Account Planning for B2B Sales Professionals: What You Need to Know

     

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“Fortune favors the prepared.”


In the world of B2B sales, this couldn’t be more true.

We believe that companies live and die by the quality of their process, strategy, team, and technology. That’s why account planning is the true key to winning and growing more of your most profitable accounts. You need to know how to engage in effective and efficient account planning in order to consistently come out on top.

Account planning is the strategic management of your top performing accounts to win more deals.

First, what is account planning? We define it as the strategic management of your top performing accounts to win more deals. When done right, account planning could help you close more big accounts and see more revenue as a result.

Why is account planning important?

Let’s look at the evidence:

  • Account planning alone could help increase your win rates by 35 percent or more.* This means that you could be losing more than a third of your business simply because you haven’t done the necessary work up front.
  • Proper account planning could lead to a 67 percent increase in the number of your sales executives who make quota.* If you just align the right strategy, technology, people, and processes at the beginning, it creates a momentum that can lift all boats in your sales team.
  • Up to 50 percent of sales organizations don’t have a formal account planning process.* Regardless of whether you’re in the same boat as your competition or not, a decisive investment in account planning right now could vault you ahead of your competitors—or help you catch up to the 50 percent that have a head start.

It’s clear that account planning can make a big difference to bottom-line results. However, you need to know some key best practices in order to make the most of what account planning can offer.

What Does Effective Account Planning Look Like?

An investment in solid account planning gives returns all quarter long. Here are a few elements to remember when building an account planning process that can catapult you to success.

  1. Have clear goals.
    We all know that clear goals are one of the main ingredients of success, but this can be hard to apply when it comes to account planning. However, creating goals that are crystal-clear to everyone ensures that you can confront issues as they come up, and keeps your team on track to realize your winning potential.
  1. Plan with your best accounts in mind.
    You might think it makes sense to formulate strategy based on your average account, but this is a big mistake. It just sets you up for mediocrity. If you want to grow your sales, you need to aim high: Set your strategy based on your most profitable accounts, and build your plans around winning more like them.
  1. Focus on key stakeholders.
    If organizations made decisions the way a single person does, your account planning process would be much easier. In reality, each client contains multiple key stakeholders. You need to build a plan that includes their interests, personas, and ideas of success, or you’ll miss the target.

Plans change.

  1. Plan to adjust the plan.
    Many people think of planning as something you do once and then never worry about it again (until next year). But plans change. That’s why a key part of effective account planning is the ability to shift the plan when the buyer’s needs change. Pro tip: Map your plans to the buyer’s journey in the first place, so you can make tweaks more easily later on.
  1. Do it as a team.
    Buy-in is the first and last ingredient of an effective account planning process. To ensure that the whole company is aligned on account planning strategy, be sure to consistently seek and incorporate feedback not only from your team, but from your client as well. This is the best way to create a plan that actually makes it to implementation.

Bring in the Technology

An informed approach to account planning and strategy can set you apart from the competition, but often times it’s not enough. That’s why it’s important to find ways to make the process work more efficiently and effectively. This is where sales enablement tools can help.

Spreadsheets are an old standby, but they come with common problems. Taking data from one place and putting it in another can be time-consuming. That’s not to mention the version control problems that can flare up in teams working with different versions of a dataset.

Thankfully, collaborative account planning software has been built with these problems in mind. Prolifiq CRUSH, our new account planning app native on Salesforce, was created to enhance accountability and visibility in the progress of account plans—all without spreadsheets, slide decks, or endless email streams. CRUSH enhances sales productivity and effectiveness, setting teams up for account planning success.

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

Next time your team is getting ready for account planning, be sure to come prepared. With the right mix of strategy, technology, people, and process, you can build an account planning process that sets you up to win more accounts, increase revenue, and come out on top.

*Citation: CSO Insights, 2014 Sales Management Optimization Study. Results vary and are based on each company's strategy, technology, people and process. Prolifiq doesn't guarantee results

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