One of my early observations of sales methodology was that it was very hard for sales professionals to execute on their Account Plan. There was lots of valuable strategy to use, but very little support on the practical execution. (That was why we developed Dealmaker). Developing a plan has limited benefit unless you have the requisite tools and action plan to help you follow through. In this post, I give a short summary of an account planning approach and detail how you might think about your action plan.
In my book Account Planning in Salesforce, I set out three basic themes or phases for your account plan, and if you are developing your plan for next year, you should keep these themes in mind.
Research for Insight: Account Planning is strategic business planning applied on an individual customer basis. Research, as you know, is not limited to the customer. It must also encompass all of the Three Cs: Customer, Competitor and Company. If you do your homework on the Account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity.
Integrate for Velocity: There are four primary sources of input to your Account Plan that you needed to integrate to achieve maximum velocity.
- Existing CRM data in Salesforce (or other CRM).
- Knowledge of the Account Team.
- Information shared by the customer.
- Supplementary data from research sources such as Data.com.
Without a centralized way to manage the plan, velocity and effectiveness suffer. Integrating your team and the customer with the data in Salesforce and the pertinent data from supplementary data sources is the only way to provide a single sharable resource.
Focus for Impact: Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value from the beginning to the end of Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value as you prioritize the Plan Units in your Account Plan and target the opportunities on which to focus where you can uniquely and competitively deliver maximum value.
As you become master of your plan, you’re also on your way to becoming a leader in your own marketplace. You understand business goals and pressures, initiatives the customer might consider, and the obstacles they must overcome to be successful.
Winning account teams respond to these goals and pressures, initiatives and the obstacles and work collaboratively to discover or deliver:
- Information to create alignment between your actions and the customer’s business objectives.
- Insight to see where the new opportunities are within the account, and to track the actions taken to pursue those opportunities.
- Demonstration of professionalism through deep understanding of the customer’s needs.
- Justification to secure scarce resources from management.
- Co-ordination among the team in a goal-oriented fashion.
- An action plan.
This last piece, the action plan, comprises the directional signposts that point to the attainment of your goal. Experienced practitioners develop Objectives, Strategies and Actions that transform the plan into a sequence of actionable steps that you can be progressed.
It is best to think about objectives in three categories:
Revenue Objectives: Current opportunities that you are pursuing need a Revenue Objective. You should have one for each Plan Unit (Division or Account) that you have selected, focusing on the combined revenue from your current opportunities in that unit over the duration of the plan.
Business Development Objective: Every Plan Unit that has a Potential Opportunity needs a Business Development Objective that focuses on qualifying, in the short term, your future opportunities.
Account Objectives: In addition to Revenue and Business Development Objectives, you also might require broader objectives that apply either to the Plan Unit, or to all of the Plan Units that you have included in your plan. These objectives – that might include Marketing, Partnering, Relationship, etc. ensure that you utilize all of the resources available to you to effectively maximize your position.
Planning on its own can be valuable to help you to frame your thinking, but the execution of the plan is where you will derive the most benefit.