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News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

August 21, 2014

The True Purpose of Account Planning

By Selling Power Editors

Which of the goals stated below is the primary purpose of the account-planning process?

  • To protect and grow revenue and customer loyalty in your account.
  • To coordinate internally among your sales team.
  • To communication progress to your internal senior management and request resources.

According to insight shared by Ryan Kubacki and Gerhard Gschwandtner in a recent Webinar,Coaching Account Planning: The Five Questions You Need to Ask,” all of the above matter. Sales teams conduct account planning because they want to impact customer satisfaction and revenue. But consider how important being on the same page is today, when companies might have hundreds of product specialists and far-flung global teams. When teams are uncoordinated, they lose opportunities to gain intelligence and insight, and senior management needs to understand what’s happening in large accounts, not only because that impacts forecasts but also because those managers need to be driving sales.

A good account-planning process takes all these objectives into consideration. So what is the key purpose when it comes to protecting and growing accounts? Actually, there are two. The first is very traditional: to service the demands of the existing customer. In order to do that, sales must understand customer needs and mount sales campaigns to address that buying criteria.

The other purpose, which is increasingly important given the way buyers interact with companies today, is creating new demand. It is incumbent upon sales to think about solutions, ideas, and projects the client has not yet thought of or discovered. The function of sales today is to create that key insight. When you can do both, service demand and create new demand, you will have then set the stage to garner executive support. That represents a powerful account-planning dynamic.

Here are five questions you need to ask to achieve success in the account-planning realm:

1) What is your revenue goal in the account?

Seems like a simple question, but it’s often ill defined. If you don’t know, you won’t be able to define success, and the team will drift.

2) Do you truly understand your customer’s priorities? 

Sales managers need to know who the key executives are and their biggest concerns, goals, and priorities. Do you know the top three to seven things your customer organization is counting on so it can grow?

3) What can you do to advance the customer’s priorities?

This ultimately comes back to the question of what you plan to sell to that customer. Moreover, ask how your offering ties in to the executive priorities listed in the second question.

4) With whom should you align in order to succeed?

Typically, you’ll have existing relationships, but there are also relationships you’ll want to cultivate but don’t yet have. It’s important to organize yourself around the customer’s priorities and map out the executives, both at the enterprise and departmental levels, who might be responsible for those priorities.

5) What are you counting on to succeed?

In strategic accounts, your goals should be tied to strategy, and you should constantly be pursuing no more than seven goals at a time. These are not simple goals, e.g., giving a certain number of presentations. They are challenging goals and, if executed correctly, will advance your position. For example, a strategic goal would be to “get the pilot proof-of-concept established in the retail division so we can get the influence of Joe, who influences Kathy.”

Remember, key account planning is not a one-time event. The points above should all be practiced routinely as part of a process. Proper coaching combined with the right software will help sales teams follow these five steps to start consistently achieving winning results with account planning.

To learn more about how to successfully execute account planning, listen to the Webinar recording “Coaching Account Planning: The Five Questions You Need to Ask.”

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Today's guest post is by Selling Power Editors.