What do you call your Account Planning process? Do you know its value to your organization?
Whether you call it strategic account management, account management, key account management, strategic account planning, major accounts, or global accounts, you know that to plan and strategize about how to maximize revenue from your customers is a worthwhile endeavor.
In fact based on a recent survey we conducted by Altify (n=329) we know that 95% of companies recognize that account planning is important. (Because we wrote the book on ‘Account Planning in Salesforce‘, we call it account planning.) We have been extolling the virtues for many years and we are really encouraged by the value we have seen for our customers and indeed for our customers’ customers.
Most people know that acquiring business from an existing customer is six times more profitable than winning business at a new account. What is less understood, and should perhaps resonate more strongly with the sales people or account managers out there, is that the win rate in an existing account is usually up to 7 times greater. We all like to win, so this merits some thought.
What do we mean by Account Planning?
Many different terms are used to describe different aspects of sales effectiveness and sales methodology. What is interesting are the labels that people use to describe the task of working with their customers in this way.
We use the term to describe both account planning and account management; planning is well and good, but unless you continue to work the plan, (this is the account management part) then the plan has little value. Most of our customers, like Salesforce, use Altify’s Account Management solutions to set up plans and then collaborate as an account team on the execution of the plan. When people use the term Strategic Account Management, it reflects the fact that this is a strategic initiative, which of course it is. Account Planning enables you to:
Build long-term business relationships in a complex marketplace that enable you to create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value.
By its nature this is strategic, so Strategic Account Management, or Strategic Account Planning is a good name. However, as we all know, strategy without execution is hallucination, so it is important that however you go about setting the strategy, it is equally important that you have a living executable plan.
Key Account Management is another commonly used term, but not one that I am particularly fond of. Key account management implies that this approach only applies to your largest accounts. (The same can be said for Major Accounts, or Key Account Planning.)
What happens if you are not managing large accounts but instead have a portfolio or territory of medium size accounts for which you are responsible?
Account Planning is still valuable. Our experience would suggest that the principles of segmentation, prioritization, white-space analysis etc., are equally applicable for a portfolio/territory of medium sized accounts. Where this is your focus, we prefer to use the term Portfolio Account Planning, or Territory Planning.
Global Account Management, or Global Account Planning has some specific connotations, and in addition to the core principles, there are additional elements that you might need to consider…
In a true global account you will typically need to cater for Matrix Organization Management (MOM). With MOM, account managers in one territory might report to the local country manager, but they might also be responsible to the global account manager for the performance of the division of the global account in the local region. Commissions, team selling and internal rules as they pertain to global accounts are often a complex set of factors to be considered.
In the past, account planning was done on paper or in PowerPoint, Word, or Excel, and it was difficult to adopt a common account planning approach across the entire sales organization.
Account planning is one of those initiatives where you can never say ‘one size fits all’, and paper, PowerPoint, Word or Excel do not naturally have the ability to ‘flex’ or respond intelligently to the different needs of the different parts of the sales organization.
Using our own Account Management cloud software, you can apply one account plan template for account management teams who manage your largest customers, and have a similar but different account plan template for portfolio plans or territory plans.
Account planning for existing customers is not only more profitable (6 times more profitable!), but is also 7 times more likely to lead to a winning sale.
No matter what name you use, in today’s world of smarter buyers, compressed market cycles and rising stakeholder expectations, account planning is one of the more sure-fire ways to get return on your investment in sales efforts. If you’re not seriously engaged in account planning for and with your existing customers, then you have to ask yourself who else might be filling that vacuum.