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Because ForecastEra’s Account Plan Navigator is so popular with Salesforce teams, we get account planning questions all the time.
If you’re an account planning beginner, we’ve written this guide answering the most popular account planning questions.
If you have additional questions about how to incorporate account planning best practices, please drop us a note.
Let’s get started with the basics.
What is account planning?
Account planning identifies the business needs of client accounts and provides the means, resources, and activities necessary to meet them.
Successful account planning ensures that your client’s success leads to your success. By increasing their sales, revenue, and market share, you increase your client retention and improve your relationships.
What is strategic account planning?
Also known as key account planning, strategic account planning targets clients whose repeat business is the lifeblood of any organization.
Strategic account planning develops strategies and tactics to ensure the short- and long-term success of businesses with which you have established and ongoing relationships.
Strategic accounts may also include new businesses that show promise for big wins in terms of high and continued revenue streams.
Why is strategic account planning important?
Strategic account planning is essential to stay in business. It increases win rates by a factor of seven, industry leaders say.
Strategic account planning identifies and captures timely, relevant, and actionable information. It provides data that can uncover and develop new earning opportunities, and grow existing clients. Account planning is important because it helps increase revenue and market share.
What are the benefits of strategic account planning?
- Higher win rates
- Greater insights into client businesses
- Shorter sales cycles
- Repeat business
- Larger deals
- Easier executive access
- Increased visibility as a trusted resource
What is the time frame for an account planning strategy?
An account planning strategy typically covers a 12-month period. It converts actionable insights into market opportunities for both you and your client.
The strategy includes the most relevant and likely factors to help the account achieve its business goals. Strategies are tailored to the unique needs of each account. Most cover every aspect of account sales and the sales team’s performance.
Do different clients need different strategic plans?
Yes. Each client has unique account planning needs. One size does not fit all.
What account planning tools and methods create strategic account planning best practices?
Use proven tools and methods that shorten plan development and yield more actionable results.
Follow methods that break planning into phases and use tools that instantly access information needed in each phase.
Phases typically begin with understanding the strategic account client, continue with planning strategic account growth, and end with plan execution and review. Phases are iterative and repeatable to allow for market and strategic account changes.
Tools, such as ForecastEra’s Account Plan Navigator, are easy to use. They generate quick, actionable information in the form of graphs and charts that can be understood at a glance and easily shared.
Account Plan Navigator tools are typically accessed in sequence to yield the best results in strategic account planning. But each can be used separately in any sequence, depending on client needs.
Tools, also known as Navigator features, and their functions include:
- 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, also known as 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
What information is needed for strategic account planning?
You need to know your client to offer the services best suited to their needs. Information essential to strategic account planning includes their current organizational structure and the relationships within that structure. It includes the client’s account financials and financial goals and also analyses that uncover:
- Untapped upsell and cross-sell opportunities
- The client’s share of business from specific customers
- The client’s prospects from the standpoint of management expertise and other information that can’t be quantified
Strategic account clients can provide most, if not all, of the information needed for account planning. Useful information can be pulled from various sources within the client organization. These include:
- User-created data, including contacts and opportunities in client databases
- Account intelligence captured from social media and the Internet
- Data captured from the client’s personnel accounts and CRM system, including:
- Personnel email accounts and online calendars
- CPQ (configure, price, and quote) data
How do I use Account Plan Navigator tools in strategic account planning?
To start, you’ll use the Dynamic Relationship Map to generate org charts of the client’s organization. You’ll use these to identify key stakeholders, those who influence purchasing decisions, and the relationships between them. You’ll use this information to develop:
- Opportunity Influence Paths. These will identify specific sales opportunities within the client organization, and target individuals who are willing to support or champion your proposals for new, upsell, and cross-sell sales.
- You’ll use Whitespace to identify overlooked sales opportunities, generate ideas to implement these, and simulate proposed implementations to see which are likely to be successful.
- You’ll use the Account Overview to see revenue projections for your strategic account clients, and client risk and relationship scores.
- You’ll also see charts tracking the likelihood of renewals/repeat business and goals and actions.
- You’ll use Curated News Feeds to obtain recent updates on the strategic account client’s business and use this information to advise the client.
- You’ll use Account Plan Portfolio Analytics to view charts showing different views of the client’s business. You can share these charts with your sales team and the client to recommend actions that will mitigate risks and increase sales.
How does using these tools improve strategic account planning?
These tools will improve your sales team’s performance and turbocharge strategic account planning by:
- Simplifying account planning within native CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems
- Strengthening relationships with stakeholders
- Identifying growth acceleration opportunities
- Understanding buyer intent through real-time market insights
- Driving smarter decisions through Account Portfolio Analytics
What are the benefits of using account planning tools?
Account planning tools simplify account planning. They save time and effort through the quick delivery of information essential to account planning.
They provide higher-quality, more actionable results. Confidence that the plans will yield good outcomes benefits both you and your client.
Tools such as the Account Plan Navigator offer tool-specific and cross-project benefits. These include:
- New, upsell, and cross-sell sales opportunities identified through Whitespace, which assesses current offerings, penetrates strategic accounts, and analyzes spend in the client organization.
- Relationship mapping that identifies BANT (budget, authority, need, timeframe) sales qualification criteria for pursuing a sales opportunity.
- AI-based market intelligence that provides critical updates essential to manage clients’ strategic accounts.
- Account risk scoring that identifies the strategic, operational, and commercial risks of strategic accounts.
- Actionable plans created through guided-sale predefined goals and actions.
- Competitive assessments that allow you to compare your position and offerings with your competitors’ and use this information to improve your position.
- Open and closed opportunities, client challenges, and account insights identified with what-if simulations.
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses to identify strategic account client opportunities and risks.
- Alignment with stakeholders in each buying center to discover which products they have implemented and where your account planning services fit.
What are the best tools for account planning?
We may be a little biased here.
ForecastEra’s Account Plan Navigator is an industry leader in account-planning tools. It is among the best options to choose from.
The Navigator simplifies account planning with guided steps. The Navigator dashboard displays an intuitive tool menu.
Start account planning with the first tool, which maps dynamic relationships in the strategic client organization. Then find paths to uncover and influence hidden opportunities for upsells and cross-sells.
You can access the Navigator’s tools in any order, depending on your needs. The Navigator pulls client data from the client’s CRM (client relationship management) system and other data sources. It updates data in real-time, enabling responsive account planning tailored to clients’ needs.
What are the benefits of using this tool?
Strategic account planning with ForecastEra’s Account Plan Navigator provides proven benefits with the following results:
- A 12x increase in revenue from partner channels
- 26% faster sales cycles
- 25% increase in sales forecast accuracy
- 22% higher win rates
- 14% increase in deal sizes
- 7% increase in customer retention