Do you do one and done account planning? That is, do you complete an account plan at year-end or the beginning of the year, present it to senior management, and then never look at it again? I’ll bet many of you do, and, I’ll bet you believe it is a big waste of time but a necessary evil at your company. Any time I have seen one and done year-end account planning take place, it ends up being more of an opportunity pipeline review for the upcoming year rather than a living roadmap to get to know your client
and build the pipeline.
But there are a few questions you can ask yourself to make the account planning process more strategic in nature and ensure that the plan is not a one and done, but one that evolves over time – like your client.
Do you have a documented, collaborative plan to:
- Expand and broaden the number and quality of relationships over time? Who on your team will be responsible for reaching out to whom and by when? How will you utilize current relationships to deepen others? In addition to who reports to whom, do you know who influences whom in critical decisions?
- Understand the client’s business processes and how they look at solving their problems? Do you have a clear understanding of which products and services they are using and when contracts are due, if purchased by another vendor?
- Identify and validate what the client’s goals, strategies and initiatives are to best understand what they are trying to accomplish and where the priorities are? Have you shared this with your internal team and then validated it with your client at different levels?
- Comprehend where you may have some whitespace based on your knowledge of what is installed across the client’s organization? Is there an unmet need you can potentially fulfill?
- Internally, take in all of this information, and plan – say 3 years out – how you want to find out this information, keep tabs on it, share it, and use it to sell products and services aligned with the client’s goals? Does the plan go beyond just revenues to better focus on a long range plan to help build those relationships or better understand the client’s priorities?
Your client will evolve over time. Changes within their organizations, changes in who influences whom, changes in their goals and priorities, and new and different alliance partners are just a few of the types of shifts we see in large accounts. But if your year-end account plan is one and done, then how do you account for these changes to allow regular collaboration both internally and with the client to ensure you are in lockstep with them? You don’t.
And, other sales teams that have a regular cadence to updating their account plans to clearly account for the most current org/influencer chart, clearly understand what has been purchased by your firm or your competitors or built in-house, and changes in goals, strategies and initiatives, to name a few, will have a much better view into the account than you do and possibly can use this as a differentiator when selling against you.
Janice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more than 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results.
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