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Account Planning: Building for Long-Term Revenue

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” -Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe knew the value of not launching head-first into something without a considered plan of attack. How are sales teams meant to grow revenue in key accounts with a well thought out account planning strategy?

According to McKinsey, “The five-year growth rate of total returns to shareholders for digital leaders is almost double that of all other firms,” when they undertake a digitally focused account planning strategy. A higher growth rate should pique large enterprises’ interest when putting together their own long-term account planning strategy. But what do we mean when we say account planning?

Account planning is all about identifying the people, problems, and potential that will unlock new opportunities. Optimizing revenue requires in-depth knowledge of the executives, key players, and decision-makers to build the right relationships with your customers while focusing on how to solve their problems. It also requires the ability to visualize the whitespace in accounts. This whitespace is where you can thrive. Good account planning is the fastest way to develop pipeline and a plan to execute.

However, account planning is one of the most underused strategies in the sales arsenal. It is seen to take time, energy, and focus away from other opportunities. Savvy sales organizations can take advantage of this lack of enthusiasm, differentiate themselves, and use account planning to find the revenue others miss. If you want to achieve an outsized impact on your business, there are five critical factors to consider for successful account planning:

  1. Calibration
  2. Cadence
  3. Coaching
  4. Communication
  5. KPIs

1. Calibration

Successful account planning is all about getting the right calibration – you need the right-sized account plan, the right plan type, and the correct functionality and activities for your revenue team. After all, account planning isn’t just about increasing sales. It’s about bringing insight to the customer to present solutions that benefit them, thereby increasing sales.

To be successful, it’s crucial that you thoughtfully consider your options and select the right tools to give your revenue team the best chance of success in the account.

2. Cadence

To stay on top of your lead pipeline and manage your sales, you will need to have a scheduled cadence in place. Schedule time to test and improve your portfolio, account plan, and review opportunities. Publish your operational rhythm so that everyone is on the same page. Account Planning is undertaken once a year by many organizations, and this is a mistake. Throwing together a spreadsheet once a year is not how to grow revenue in existing customers long term. The goal is to find the whitespace in the existing account by developing a working knowledge of your accounts’ people and problems. Things can change at any moment in the field. You can’t wait until next quarter or next year to adapt plans to reflect changing realities. It would help if you planned regular reviews with your regional leaders and their teams, which should be prepared to share (and ask for help where they need it) during quarterly business reviews and executive briefings.

3. Coaching

In addition to learning about the products or services they are selling, sales leaders need to model the right behavior. There are several ways to provide education and resources for your revenue team:

  • A coaching program can educate sellers on the account planning system’s benefits, so the whole revenue team is on the same page.
  • A mentorship program will allow experienced team members to share their knowledge with new sellers.
  • A center of excellence provides a one-stop-shop for tools and resources to encourage continuous learning and improvement.

Remember, sales is a team sport. It takes a complete revenue team to execute an account plan, and there may still be others beyond the team who can offer advice and insights to help you achieve your objectives.

4. Communication

If you want to get everyone on board with account planning, you need to celebrate, socialize, and communicate your successes. This communication can take the form of a published report or dashboard, monthly email communication to the revenue team, or sharing successes at the quarterly sales meeting. Turning those stories of whitespace into revenue will be a crucial driver of success both for the seller and the account.

5. Key Performance Indicators

As with any system, if you don’t know how to measure success, there is no way to achieve it. Start by defining a few critical KPIs, such as the number of deals, average deal size, win rate, and sales cycle. And when the data comes in, publish and communicate your results with Salesforce reports, Upland Altify dashboards, and other third-party analytics tools. Tracking additional metrics as whitespace turned into revenue will turn non-believers of account planning into advocates faster than you can say P.O.

If you keep these five critical factors in mind, you will set yourself up for success well into the future. Companies that focus on Account Planning will achieve excellent sales outcomes in uncertain business climates.

Account planning is a sure-fire way to increase revenue growth because it allows your whole team to impact every part of the customer experience. You’re helping them solve some of their more intractable problems. Problems that may have held them back and stopped them from being competitive. You are propelling them forward, improving entire industries with your solutions, and doing all of that with a strategic approach that maximizes efficiency and reduces needless expenditure. If used correctly, account planning can be responsible for far more growth than first meets the eye.

We started this blog with a U.S. president quote, and we will end it with one. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Check out our account manager page for more information.

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