Strategic Account Planning Tools: Gearing Up For The 21st Century
Nov 17 2016
Imagine you had to create a new gear-changing module for a car. Would you develop it without considering how it interacts with the engine and the brakes? No, you would collaborate early on with your colleagues who work on these components to ensure that a well-integrated, high-performing vehicle is the end result.
Now, let’s look how sales organizations create and execute account plans. Last week, we discussed how organizations approach strategic account planning based on data from our 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study. I also shared five pillars that make strategic account planning a valuable process.
Today, we will look at organizations’ ability to create and implement strategic account plans and at the tools and systems they use to make account planning more productive. Let’s begin with the tools they use.
The primary tools organizations use for strategic account plans are Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
A number itself isn’t good or bad. What a number actually means depends on the context. In this case, almost 50% of our 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study’s participants still use Word, Excel, or PowerPoint to create and maintain account plans. It’s like creating a gear-changing module in isolation from the car’s other moving parts.
Almost 30% build plans in their CRM system. It sounds hopeful. But in the case of many CRM the only difference is that the plan has been uploaded into a CRM system. The numbers aren’t better; they’re just more accessible.
Another 19.2% use an account planning solution: 13.1% use an internally developed solution and 6.1% work with a commercially available solution.
“Of course,” you think, “this is how we’ve made account plans for ages.” But are you satisfied with this approach? Maybe, if you consider an account plan as an annual task for someone else, like sales operations. But would you consider your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint account plan a blueprint for implementing your account strategy, for tackling newly identified account leads? Would you see this account plan as a foundation for successful implementation so that everybody in the broader account team knows what to do, where to update the current state, and where to check the results? Probably not.
If your account plan is not your blueprint to implement your account strategy and grow your strategic accounts, then creating it is a waste of time in the first place.
And there is more evidence that organizations face serious challenges when trying to create valuable account plans that grow their strategic accounts.
More than 60% reported that their ability to develop and execute strategic account plans needs improvement, and 14% reported the need for major redesign approach. That means 74% are not satisfied with the current state.
How to create and execute strategic account plans that are the blueprint for successful account execution and growth:
First, look at last week’s post where I shared five pillars that make strategic account planning a valuable process. These pillars explain how to approach the structure and the process of account planning itself.
Second, implement an account management solution to drive cross-functional collaboration to grow your strategic accounts. Why is this important? Emailing account plans is not a good solution, and storing them on shared drives nobody uses doesn’t make them more valuable. (And it definitely doesn’t make more secure.) Then, Excel, Word or PowerPoint are great if you run your account alone or with two other people. But hopefully, you don’t. People other than the account managers should have access to strategic account plans if you really want to be a trusted advisor or strategic partner for your customer. Service needs to know what’s going on and where you are heading. Solution sales, presales, and product management, marketing and industry experts can have lots of great ideas, if they have a chance to contribute those ideas. Make them heard. Leverage their experience. For the greater good. For your account performance.
In the 21st century, it’s time to revisit strategic account planning regarding focus and approach. And it’s time to liberate strategic account plans from files on desktops and make them living plans that are created, and more importantly, executed by a cross-functional account team on one shared platform, connected to the CRM system.
Questions for you:
- What tools do you use to create strategic account plans
- How do you ensure that the account teams leverage a strategic account plan to collaborating with other functions?
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