bob, the head of a client company, decides to leave the company, you will be more inclined to ask, “Who is replacing Bob?” rather than, “Where is Bob going?”
  • You will start asking questions and crafting solutions geared around corporate needs rather than individual or departmental requirements.
  • You may start enlisting the aid of other sales reps or inside sales reps to help you penetrate and sell into the various companies while you orchestrate and manage the strategy of growing the account.

Some of this stuff may seem obvious, and it is. The challenge here is actually remembering to do it, like asking for a referral during the sales process. We all know that we are supposed to ask for at least one. Yet how many of us actually remember to ask?

The challenges of being an account manager are slightly different from those faced by a sales executive, sales rep, or an inside sales rep. Structuring your contact information to match your client accounts will make your accounts, and your life, just a little more simpler to manage.