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By Chris Strandin September 2, 2015

Account Planning Best Practices

account planningAccount Plans are detailed blueprints of the relevant information needed to grow an individual account. Each company should have their own set of details required for their Account Plans, but many aspects are universal.  Good Account Plans allow for reps and managers to create strategies to improve close ratios and win more business. A thorough Account Plan provides many useful details about an account, which will help you build a winning strategy. The best sales managers will coach reps on what aspects of the account to pay special attention to, as well as how to leverage that information to reach their goals. 

Best Practices for Account Plans include:

  1. Enforce an Account Plan for all big deals
  2. Have Account Plan Reviews on a regular basis between rep and manager
  3. Integrate the Account Plan with Salesforce.com or another CRM solution
  4. Save Account Plans for future use in that account
  5. Account Plans should include at least White Space Analysis, Relationships, Timing, and Competition

White Space Analysis

One of the most important things to know about a customer is their current and potential value. Do a white-space analysis to discover what products they have, what they want, and what they will never buy. Customers who have met, or are near their potential value should still be nurtured in a maintenance role, while customers that still need more of the solutions you offer should be targeted for cross-selling and up-selling.

Prioritize accounts based on their potential value to the company, and assign the sales reps to those accounts accordingly. The goal is always winning more business, so spend your time on the accounts where there is the most business to win.

Relationships

In every account, there are gate-keepers, influencers, and ultimately a decision maker. It is important to map who those individuals are and what the current relationship with them is. I find that Linkedin is a great way to add relevant information for individuals you have not spent much time with yet. If a strong relationship is in place, the customer is much more likely to reach out when they need your help. Customers may express their business pains, or they may tell you when they are unhappy and about to abandon what you've already sold them. The better your relationship with the customer, the more honest they will be about their needs, and the better chance you have of selling and maintaining a foothold in their business.

Timing

Take note of the timing and structure of buying process within an organization. Budget may come available at certain points during the year, and you want to be sure not to miss them. There may be other timing related issues you need to be in tune with such as regulatory changes, seasonal fluctuations, or competitive changes. If you know when the prospect will make their purchasing decisions, make sure you start introducing what you have to offer well ahead of time. This allows budget to come available right as the decision needs to be made.

Competition

A detailed list of competitors when creating an Account Plan can help you win more business. Our sales consulting firm preaches that salespeople should know the Competitive Landmines that competitors use to undermine your deals, and your sales team should be laying Competitive Landmines against the competition. Competitive landmines are the questions or facts that sales and marketing position your prospect to ask the competition that will make your company look better. When you know who the competition is, you can leverage these landmines to change the conversations your prospect is having, even when you're not in the room. Understanding your position in relation to the competition allows you to highlight in detail why your company is a better solution, not just a good solution.

Keeping track of the competitors also allows your company to defend its accounts. If the sales team knows an account is going to a trade show with a competitors, then they should be at the same trade-show with the appropriate messaging to win the business. If you don't know whom you're up against, or where the game is being played, you will lose.

Conclusion

Take time to sit down with your sales reps and do in-depth account reviews with them. Make sure that they understand and have mapped the account details in the Account Plan. Every detail is important when building a winning strategy for a deal, so be sure to stress the importance of obtaining this information and recording it. Account Plans keep reps honest and focused on the important details of accounts, while providing great coaching opportunities for managers.

Topics: Sales Strategy

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