Account planning is one of the most strategic sales tools you can use to win, grow, and retain the business of key accounts. It’s a roadmap designed to help you think about how you will partner with your clients over the next few years.
Although there are several automated planning tools that you can use, it is NOT a fill in the blank template. In fact, it is a working document in which you make sense of your client’s business and how you can support their business goals. It will help you define, get feedback on, and execute an account planning strategy—one that you will review and edit throughout the year.
Strategic account planning: why it’s important
A well-executed sales account plan is necessary to keep you focused on your key customers by helping you to understand where they are today and where they are headed— so that you can identify how you can help them get there. After all, your role as an account manager is to add value by solving their problems, not push your product.
”IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOUR CLIENT IS GOING, HOW CAN THEY TRUST YOU TO HELP THEM GET THERE?Kerri CorturilloRBD Consultants Managing Partner
Adopt an explorer mindset that will allow you to prepare an effective and detailed account analysis designed to help you add value, differentiate yourself from the competition, and position yourself as a trusted partner to your clients.
- Research and update account information and key industry trends. What’s your client’s business goals, objectives and greatest need(s)? What impact do external factors like social, regulatory, and political issues have on their business?
- Assess your relationships with key client stakeholders. Who’s the decision-maker and what’s their decision-making process?
- Quantify the value you deliver to your client. What solutions do they use currently, if any, and how do they measure ROI? Are they using all available features? Do they have any inefficient workflows your solution can improve?
- Rank your position for the account against your competition. How does your solution compare?
- Perform a SWOT analysis. What does your company do well? What resources do you have? What advantages/disadvantages might you have as compared to the competition?
- Identify potential short- and long-term growth opportunities. What are your client’s priorities and issues in the near term? Does the client have any unmet needs? Is there an opportunity to innovate, expand, upsell and cross-sell?
To get a firm handle on where your client is today and where they are going, gathering relevant and important information from trusted data sources is a mission-critical step in the key account planning process and may include:
- Asking the client
- Reviewing the company website, usage metrics and annual reports
- Conducting online searches (Google news/research, media press releases, competitive websites, government websites)
- Consulting available competitive intelligence resources
- Networking with industry groups, associations & consulting firms
- Following company employees on Linked in
A best-practice approach for managing your account plan is to schedule a full review on an annual basis with your internal team and collaborate on points of discovery. Then, follow it up with monthly updates to reflect any client changes or major shifts in industry conditions to ensure your action steps are on track.
Remember, a strategic account plan is your client roadmap to where you can potentially add value—use it to navigate key relationships, stay on track and achieve better results for you, your business, and your clients.
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