In today’s B2B markets, many industrial suppliers of goods and services are focusing the efforts of their entire sales team on a few, and often only one, key accounts. Such a sales model absolutely requires the sales team to penetrate the major account. It also requires optimizing the usage of resources, both internal to the supplier and external (channels, partners, etc.). Getting all these resources focused on the same objectives and executing a common strategy demands the investment in account planning.
What is account planning?
Account planning is the strategic management of your best customer (key) accounts in order to close additional deals. When done correctly, account management can help you acquire more large accounts and generate more income and profit.
Consistency, accuracy, and concentration are critical components in B2B sales. Sustaining steady and predictable sales performance is not an accident. Rather than that, sales success, efficiency, and growth demand a well-thought-out formal, planned, and focused approach in order to allocate sales resources effectively.
Required skills for accurate account management
The strategic account management assists sales executives in coaching their sales staff and forecasting the possibility of a customer providing new business opportunities. However, sales managers typically lack the time to do so due to a plethora of competing priorities, a geographically dispersed sales team, and a lack of training/coaching skills necessary to develop an account plan.
Once the account planning process is done, the sales or key account manager is responsible for maintaining the practice year after year; it should be a “dynamic document” that undergoes periodic evaluation.
Strategic importance of account management
Account planning can help you increase your closing rates by up to 30%. This means that you might be losing nearly a third of your revenue simply for failing to complete the essential work up front.
Appropriate account management strategy can result in a 60% improvement in the ratio of sales executives who meet quota. When the correct strategy, information, people, and procedures are aligned from the start, a momentum is created that can supercharge your sales force.
Up to 60% of B2B sales companies lack an established account planning strategy. An effective investment in planning could rocket you ahead of them—or help you catch up to the 40% who have a head start.
It is obvious that B2B account planning might have a significant impact on bottom-line sales performance. However, you must be familiar with a few critical best practices in order to maximize the benefits of account management plan.
Helps customer-focused organizations deliver mutual value
Understanding the true problems that customers are dealing with
Long and trusting relationships that lead to more revenue
Account planning strategy
In my many years of sales account planning strategies with my customers, I have observed a few things. First, almost all B2B suppliers believe in an effective sales account plan, at least at the conceptual level. But, unfortunately, the results produced are often insufficient and suffering from.
- No convenient time to plan
- Planning is ruled by dominant leaders and their agenda
- The development of objectives but no action Plans
- No implementation responsibility assigned
- No documentation
- No formal review process
It’s a team work!
I’ve also realized that planning cannot be done for a sales team; the responsible parties should do it. An individual’s commitment to executing the plan is self-generated –it’s a result of involvement in the planning process. As a result, we cannot expect the parties involved in our selling to major accounts to do what needs to be done —if they haven’t had the opportunity to participate in the account planning.
For example; many think that developing a key account strategy plan is only the job of key account managers. I don’t agree with that. If a strategic planning is to be made, all relevant teams of your company should be involved.
Who should participate in sales account planning?
The account planning process should include all parties who have any level of role to play in the success of your relationship with the customer. Obviously, this consists of the entire sales team. I mean all sales, manufacturing, and technical reps by the whole team that calls on the customer at all locations.
For example, suppose we are to identify and mount major strategic initiatives with substantial customers. In that case, we need the entire sales team on board with the plan. It is also imperative that first-line sales and support management participates.
Other parties such as field service, marketing, perhaps product development should also participate in sales account planning.
A note to sales management
I have a policy that I will not conduct account planning meetings without first-line sales management. The first-level sales managers’ job is to keep the sales team honest regarding the opportunity pipeline, the selling environment, and the barriers to success.
Perhaps more importantly, they should constantly be probing for new opportunities, particularly those representing strategic initiatives supporting the customer’s business goals. Second-level management may wish to attend the customer presentation.
Still, it should then leave and allow the sales team to develop their plan for future review and acceptance by senior sales management.
Benefits of account planning
The investment in account planning generates a massive payoff for the sales team. All the various resources and parties to the account coverage focus on the same strategy and are committed to a common plan.
- Dramatically improves your probability of winning the enormous opportunities
- Creates justification for the sales team to acquire needed resources to build the account
- Lots of examples of revenue and sales productivity growth
- Key customers love account management!
- Planning is beneficial both for supplier and customer
Improving sales performance
The benefits of strategic key account planning for sales management come in part from improvement in the team’s selling behavior. In addition, the plan becomes an excellent management tool.
A solid plan provides a basis for solidifying the relationship with both the customer and your selling partners– both these parties assign great value to account based sales strategy.
And for the customer, the benefit of key account management is more focused, higher-level, strategic selling by your team. Customers also recognize the value of the resources the sales team can garner with a well-developed account plan.
It’s all too easy to lose sight of the essentials required for account management plan execution. While there are an infinite number of efforts centered on individuals, procedure, and innovation that can assist you in achieving your goals, few will have the same impact as designating essential customers as strategic key accounts and managing them effectively.
Prior to embarking on your next strategic endeavor or brainstorming session, consider the potential inside your strategic key accounts and the steps necessary to maintain and grow these assets. Finally, an effective major account planning strategy generates continuous, dependable revenue, enabling you to support your company’s long-term growth and success.