Strategic account planning takes typical account planning a step further by not only outlining an account's goals—and how an organization can help them achieve these goals—but also evaluating which accounts are essential to your company's growth. Not all customers are created equal - some have a greater impact on your sales than others. While it’s tempting to try to please all your customers, account planning enables sales teams to land and maintain complex deals. It enables teams to focus on the best opportunities.
Although it’s essential to consider the impact each customer has on your company's revenue, that's not the only thing that matters when it comes to strategic account planning. According to a 2014 trends report, the top criteria used in strategic accounts included past and current revenue, potential revenue, and potential business growth. However, the most effective criteria were the strategic fit of the two companies and current level of trust and openness in customer relationships.
These considerations transform regular account planning into strategic account planning. While revenue is a good place to start, it’s essential to review your key accounts to evaluate potential, changes in the landscape, and alignment. Effective strategic account planning keeps track of the issues that impact the current and future revenue potential of key accounts. This helps you assess where you should be investing your efforts.
How do I get started with strategic account planning?
Your customers come first, so it’s important to understand the entire context of your accounts. Compile everything you know about an account, including both factual and strategic information. To get started, companies can analyze the following:
- Existing business
- Customer satisfaction and problems
- Financial performance
- How you help your customers
- The products and services you have implemented
- Plans moving forward
From here, work to define all necessary actions to develop your existing relationships. Map out your current relationship network—including the kind of relationships, quality of relationships, and how each person acts within a buyer role—identify any relationship gaps, and align your goals around your customer’s goals.
Your account strategy not only defines your focus, it also helps uncover the unknown. Outline business development initiatives and actions planned around accounts or segments, including goals, expectations, and pain points. By outlining any gaps, you can create a shared account strategy that begins with the customer’s goals and ends with how you can help them to achieve these goals—all while ensuring that your strategy is viable.
Without buy-in, it’s impossible to get a plan off the ground. Align executives, product teams, marketing teams, and extended sales teams with goals and objectives to prioritize activities and tasks. Each account must have a plan that’s based on an established timeline and tracks revenue against target. This not only helps gain buy-in, it illustrates the influence and impact of each stakeholder.
Once you establish goals and gain buy-in, outline the actions needed to open opportunities and communicate progress. Break down overarching and hierarchical account strategies in terms of tactics, tasks, and action items. This not only keeps your team aligned—it helps avoid any confusion and keeps track of the execution of your plan. Continually assessing risks and threats to opening and closing target accounts means your team is on track.
Planning for Measurement and Optimization
Strategic account planning is not something you do once a year. It’s a continuous, iterative process that evolves over time. Leverage the best tools and analytics to measure performance, not only in terms of planning and execution, but also to track trends that result from revenue and customer value. This helps teams understand what’s working and what’s not to ensure they’re getting the most from their plans.
How will strategic account planning help me reach my sales goals?
Account planning is valuable in the modern sales industry. Yet traditional approaches in technology didn’t optimize that value. Traditionally, the account planning process was manual—supported by disjointed user interfaces, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, and email—resulting in wasted time for reps.
We say it’s time to liberate account planning from disjointed processes and tools. Strategic account planning empowers sales reps to sell more with less administration by creating living, strategic plans that are created and executed by cross-functional teams on one shared platform, connected to a CRM.
Through collaborative tools and technology, sales organizations can transform strategic account performance. The best software is designed to overcome the challenges of modern sales teams. Enablement software unlocks the value in CRM by providing an end-to-end platform that streamlines and simplifies go-to-market sales processes, accelerates and automates efforts, and increases revenue.