You know that you need to find the best account planning software for your team. But how do you do it?
Many sales leaders attempt to bring account planning into their organization and fail because they don’t have the right technology in place.
A technology that doesn’t integrate well into your processes and has poor adoption with your team is an issue, and it’s often too late once you’ve chosen the software to go back on it. Let us save you some headaches, time, and money. In this Guide this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the elements that make up a powerful account planning software – what it is, and isn’t. Ultimately, the best account planning software will fit directly in with your team and work where they work, helping them to get their best work done easily.
Why you need to choose the best account planning software for your team
Behind every elite sales team, there’s an elite tech stack. While it’s people who get the glory when a deal goes right, technology plays a fundamental role in making this happen. The human relationships, internally and with customers, allow you to break away from being “just another vendor.”
But to empower your team to do the hard and rewarding work of account planning, you must first give them the tools for the job. The magic of account planning technology comes from its ability to translate the big account planning principles into real, day-to-day activities that your revenue team can carry out.
Your team needs the best account planning software on the planet.
But not all software is created equal.
How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Beyond that, what role should tech play in your account planning organization? How can you maximize your new software’s adoption and impact?
Buckle your seatbelt. You’re about to find out.
Benefits of account planning software: the investment is worth it
When beginning their search for the best account planning software for their revenue team, sales leaders often have a vision for account planning that is unique to their organization. Their motivations, however, usually follow one of three trends:
- Reaching predictable revenue growth by increasing their pipeline and retention in key strategic accounts.
- Increasing win rates by identifying and qualifying the right deals, aligning with customers, and increasing sales velocity.
- Improving their forecast accuracy by building a consistent and repeatable sales process.
In other words, they need to bring the full power of account planning to life. They must feel certain about the outcomes of their strategic efforts. Then they need to scale those outcomes across their organization.
What does account planning technology do?
The best account planning software, in a word, makes account planning thrive. However, it should never be mistaken as a substitute for methodology or good selling. It’s a tool, not a strategy.
Without the principles in place to organize and orient your sales team and a commitment across the business to embrace a new way of working, even the best technology won’t spark meaningful change.
With that being said, what account planning technology can do is create the conditions in which account planning is able to thrive.
Implemented alongside the right approaches, technology is an essential prerequisite for fully realized account planning.
The best account planning software will:
- Keep sellers on track by bringing your organization’s best practices into their daily sales motions
- Encourage collaboration across teams by centralizing information and offering actionable guidance
- Foster more, better relationships by helping teams see who they know, who they should know, and what key members of the account want and need
- Drive more pipeline and higher-velocity sales by visualizing whitespace, insights, and deal progress
- Make sellers’ jobs easier and more efficient because it is simple to use and quick to adopt across the organization.
- Deliver reliable pipeline predictions for forecasting, and reduce sandbagging
How do you choose the best account planning software for your revenue team?
Choosing the right piece of technology can feel like entering a minefield. There are plenty of options, each one claiming its own superiority. But which account planning software is best for you?
The answer comes back, of course, to what you need the software to do. Account planning requires large-scale buy-in. It requires collaboration. It requires changing how you build relationships with your customers at every level. The software you choose should be built to make all these things possible.
But what does that look like in practice? To sort the duds from the winners, keep an eye out for seven critical features:
#1 Space for collaboration to bring teams together
Account planning is bigger than a single seller—and even bigger than the revenue team itself. If your tech keeps sales people in their silos, you’ll struggle to bring in the people they’ll need from across the organization who can share insights, work through blockers, and create plans to further nurture your relationship with customers.
Truly collaborative software is built to share information using your own common language. It should facilitate group planning sessions and allow everyone to get a clear view of where you stand with an account or a particular opportunity and review as a team to improve your approach.
#2 In-app coaching and guidance to keep people on track
Sales approaches can’t just be taught in a classroom. Even the best training won’t stick if teachings aren’t reinforced by consistent practice and accountability.
But you can’t ask sales managers to stand over their teams all day to make sure they’re doing as they’re told. That’s where your account planning software can step in and pick up the slack.
Technology can offer simple nudges to keep sellers on the right track and automatically alert them when things don’t look right. By prompting reps about what questions to ask, which steps to take, and how to know whether their relationships are healthy, account planning software can get ahead of potential problems and remind your sales team of the nuances of account planning best practices they may otherwise overlook.
#3 Visualization for better understanding
Numbers on a spreadsheet or notes in a slide deck are all well and good, but there’s no substitute for clearly seeing the state of people, problems, and potential that define an account through succinct and consolidated visualizations that simplify complicated information.
Know your people
Who do you know? How do they influence one another? How do they feel about you? These insights are crucial for account planning because they allow you to see how strong your relationships are within an account.
Relationship mapping gives sellers an immediate snapshot of how strong their position is with the people who matter, and where they may need to work harder to build trust and win support.
