I’m somewhat amazed, but pleasantly so, about the sudden discovery of “Account Based Selling,” or as the great folks at TOPO refer to it, Account Based Everything. It’s important for reasons beyond the “account based” focus, but at the same time, I have to chuckle at the apparent novelty of the concept.

My very first sales job, I was part of a team that sold to a single account–that was in the late 70’s. There were 5 of us on the team, I was the most Junior. We were responsible for driving over $30M a year in the account (And that was when $1M was big money.)

Everything we did was focused on the account. Our offices were actually located at the Ops Center for the bank. We were about 100 feet from the operations, systems, and development managers. We had to run up the stairs to see the CIO. Every day, I ate in the employee cafeteria.

Our jobs were to know more about the account than the customers themselves; what their goals and strategies were, what was happening in their markets and competition, where there were problems and opportunities. Our knowledge was so deep because we had so many relationships in the account, that managers and key executives sought us out to understand what was happening.

We had to do this, we had nowhere else to go but our account, we had to make our numbers from our work with that account.

My teammates handled the major data centers and check processing. As the very junior salesperson, my job was prospecting within the account. I’d wander every floor of New York Plaza, Chase Plaza, all the remote operations and the international subsidiaries.

Everything we talked about was tailored to them and their business. Whether it was funds transfer, foreign exchange, retail/consumer products/POS, trust, corporate banking, factoring, investments. I didn’t sell payroll systems or solutions. I didn’t sell a payroll system for bankers. I helped Sandy Piazza develop a payroll/lockbox solution they could sell to their customers. Likewise, Mike LaVecchia and I talked about factoring operations productivity. Dick Shriver and I worked on developing the long-term IT and information management strategy to support the bank growth strategies.

Prospecting in the bank wasn’t a matter of papering them with data sheets and information, building our mailing lists. It was very focused, going after each department, understanding what they did, exploring opportunities to help them achieve their goals. We kept scorecards and loads of organization charts, mapping who we knew, who we needed to know, where our competition was, how we could grow our relationship with the account.

Our success was driven by another factor, we were important to the customers in the account, we were important to the top executives in the account. They weren’t naive, they knew we were trying to sell them more systems and grow them as a customer. But they knew we brought them ideas specific to them, help them solve problems, help them grow their business.

Ironically, we so identified with the account, we started looking at the other account teams as our rivals, we wanted to beat them and their accounts.

All of this starting to sound familiar with the Account Based Everything movement?

It really isn’t new, we’ve worked with 1000’s of major account manager, global account managers, corporate account managers, strategic account managers. Each of these teams is trying to achieve the same thing. Each team has the mentality that it’s their God-given right to 100% share of account, but they have to work and earn it with their customers.

Somehow, though, in the past 5 or so years, many sales and marketing teams seem to have drifted away from this. Instead of building deep relationships and growing them within the accounts, they are driven by quantity and volume. It’s hard to be focused on a customer needs when you are driven by quantity and volume. You can’t connect with Sandy, Mike, Dick and others in the same way, with the same impact.

We see this in the numbers. Customers aren’t responding, they are shutting down. They care about what they care about, not generic–even industry focused messages. They demand and deserve personalization–to their company, to their function, to their jobs, to them as individuals.

As a consequence, Account Based Everything has been “invented.”

It’s about time we really focus on the customer–and that’s what Account Based Everything is about, we’ve drifted so far from this.

But the principles of Account Based Everything aren’t just about accounts. It’s about customer focus, personalization, relevance.

Our accounts are a great place to start. They already do business with us, expanding our relationships, growing our footprint by finding every person in the account that we can help is just common sense. After all, we have to have the mentality that it’s our God-given right to 100% share of account.

But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to our accounts, the same principles apply to our territories. Yes, too many organizations have forgotten the concept of territory management. It’s our God-given right to 100% share of territory as well. And we do this, by knowing which customers in our territory are in our sweet spot, and going after them in the very same way we go after accounts.

After all, conceptually there is little difference between and account and a territory.