Account Planning – Where to Start?

January 29, 2019 | Michele Wilkins

image-15Account planning can be a tedious exercise and a lot of times the work doesn’t pay off.   Having said that, according to CSO Insights, sellers that do a good job with account plans see as much as a 17% uplift in win rates. 

There are multiple elements of the account planning process, but one of the most important activities should be to research & understand your client’s strategic direction, specific goals, and supporting initiatives. Starting from the customer’s point of view will:

  • Differentiate you from the competition (they will likely start an account plan with their company’s sales plays or new upcoming new product releases).
  • Provide a more business-focused approach to identifying and confirming opportunities.
  • Allow you to present your solutions in a way that is aligned with the client’s goals and strategies, when the time is right.
  • Promote outside-the-box thinking on additional areas to explore.

Where do you find strategies, goals & initiatives?

Publicly traded companies are responsible to their shareholders, which means they must report detailed information on past performance and future projections.   One of the ways they do this is to publicly disclose their goals, how they’re going to achieve them, and (sometimes) by when.

The company’s annual report can be a great source for strategic info – the letter to shareholders is typically a great place to get a layman’s perspective on strategies. In addition, it’s also common for companies to have a section within the annual report specific to strategies & initiatives that can be mined for even more detail. Finally, check out the Risk Factor section.   What the company considers a risk might be an opportunity for you.  Other reliable sources of information include investor & analyst presentations, and quarterly earnings calls.

Now that you’ve found the goals – what do you do with them? Then answer is to weave them into your account plan narrative and messaging – how does the solution you’re proposing help the customer to achieve a particular goal? Can you help them do it faster, cheaper, or more efficiently? How will you quantify the anticipated results?  

Call to Action

  • Go to your customer’s website and visit the investor relations section. Review recent docs such as their annual report, investor presentations, and listen to their recent earnings call.
  • Identify one or more of your customer’s goals that your solutions can impact and write a “how” statement – detail how, in business terms, the solution will help the customer to achieve their goal. Leave out those features & functions – your buying exec wants to know what business outcome you can help them to achieve, not how fast it processes data or how slick the interface looks.