12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

It’s that time. As you prepare for 2015 you need to be thinking about how to maximize revenue from your existing customers. I’m sure you know acquired business from an existing customer is six times more profitable than pursuing new customers. But, did you also know that you are seven times more likely to win business from an existing customer than you are when you are trying to capture that new logo? I have written about this extensively in my book Account Planning in Salesforce, but to get you started, here are 12 things you should think about as you look to how your existing customers can contribute to your 2015 revenue goals (with a focus on Salesforce users).

12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

1. Research

If you are hoping to maximize revenue from your large accounts, it is really all about research, research, and research. You need to slow down your natural inclination to focus solely on pursuing deals now. Account planning is a long-term play. If you do your homework on the account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity

2. Customer Focused

Remember that the impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. Your role is to create value for the customer, not just to communicate information about your company or your solutions. Before you position your value, a prerequisite is having a deep sense of what the customer values. When you have done your research, you can begin to feel comfortable in the customer’s shoes, and begin the walk together toward Mutual Value.

3. Integrate

A single Account is a subset of your overall market, and a composite representation of all of the individual real and potential prospective opportunities within that Account. You must recognize it as an integrated component of the market ecosystem. You also need to integrate data, knowledge and information to achieve velocity. The data already exists in Salesforce – so your Account Plan must be integrated with CRM. Your Account Team has the knowledge and everyone needs a common platform to work together, and the customer has the information, so you need to integrate that into your plan.

4. Targeted

Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value as a key aspect to Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value, driving you to uncover areas that benefit you and the customer. You will need to select which divisions or Business Units in an account are in your ‘sweet spot,’ that area where you can uniquely and competitively deliver true value, and then make some hard choices as you target the opportunities on which to focus – those that deliver Mutual Value – while at the same time choosing not to apply resources to less attractive opportunities.

5. Map People and Influence

As we know companies don’t buy – people buy, and the same is true of business issues, they are always owned by people and it is important understand the political landscape in the organization.

6. Aligned to Business Strategy

You’d be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a sales person. All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier, right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, we now know that the risk shifts from the supplier to the customer, and the impact on the customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on the salesperson of a lost sale. Your job is to align your account planning efforts with the customer’s Goals, Pressures, Initiatives and Obstacles.

7. Trust

Trust is the foundation on which you create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value for you and your customer. It is fundamental to business, and built one truth a time, promising what you can deliver, and delivering on what you promise.

8. White Space

Your objective is to maximize your penetration in the account in a way that maximizes Mutual Value. Once you understand the people and the problems and have developed a trusted relationship with your customer you can identify areas of opportunity – the white space in the account – where your solutions can add value to the customer. This is a key way to develop new opportunities. In our case we use the Opportunity Map in Dealmaker to visually represent this.

9. Collaborative and Social

At its core, Account Planning is a team sport; one where you can collaborate with the team and the customer. We recommend attaching a Chatter group in Salesforce to each account plan so that the team that is working the account plan can also use Chatter to make sure they are all kept up to speed on all changes as they happen. Also, by having a collaborative application integrated with Salesforce all information is available to everyone at the same time so that there is no loss of productivity.

10. Regular Cadence

Account Planning should not be an annual event. It is not about reporting what you know; it is about discovering what you don’t know, and then acting to uncover the missing information to inform your subsequent activity. Account Planning must live and breathe as part of how you run your business. It needs to become part of your culture, and should be integrated into your overall business cadence.

11. Measurable

How do you know if your account plan is working? In the first instance you need to be able to measure that the plan is complete, and we recommend automating this measure. Secondly, you need to be able to create a scorecard that will help you to assess whether the objectives you set for the plan – the target revenue, the pipeline goal, the penetration of the strategically important Business Units in the account, etc. – are all on track. Without measurement it is hard to know if you are making progress.

12. Action Oriented

While the plan in itself can be hugely valuable – it all comes to like when you define Objectives, Strategies and Actions that define the tactics that you need to execute everyday to make progress. Planning is important, but it is the execution of the tasks and actions everyday that determines the level of progress you make.

I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you think I missed anything.

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Donal Daly

Author of Amazon #1 Best-seller ‘Account Planning in Salesforce”, and a bunch of other books, I am CEO of The TAS Group, the global leader in Smart Sales Transformation. This is exciting, as it combines my expertise in enterprise software applications, artificial intelligence and sales methodology.

– Member: Thought Leadership panel in the Salesforce Sales Community.

At the TAS Group, we provide smart sales transformation in the cloud and your smartphone or tablet. Our customers are progressive sales organizations that maximize revenue in key accounts, increase win rate and uncover sales vulnerabilities. Our sales methodology and insight apps are smart, mobile and easy. We are pleased to continue to provide the world’s leading smart sales performance automation platform to market leaders like Akamai Technologies, Box,Virgin Media Business, and Salesforce.com.

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