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How to Escape the Pitfalls of the Annual Account Plan

How to Escape the Pitfalls of the Annual Account Plan - Janice Mars, SalesLatitude

How to Escape the Pitfalls of the Annual Account Plan - Janice Mars, SalesLatitudeIt’s that time of year again when you have to do your annual account plan. I can hear the groans now: “Ugh. Why? God only knows, but my management insists. What a waste of my time. I never see value.” When I hear these types of statements from sales people, I know they just don’t get it. They think developing an account plan is a waste of time, that it takes too long. But is that true?

Evolving vs. Annual Account Plan

Account planning takes longer when you do it just once a year. And, then put it in your drawer after presenting it to management. You do all the research. You put together a PowerPoint showing what you know about your account/territory and your action plan, then discuss any limitations and ask for resources. If you do the “one and done” annual account plan and use it as a compliance exercise, then yes, it most likely will seem irrelevant and a waste of your time I mean, here you are researching and preparing your obligatory presentation, when the time could have been better spent in front of customers and prospects. Right?

Wrong. Account planning or territory planning should evolve over time. As new information is learned and gathered, you may decide to stay the course or change direction. New executives, new priorities, new business outcomes, new and upcoming markets are all good reasons your account plan may have to be adjusted. If you only do planning once a year, you will most likely be wasting your time on deals where priorities may have changed. You’ll end up working deals that new executives may have put on hold, but it will take a while for you to get the message – if you get it at all.

If account/territory planning is done correctly evolving over time, then it should help you build a solid multi-year pipeline and ensure you establish the right executive relationships. Proactive account planning is one of the best ways to ensure your pipeline is aligned with your customer’s or prospect’s priority business outcomes which could change at any time.

Align with Customer Priorities – Instead of Your Own

Top performers know that the one-and-done annual account plan is useless. Instead, they know that account planning is actually a really good use of time when it’s an integral part of how they proactively fill in the gaps of their knowledge about their customer. They are insightful enough to know that their planning cannot be just about their next quota year. They actually have to understand their account better than their customer does, ensuring their pipeline is in lock-step with their customers.

Keep Up with Constant Change

Since senior executives and leaders typically think medium to long term, aligning your pipeline with your customer’s most critical business issues – at the time they most need your products and services to solve them – is crucial. With executives moving from one position or company to another and priorities changing constantly, top-performing sales people know they have to be “in the know” about any changes before or very close to when it occurs. They need to realign their pipeline to match any changes in priorities/needs. And, they must have enough in their pipeline to be able to let one go should priorities, needs or budgets dramatically shift.

Compliant or Proactive?

Whereas those who are merely compliant with the annual account plan may not see value in this type of proactive account planning, top performers do. They also know for a fact that it does NOT take long to do. What it does do is makes them consistently relevant to their customers, helps build their credibility, and aligns their pipeline with customer priorities. It also ensures the process maximizes their time and their internal resources time, and helps them make or exceed quota on a regular basis. Which one are you?

Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter

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