Who’s on your side? Who’s working against you? Who really pulls the strings? Seeing this information represented visually makes it more compelling and easier to share. A sparsely populated map can also raise alarm bells for a sales manager, allowing them to see at a glance that the team hasn’t connected with as many people as it needs to.
See their problems
Mapping insights helps keep the objective of advancing customer interests top-of-mind.
Visualizing the customer’s key goals, the pressures impacting these goals, and the initiatives that are currently in play to advance them allows anyone to get a bird’s-eye view of how well you’re aligning your selling with a customer’s business drivers. .
As Travis Hill of Upland Altify states in Not Just Another Vendor, “Once you have a technology that can present what you know visually, you can start seeing the gaps in your strategy.”
This kind of visualization can even help drive conversations with customers themselves. Sharing an insight map with a customer and simply asking, “Do we have this right?” can help start a productive conversation that gets you aligned and strengthens your partnership, and reassures them that you’re actively listening to what matters most to them.
Map your potential
Visualization is also valuable when it comes to uncovering whitespace within an account.
Where have your solutions already been deployed? Are there others that would help advance your customer’s goals? Or, perhaps, are there other teams or business units within your customer’s organization that might benefit from the same solutions?
Mapping coverage gaps is the perfect starting point for discussions about how you can grow within an existing account.
#4 Simplicity for easy and sustained adoption
Software is only powerful if it’s actually used. It’s crucial to make it easy for sales leaders and their supporting teams to hit the ground running. A piece of technology that requires learning an entirely new sales vocabulary or asks users to jump through hoops will have trouble catching on.
The right technology will make sellers’ jobs easier, not harder. It should simplify their organization, their insights, and their ability to collaborate, not feel like administrative busywork. When it checks these boxes, you’ll be able to scale quickly.
#5 Adaptability to fit your teams
A rigid technology might seem like the easiest bet, but one size will only fit some, not all. Your software should conform to whatever methodologies and best practices make sense for your organization or even for an individual team. Look for software that will:
- Allow you to configure your own KPIs and other measurements
- Integrate with the analytics tools you already have in place
- Be compatible with the sales methodology you use; Be right-sized for every go-to-market approach, from territory plans and big strategic global account plans to those for the mid-market and beyond.
#6 Salesforce-native to start with data
Tech catches on when it lives where your sellers do. Salesforce is the central hub of most sales teams, so it’s essential that your account planning software be there, too. Being built into Salesforce and 100% native allows your software to contextualize insights and work within the rhythms sellers already use .
#7 A trusted partner to ensure you succeed
You’re committed to your customers’ success. You should get the same support from your vendors—particularly when the stakes are this high.
The company selling you your account planning software should serve as a partner who can guide you through the change-management process, commit to a regular cadence of success planning and business reviews, and help you deploy the software, train teams, operationalize and configure your processes, advise on best practices, and support you along your journey.
When you’re in the midst of buying the right software – pay attention to how each vendor treats you in the process. This is always a strong indicator as to what kind of partners they will be to your business later.
What’s the best way to maximize on ROI for your account planning software?
Bringing a new piece of technology to your sales team (and beyond) is tough, even on a good day. More than almost anyone else, sellers are focused on driving outcomes. Not to mention, their very livelihood may depend on their ability to chase and win deals successfully. Everything that makes them good at being salespeople can also make them less-than-ideal candidates when adopting a new piece of tech.
If salespeople so much catch a whiff of busy work, they’ll be high-tailing it in the opposite direction.
Most sellers have good reason to be suspicious of new sales software. They’ve likely seen their fair share of self-proclaimed silver bullets that wound up being little more than yet another disconnected, glorified spreadsheet.
Sellers want to sell. Your account planning technology partner must ensure that your reps quickly and continually recognize the power of their new software to help them do just that.
Like account planning itself, you’ll need buy-in from the entire sales organization to ensure success. And once you have your new tech in hand, change management, change execution programs, and ongoing support and services are vital.
How can you make sure sellers do more than log in and move on? There are five elements that maximize adoption:
What new behaviors do you expect from sellers? What adoption metrics are you looking to hit? Against what will managers be measured?
Build an operational rhythm for opportunity and account reviews so that teams get comfortable in the tech and begin to see its power.
Help teams leverage different plan types and business rules that fit their activities and way of working.
Help sellers get comfortable and learn how to maximize their impact through test and improve sessions and deal reviews.
Celebrate and socialize success. Show off early adopters and highlight big wins.
As a discipline, account planning is about organizing your internal teams around your customer’s success, creating mutual value, and breaking away from being considered “just another vendor.”
Day-to-day, that means your teams must be working together to exchange information, create plans, and execute the actions required to make customers’ goals a reality.
Technology is no substitute for the hard work of building relationships and creating real outcomes for your customers. But it is an essential tool. It forms the layer that connects your vision with your teams’ actions.
The right software will allow you to optimize your team’s performance on all levels from a single point of focus: your customer’s success.