The Good Old Days
In the 90s, when I was selling instead of consulting, I did a lot of account planning. You know, that thing where you and your account team get in a room, usually in Q1, and talk about the sales opportunities you’ll pursue at specific customers during the next fiscal year.
I learned my craft at SAP, and to be sure, our process was disciplined – with the exception of one episode involving dry erase markers that smell like their colors (one finds amusement where one can at a German company).
Our account plans were things of beauty, right down to the color-coded Harvey balls we used to visually denote the health of our selling relationships with decision makers.
The first iteration (building a new plan from scratch) took an agonizingly long time, as much as a full week of running down information for a complex customer:
- What’s the customer’s corporate strategy?
- Have there been leadership changes?
- Did they acquire or divest?
- What are the trends in their industry or changes to their market dynamics?
- Who listened to the last analyst call; what did they say?
When we were done, we’d wrap our plan in pretty paper, tie it with a bow, and deliver it to our Sales VP in a formal presentation that solemnly conveyed the highly disciplined client strategy we intended to execute as a result of the entire process.
Then we went back to our day jobs.
It was an annual ritual as old as selling itself. We would check the box on planning, then thank our relative deities that no one would be uttering the “P” word for another 12 months. Time to get back to work; someone might buy something today.
Why didn't we ever make the connection between planning, client strategy development, execution, and winning?