Top 10 Account Planning Mistakes to Avoid

By Masami Middleton

In B2B sales, driving revenue from existing accounts is far easier than landing net new customers. With so much opportunity available, why do mature sales organizations still “wing it” with their Account Planning process?

According to CEB/Gartner research, only 28% of sales leaders believe their account management channels meet their cross-selling and account growth targets. Thoughtful, intentional account plans provide real strategic insight and actionable game plans for account teams to meet growth targets. For sales managers, account plans provide an excellent foundation for consistent coaching conversations, insight into forecasts, and an overall way of staying engaged with customer activity.

Account Planning is the process of determining the best way to grow and add value to existing accounts. While many organizations engage in both Account Planning and Territory Planning (systematically determining how to optimize impact over a portfolio of accounts), the purpose of this post is to explore the deep dive Account Planning process to dissect one account at a time.

If your team is currently digging into Account Planning (or about to), here are 10 common mistakes to avoid.

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The 4 C's of Sales Strategy and Restructuring

By Warren Shiver

We’ve worked with several clients on elements of their sales strategy, which clearly define who you are selling to, what you are selling, how you are selling, and why you are different -- all to support better returns for the sales organization (Revenues – Cost of Sales). Asking fundamental questions like these begin to point to significant gaps and opportunities around sales structure and alignment.

While decisions related to sales strategy, model, and structure are highly unique to an organization, we find that investigating four core areas -- what we call the 4 C's of sales strategy -- can help guide those decisions:

  • Customer – How do you segment customers based on size, potential, needs, capacity, location, etc?  Which are your highest priority segments?
  • Coverage – Based on what you learned in customer analyses, how should you define your coverage model to best align with your highest value segments?
  • Capacity – What is the workload required to sell and service customers and how do we size/resource our team (and selling roles within it) accordingly?
  • Capability – What competencies do our people need in order to engage in the right conversations with different levels of customers, which for many companies span strategic/consultative selling to tactical selling?

We unpack these decisions in our comprehensive Guide to Sales Resource Optimization. By examining each of these areas, a sales organization can maximize both selling efficiencies (e.g., reducing overlapping resources, reducing T&E, and expanding the “bag” of solutions) and sales effectiveness (e.g., more value for the customer through broader solutions, better experience through single point of contact).

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The Chronicles of Account Planning: The Lion, the Whip, and the Chair

By Hope Eyre

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?

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The Highs and Lows of Sales: Part I Managing the Motion Sickness that Comes with a Sales Role

By Erica Abt

After several of years of facing challenging sales targets, I realized my job had started to feel like a roller coaster, constantly sending me through extreme emotional highs and lows depending on my performance. Most professionals who choose sales or account management as a career path care about hitting goals, but the fact is that most goals are manipulated to stretch the sales rep just enough to encourage him or her to put forth extra effort in order to achieve their targets.

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Hunters and Farmers – Putting Food On the Table Couldn’t Look More Different

By Rachel Cavallo

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with two very distinct types of salesforces. One group is focused solely on pulling more business out of their accounts, and the other group is focused solely on going after new accounts. While working with these groups simultaneously, the distinction between the “hunter” and the “farmer” has become very real, and it’s given me pause to consider the unique qualities required to develop net new accounts and cultivate existing ones.

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The Power Of True Sales Effectiveness

By Per Torgersen

Across the years we have worked with many different clients in different industries, trying to solve a variety of their sales related challenges. Many of our clients state that they want to “improve sales effectiveness.” However, we have observed there are many variations to perceptions about what that means; improving a sales process, gaining traction on utilization of sales tools, sharpening-up recruiting, enhancing selling skills through coaching and development - You can take your pick.

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Achieving Merger Cross-Sell Synergies

By Kelsey Peusch

Corporate mergers are often sold to investors and Wall Street on the illusory promise of cross-selling synergies. Often as a result of a merger, the marketing and sales organizations are charged with delivering growth through the combined portfolio of products and solutions.

Why is it so difficult for organizations to realize these synergies?  Two major factors that influence success are: 1) whether organizations re-think the alignment of their sales organizations to customers and markets post-merger, and 2) whether sales teams have put in place effective Account Planning processes to capitalize on cross-sell opportunities.

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