Are Your Key Accounts Vulnerable? Are You Sure?

By Richard Chappell, Vivek Chandramohan

Facing economic headwinds and a looming global recession, customers’ spending priorities are changing. The challenges presented by the pandemic and the resulting adjustments to working practices have thrown the traditional way salespeople sell into turmoil. The many benefits of virtual meetings have become widely accepted and as such have substantially reduced face-to-face time and the cozy comfort of interpersonal contact. The culmination of these changes has reduced barriers to entry for competitors in the marketplace and given competitors the potential for greater customer access.

Simply put, in the new market, strategic key accounts may be more vulnerable to competitive threats than before. Buyers now have more control and a wider variety of choice in price, options, and niche providers. Our data reveals that 80% of customers are in the Zone of Indifference (ZOI). However, this is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, understanding and appreciating that this is likely the case with most customers and taking decisive action can improve customers’ reliance and loyalty to your organization.

This article will briefly consider the ZOI, look at the possible vulnerabilities of an account, and provide three key approaches to ensure your sales organization’s success in these turbulent times.

Our data reveals that 80% of customers are in the Zone of Indifference. Are your key accounts vulnerable?


The Opposite of Satisfaction is Not Dissatisfaction

Salespeople believe that Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction are two ends of the same continuum. However, in reality customers experience them as two different things.

Most salespeople never ask for an expression of satisfaction. They assume that the customer is satisfied unless they hear differently. This is because of a misunderstanding of what entails satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Salespeople believe that Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction are the two ends of a single continuum. However, customers experience them as two separate things.

The Zone of Indifference model clearly differentiates a Low-High Satisfaction scale from a High-Low Dissatisfaction scale. Customers can be both low in Satisfaction and low in Dissatisfaction. This intersection of the two scales forms the key Zone of Indifference.

Zone of Indifference

Unfortunately, customers in the Zone of Indifference don’t complain. They may not automatically repurchase. Often, they don’t even contact you.

What are the implications of potentially 80% of your key accounts being in the ZOI What are you doing to protect them?


Regrettably, most salespeople assume that the customer is satisfied unless they hear differently. Unfortunately, by then it may be too late. With virtual access lowering the barrier to entry, more persuasive cost-cutting competitors could already be targeting your key accounts.

Whether your company has an operating structure for key account managers or has sales managers that appreciate that a hefty percentage of their revenue is being generated by a few key accounts, a salesperson’s goals are to move customers from Indifferent to Highly Satisfied and to protect and fortify those accounts.

Securing an Expression of Satisfaction
• Ensuring satisfaction is a cornerstone of the salesperson’s role in supporting their accounts.
• Salespeople ensure satisfaction by making sure everything goes right and by securing an expression of satisfaction.
By being bold and seeking out explicit expressions of satisfaction during the sales process, your salespeople develop strategic advantages.

Three Key Account Strategies

In sales, defense is the best offense.

The goal is to proactively and skillfully protect your strategic or key accounts. Once this is achieved, it is important to grow/expand, deliberately and purposefully transitioning and evolving through the organization. Appreciating that virtual access to potential customers has lowered barriers to entry and that most customers are likely in the ZOI, taking on a hunter mentality helps you source new logos and open a continuous channel for new accounts.

The following overview provides a glimpse into three effective account strategies skilled key account managers and service providers can use to address the vulnerabilities stemming from the fast-moving, chaotic change of the modern market that demands constant awareness, flexibility, speed, and surprise.

Key Account Strategies


Value Creation Strategies
Value creation strategies enable you to continually present high value discovery and solutions to organizational decision-makers. By maintaining a consistent flow of information and market insights, account managers establish an ongoing personal presence inside the organization.

How are you ensuring that there are system benefits and value for the customer every time they use your product or service? Is your product or service integral to the organization’s strategy or an extension of the way the customer’s own people solve problems and achieve goals and objectives?

Account Behavior Spectrum
Are you selling the way the customer wants to buy? We delineate a continuum of Transactional to Relationship Buying Behaviors on an Account Behavior Spectrum. If customers want to keep their buying relationship transactional, are you enabling them with quality, delivery, and price? If they want to buy relationally, are you acting as a trusted advisor in solving problems and advancing the customer’s goals?


Strategic Business Calling
Are your account managers growing and expanding their accounts by skillfully and confidently gaining access to people and opportunities outside of their typical call points? Can your team prepare and conduct non-product-oriented business calls and mutually beneficial discovery meetings at strategic levels of the organization? Senior key account managers need the credibility and skills to discuss the customer’s business priorities and processes and create appropriate and aligned solutions.

Purpose of a Strategic Business Call
• Identify customer Critical Success Factors
• Understand the structure and dynamics of the industry from the customer’s point of view
• Understand the customer’s business processes

Critical Success Factors
Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are those areas of activity in which favorable results are absolutely necessary for an organization to achieve its goals. In order to really connect with an account and grow your presence, your account managers must skillfully uncover, comprehend, and link your offerings to the client’s CSFs. Can they and—more importantly—are they doing that? Success here solidifies the value the account manager brings to the relationship.

Source New Logos

Targeted Prospecting
Key accounts are significant to an organization’s sustainable, long-term growth and require a substantial investment of both time and resources. Finding and sourcing new key accounts must be done intentionally. The most effective method of finding them is through the use of suspect/prospect filter
tools that reveal two characteristics: whether the sales organization can help the customer and whether the customer is beneficial to the sales organization.

Access Messages
Accessing new prospects requires the skillful development of an access message that directly addresses a significant customer issue—a message targeting the right person for entry into an account, highlighting the reasons that resonate with timing and priority, and including a promise to help that
reflects your ability to link the prospect’s issues with your value proposition.

All Key Accounts are Unique

All key accounts are unique, and there is no one single approach to key account management that will be universally and equally effective. Every account manager is a team leader aligning, orchestrating, and valueadding precious company resources on behalf of the customer. And every employee is part of the account team, available to support sales initiatives.

Turbulent waters can be excellent fishing grounds. Especially as the economy continues to squeeze, customers are reevaluating their respective businesses, and it is possible that opportunities will present themselves. If you think there is room for improvement in your key account teams, contact us to see what we can do for you. We have the experience, creativity, and flexibility to bridge any gaps and ensure your account managers are competent, confident, and highly effective.

To learn more on this topic, download our POV paper at

Richard Chappell

“Richard Chappell, Managing Director of Wilson Learning EMEA, is responsible for overall business strategy and operations within Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He leads an internal team and manages the Authorized Distributor network throughout the region.

Richard has over 20 years of experience in leading customer-centric sales teams within the learning and development space. Prior to Wilson Learning, Richard managed the EMEA region of a global technical training company, including responsibility for their partner businesses. “

Vivek Chandramohan

Vivek Chandramohan, Managing Director of Wilson Learning APAC, is responsible for overall strategy and operations across the APAC region, overseeing both direct channels and a distributor network. He regularly collaborates with business leaders to provide guidance on sales, consulting, and leadership development. In his 15 years with Wilson Learning, Vivek has held several key roles, including Managing Director for India, Vice President for APAC, program facilitator, and consultant.

With nearly 25 years of experience in sales management, operations, and leadership development, Vivek has worked extensively across various industries, including IT, ITES, telecom, manufacturing, financial services, retail channel management & distribution, and life sciences. He frequently speaks at conferences and summits, sharing insights on industry trends and leadership strategies.