Want a sure thing to improve your sales performance sevenfold?
Follow account planning best practices.
I’ve seen our customer data that proves account planning works. Industry leaders report an average sevenfold increase in win rate when they follow account planning best practices.
In addition to higher win rates, with account planning best practices you also get:
- Greater insights into client businesses
- Shorter sales cycles
- More repeat business
- Larger deals
- Easier executive access
- Increased visibility as a trusted resource
So what’s the fastest and easiest way to execute account planning best practices?
I’m biased (see the bonus tip), but ForecastEra’s Account Plan Navigator allows you to implement all the account planning best practices easily across your entire enterprise.
If you want to do account planning best practices the hard way, here are our account planning best practices tips.
Make Your MAPP
Account planning best practices can be reduced to one acronym: MAPP (Map, Align, Prepare, Performance).
First of all, account planning is a process that produces a product: the account plan.
For many companies that account plan resides in a static PowerPoint presentation and a few spreadsheets. This is the hard way.
The best way is to create one using your CRM like Salesforce. (More on this later.)
Even if you don’t show your account plan to a single soul, I promise you that all this upfront effort produces a huge ROI.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
Account Planning Best Practice #1: Map the Client Landscape
- Business Overview
- Competitor Analysis
- Relationship Map
The most effective account managers understand their customer’s business objectives, internal and external challenges, and industry landscapes.
For these sections of your account plan, use tools like ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, and your company’s CRM.
Account Plan Section #1: Business Overview
- Account Name
- Account Owner
- Annual Revenue
- Year Started
- Number of Employees
- Company Website
- Contact Details
- Customer’s vision/strategy
- Target markets
- Financial information
Account Plan Section #2: Competitor Analysis
Make a competitor comparison table. Be sure to include your target company in the first row under the headings.
Account Plan Section #3: Relationship Mapping
Org charts are NOT relationship maps.
When working on complex deals with decision-makers, budget owners, and influencers, there are many people who influence a buying decision who aren’t in the org chart hierarchy.
Relationship maps show you who the players are based on the product, budget, and influence.
Your relationship map should include:
- Relationship history
- Contact role
- Relationship status
- Org chart
- Whitespace map
- Sales path
Account Planning Best Practice #2: Align with Client Objectives
- Customer Products and Business Initiatives
- Align Your Products with Their Goals
- Client Confirmation
* Highly important Activity
For these next sections of your account plan, almost every one of your client’s goals is an opportunity for you to grow your relationship with them, increase the customer’s loyalty, and safeguard against the competition.
Account Plan Section #4: Customer Products and Business Initiatives
- Short-/medium-/long-term priorities
- Strategic opportunities
- Account scorecard
Account Plan Section #5: Align your products with their goals.
Align customer initiatives to the products you are going to propose, including timeframe and produce potential revenue.
This is often the hardest part of the process, you need to show some of what you’ve created to the client. You need to confirm that what you think are the objectives, etc. actually are their objectives.
You also need to gently confirm that your relationship map of their decision-making process is accurate. If your white-space analysis has shown new potential targets within the company, you need to get as many details as you can from your contact(s) within the company.
Once you have an ally in the company, you can make the sale by arming that person to be your advocate. You want to make them the hero.
Talk about the value of co-creation with your customer. Ensure that you have well-defined and prioritized value opportunities, and work with them to provide appropriate materials or resources for secure buy-in. Involve the customer in a collaborative role to establish the review process, timeline, and next steps.
Account Planning Best Practice #3: Prepare Account Plan
- SWOT Analysis
- Whitespace Analysis*
- Long Term Goals and Strategy
* Highly important Activity
Account Plan Section #6: SWOT Analysis
Armed with the information you’ve already gathered, it is essential to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of your relationship with the client.
SWOT provides a clear view of your obstacles, objections, and red flags in the account.
Account Plan Section #7: Whitespace Analysis
Whitespace analysis is the process of using your company’s data and sales records to discover fresh opportunities to target. Whitespace analysis includes:
- Opportunity analysis
- Current sales performance
- Revenue numbers
- Win or loss over the last 12 months
You can also spot obstacles using whitespace analysis to discover what’s preventing you from engaging in new products, new groups, and new markets. You can prepare your answers to objections well in advance.
