12 Strategic Tips for Sales Account Planning

5 minute read

When is the right time to start thinking about maximizing revenue from your existing customers? Yes, it’s a trick question: the answer is always now.

You probably know that business from an existing customer is six times more profitable than from a net new customer. But did you know that you are seven times likelier to win business from an existing customer than you are from a new logo? Enough said – existing customers are where the money is. You need figure out how you can add value to your existing customers, and how that will contribute to your revenue goals. Of course, you’ll also need to develop an account plan and strategy. To get you started, here are an even dozen things to consider.

1. Research, Research, Research

If you want to maximize revenue from your key accounts, it starts with research, research, and research. Strategic account planning is a long-term play. This means slowing down your natural inclination to focus solely on pursuing deals now. Doing your homework on the account and applying your experience from working with other customers will help you share insights with your customer.

If you don’t do the research, you won’t have the knowledge. Which means you can’t share insights – those aha moments – and that is a missed opportunity.

2. Focus on the Customer

Remember that the impact on a customer of a poor buying decision usually exceeds the impact of a lost deal on a salesperson. You must create value for your customer, not just communicate information about your company or your solutions. How? The first step is fact-finding to gain a deep understanding of your customer’s goals and values.

3. Integrate Data, Knowledge, and Information

A single account is a subset of an overall market. You ought to understand your customer’s market and market dynamics that could affect your customer. A lot of that information and data already exists in your CRM. Naturally, you’ll want to integrate your account plan and customer information with your CRM. A CRM facilitates collaboration and sharing  knowledge with everyone on the account team which can speed up your planning process.

4. Choose Your Target  

Targeting is a key aspect of account planning. You should select and focus on the account divisions or business units which are in your ‘sweet spot’ –  those areas where you can uniquely and competitively deliver true value. But targeting your ‘sweet spot’ isn’t enough. It’s critical to uncover areas that benefit both you and your customer for mutual value. After that, make hard choices about which opportunities to target and focus on in your account plan. Forgo opportunities that don’t deliver mutual value.

5. Map People and Influence

Companies don’t buy; people buy. The same is true in business. It is vital to understand and map out all the relationships in the organization. Especially inter-relationships – business, professional and personal – along with lines of power and influence.

6. Align Your Efforts to Your Customer’s Goals

It’s easy to think that being a customer is simple. All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier – right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, risk shifts from the supplier to the customer. The impact of a poor buying decision on the customer could be career-limiting or damaging to the business. That’s why you absolutely must align your account planning efforts with the customer’s goals, pressures, initiatives and obstacles for mutual value and benefit.

7. Build Trust

Trust is the foundation on which you create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value for you and your customer. You can only build trust by understanding customer business problems, one truth at a time, and by delivering a solution that solves them.

8. Identify “Whitespace”

Once you understand the people and the problems and have developed a trusted relationship with your customer, you can identify new areas of opportunity – the whitespace in the account – where your solutions can add value to the customer. Altify Account Manager lets you visually identify opportunities to create value and identify gaps that your solution can address.

Account Manager helps you identify opportunities to create value and identify gaps that your solution can address.

9. Be Collaborative and Social

At its core, account planning is a team sport where you can collaborate with the account team and the customer. Integrating a real-time collaboration tool with your CRM enables the team working on the account plan to easily communicate and keep up to speed on changes as they occur. It also ensures that all information is available to everyone at the same time so that there is no loss of productivity.

10. Keep a Regular Cadence

Account planning is not an annual event. It is not about reporting what you know; it is about discovering what you don’t know; and unearthing missing information to inform your subsequent activity. Account plans are meant to be living documents to assist in running your business.

11. Measure Your Progress

How do you know if your account plan is working? First, measure plan completeness, and automate the process. Second, create a scorecard that helps assess whether the plan objectives – target revenue, pipeline goal, penetration of strategic account business units, etc. – are all on track. Without metrics you can’t know if you are making progress.

12. Action Oriented

While the plan is hugely valuable, what really matters is identifying the objectives, strategies and actions that define what daily tactics you need to execute. Planning is significant, but it is the day-to-day execution of tasks and actions that determine your progress.

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