Dwight D. Eisenhower
US Military Commander and President of the United States
Mention the phrase "strategic account planning" and most reps roll their eyes in dread of the annual event forced on them at the beginning of every new sales year. They grudgingly do the minimum necessary research and planning to fill out the templates and quickly drop their completed plans into the bottom desk drawer to gather dust until next year.
Very few sales people see the correlation between their quota attainment and their ability to develop meaningful and actionable account plans. But, according to the 2011 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Study there is a correlation and it is significant.
The survey asked over 2,000 companies about their sales reps ability to develop and execute account plans. Companies that indicated that their account planning needed improvement had an average of 55%, of their sales team meeting quota. Companies that indicated that their sales reps exceeded their expectation on account planning saw on average 67% of their sales team meeting quota, a whopping 22% improvement in reps making plan!
Now that the value of a good account plan is established, what should the plan look like and what key components should be included?
Strategic account planning is a process designed to assist sales professionals, their management and internal support teams. The goal is to help clarify the process of selling to critical accounts and complex new sales opportunities. Buyer decisions on high dollar products and services involve multiple customer stakeholders, usually spanning geographies and functions. The sales plan is an important tool in defining sales strategy, establishing a roadmap and identifying actions critical for success.
The account plan should be designed to develop a strategic client relationship with your most important accounts and to win targeted new logos. The planning process usually involves several internal groups and in existing relationships may even include the client as part of the planning process.
Depending on the account size and the depth of the information needed the time to complete an initial plan ranges from between 5-15 hours per account profile. There are services available such as Crush Reports that can provide a significant amount of account data at reasonable cost if you have some available budget. This approach allows your sales person to spend the bulk of their time focused on strategy, not data gathering.
Once account planning is complete it should be reviewed on a regularly scheduled basis as part of the formal sales planning process. The review frequency is usually quarterly but can be done more frequently as the need arises. Effective account planning will increase rep quota attainment; invest in their future by starting a process now.
3FORWARD has a ready to use Account Plan template available on our Sales Leader Resources page. Give it a try and let us know if it helps!