Account Plan Section #8: Long Term Goals and Strategy
A goal is a significant aspiration that the account planning process intends to realize over the next three years. A goal should:
- Reflect the big picture for the account
- Be ambitious – even audacious! – yet attainable
- Be achievable within a reasonable time frame
- Be directionally aligned with your own internal strategy
Account Planning Best Practice #4: Performance Optimization
- Action Plan*
- Account Health
* Highly important Activity
You will have to adjust and optimize along the way. This is where tracking your progress (number of contacts, method, message, response, etc.) all needs to be kept in a CRM like Salesforce.
You need to be able to compare your action plan (see below) with your actual progress, so it is best to have both in the same system.
Account Plan Section #9: Action Plan
This is how you’re going to actually approach the target company, what steps you’ll take, and when.
If you are leading a sales team, you may need to divide your team to conquer different parts of the target company. Decide which team members own which task, what resources they require to achieve these tasks, and agree upon responsibility measures.
Key attributes of good action plans are:
- Top five objectives
- Critical resources
- Tasks and key owners
Look at various aspects of account health including renewal opportunities, quality of contacts and risk analysis.
Risk analysis is a method of reviewing an organization’s activities and investments to determine the likelihood of loss. Risks can typically be captured under three categories – strategic, operational, and commercial.
A current customer saved from leaving is a customer earned.
Here are a few touchpoints to keep in mind as you create your account plan.
- Cadence: Clearly laid out account planning cadence with roles and responsibilities
- Think in Client Terms: Articulate the pressures associated with the client’s business and technology environment
- Business Imperatives: Document the 5-10 key Business Initiatives that will dictate client’s focus for the next 18-24 months
- Alignment: Align offerings to top client initiatives and identify chance of success based on impact to client and maturity of offering
- Involvement: Involvement of client in at least one of several phases: alignment, planning, post-planning validation
- Explore beyond merely the ‘Art of Possible’
- Include Partners (where applicable): Partners included in planning/validation
- Relationship Gaps: Define gaps in relationship building with clear action plan
- Action Plan: Have an action plan distributed amongst the extended team
- Regular Updates: Defined Cadence for reviewing and updating account plans
- Living Document: Make account plans a living document
- Play your position: Ensure all teams are working towards a unified objective
- Unified Goals for the Account Team
Account Planning Best Practice Bonus Tip: Use ForecastEra Account Plan Navigator
This is a lot to do using PowerPoint and Excel. What’s worse, these static tools will limit the effectiveness of your account plan.
We built all the account planning best practices into ForecastEra Account Plan Navigator. With just a few clicks Salesforce users can upgrade the performance of your entire sales operation.
You’ll see where the account plan rubber hits the road and how everyone is performing in real-time, allowing you to manage on the fly.
Recognized by Gartner as one of the premier examples of cloud-based account planning tools, ForecastEra is the #1 account planning, sales, revenue, and demand forecasting tool native to Salesforce.
The reason thousands of sales professionals use ForecastEra’s Account Plan Navigator on Salesforce is that we’re easy to use with AI-generated quick, actionable information in the form of graphs and charts that can be understood at a glance and easily shared.
Within the first hour you can start to use:
- Dynamic Relationship Map, which generates automated client org charts, identifies key relationships between and among client personnel, and develops influence paths for gaining buy-in on proposed sales, upsells, and cross-sells.
- Opportunity Influence Paths, which display potential advocates within the target company for new sales opportunities.
- Whitespace Analysis, which uncovers overlooked sales opportunities and displays them in tables for quick scanning and action.
- Account Overview, which generates displays of the client’s revenue projection, risk score, and relationship score based on real-time data.
- Curated News Feeds, which display workplace insights about the client gathered from news organizations.
- Account Plan Portfolio Analytics, which display charts generated from real-time data to show:
- Accounts and account relationships
- Relationship analytics
- Whitespace analytics
- Customer perception of products
- Alignment with customer
- Goals and actions
- Account risk assessment
- Customer landscape
If you want to see account planning best practices automated, schedule a ForecastEra Account Plan Navigator demo with us.