Whitespace – the missing sales metric that can mean success or failure

5 minute read

No matter how great your sales team is, it’s always easier and more cost effective to upsell existing customers.

What if we told you that measuring the whitespace potential in accounts can mean life or death for many B2B companies? It’s often a big blind spot for companies of all sizes — middle market up to the Fortune 500.

Think of the metrics commonly tracked by businesses — from bookings, to billings, to their backlog, conversion rates, deal sizes, renewals, NPS, and more. What’s often missing? Tracking pipeline potential from the existing customer base.

Increased account penetration boosts revenue

Even as account planning, account-based selling, cross-selling and upselling are buzzwords in professional services and other B2B industries, there is often not a great handle on how much opportunity exists in current accounts, or how the company is performing on delivering against that upside.

Overlook this at your peril. New logos are increasingly difficult to land as many companies pull back from trying new products or services in an effort to survive a tougher business environment.

The most overlooked sales channel

No matter how great sales is and how many new prospects they bring in the door, it’s always easier and more cost effective to upsell existing customers. Your customers already know you, see value in what you offer, and you’re likely to better understand and predict what they’ll need and want as they grow. Still, most companies undervalue this critical sales channel, often to the point where they haven’t even set up key performance indicators (KPIs) around it. And many company leaders know it’s a missing element. According to Gartner, only 28% of sales leaders say they’re meeting their cross-selling and upselling growth targets. In Altify’s 2019 revenue optimization benchmark, only 46% of companies reported being effective at maximizing opportunity in existing accounts. This is a massive, missed opportunity.

So, leaders know they are leaving money on the table. The reason is often an inconsistent approach to account planning, which includes gathering the relevant customer data to see the opportunity.

This unseen opportunity is called “the whitespace” — your products and services that your current customers aren’t using, but could. This is where there’s room to unlock lots of potential. It may seem obvious—but too often, it just isn’t done.

While sophisticated B2B sales leaders and organizations have been doing account planning for years, most can’t clearly report KPIs around this whitespace and the potential pipeline from current accounts. The information they need is locked in silos: individual spreadsheets, individuals’ brains, and regional QBR roll-ups. It’s hidden in marketing campaigns or upsell and cross-sell motions that don’t clearly track interactions at the sales region, product portfolio, or line of business level. Most sales reviews and account summaries lack a standard way to capture potential pipeline or whitespace opportunity, much less capturing customer needs and pain points. Giving visibility to and measuring whitespace opportunities is the first step to developing an account strategy to unlock more revenue in your key customer accounts.

Imagine being able to discern how much potential for upsell you have across all accounts, and then set up metrics and goals to win that business. For example, imagine as the sales leader of multi-product company, being able to log into Salesforce to quickly see not only active pipeline and existing business under contract, but also a summary view of new potential pipeline for a large multi-national account with multiple business lines and multiple geographies. From the summary, view you can rapidly dig into the details to see a whitespace analysis that summarizes all the different business lines and all the open whitespace where you can concentrate sales and marketing efforts to unlock new potential. This whitespace view and potential pipeline should be in your CRM, not trapped in Excel.

It’s easier than it sounds. Many key account teams and enterprise sales teams do a lot of this account planning work today, but it’s trapped in PPT, Word, Excel, and not captured in a system that shows everyone the real potential. Somehow, you need to gather all the disparate elements scattered across the organization and then visualize the whitespace.

Now is the time to go deep on current accounts

Covid-19 has changed the game for sales teams, resetting the basics of B2B selling and putting a renewed emphasis on existing account pipeline as an important KPI.

Here’s the good news: No matter how you perform in upselling, this exercise won’t be in vain. In a business environment like this, it is critical that sales and customer service teams have a deep understanding of their existing customers and their problems. Gathering that information up and looking at it will pay off regardless. After all, the best defense is a good offense. Account planning can and should be viewed as a way to defend the existing customer base as the real opportunity is to use account planning as a proactive strategy to invest in existing customers and relationships. Deep insight, a focus on customers, and the ability to visualize the whitespace are critical elements to unlock new potential and growth.

By breaking this information out of silos so it can be collected and shared, sales can form a thesis around each existing customer, furthering their sales with a better understanding of customer goals and how the company can help. That’s how to visualize whitespace and use it to shape upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Those sales leaders and teams who can track, monitor, and clearly articulate potential pipeline as a KPI are on the right track to deliver revenue growth in any sales environment.

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