Many sales professionals resent anything that takes them away from time spent with clients and prospective clients. And why shouldn’t they? Account planning is one of those time-stealing tasks. The more time spend with clients mean more deals closed, right?
Actually, no. This session of Dreamforce shows that when sales teams spend a little time planning, more deals are closed. Billy Martin, Director of Field Readiness at Salesforce demonstrates that account planning actually increases sales productivity. Martin lays out Salesforce’s own internal initiative for account planning and shows how your own company can implement their own account planning initiative that requires fewer than 12 hours of sales executive time.
If any company has the know-how to teach account planning, it is Salesforce. Martin explains that Salesforce’s growth plan is called Elevate and includes 250+ portfolio account plans (these are multiple smaller accounts grouped into one account plan), 4,000+ growth plans, 2700 political maps, and 12,000 opportunities. All said, these account plans track $1.5 billion in potential pipeline; because they identify potential opportunities, they are not included in the actual pipeline.
Account planning offers significant potential revenue. Martin teaches that in order to close these potential deals, sales executives must become trusted advisors, willing to help their customers find the best solution even if it means not making a sale.
Account planning is the process of analyzing customer accounts, understanding their objectives, and finding solutions to help your customers reach their goals. Account planning is also called growth planning. Through account planning, account executives find “white space” in the customer’s services or products. Next, account executives can evaluate if their company can help the customer by offering additional products or services or by introducing them to another solution.
There are three important concepts underlying account planning:
- Sales productivity is more likely to come by maximizing current accounts;
- Account planning should be customer-centric; and
- Business productivity software can streamline the account planning process.
What is sales productivity? Sales productivity is the rate account executives acquire revenue for the company. Rather than having sales reps work harder, account planning helps sales professionals work smarter, increasing their sales productivity.
This sales productivity definition emphasizes that, with planning, reps can bring in more revenue. Part of sales productivity is maximizing effort and Martin stresses the importance of looking at existing customers for new revenue. He points to statistics that show it’s six times easier to generate revenue from a current customer than from a new customer. Additionally, says Martin, 60 to70 percent of a company’s revenue comes from current customers and only 5 to 20 percent comes from new customers.
Additional revenue will come from current customers as they seek your company to be a partner with them. Martin identifies 4 relationship levels businesses have with their customers: Trusted Advisor, Problem Solver, Credible Source, and, merely, Vendor. The account planning app is a sales productivity tool to help account executives focus on being a trusted advisor.
As customers and potential customers seek solutions to their challenges, they will consider products offered by various companies. Each company isn’t given the same weight, however. A Trusted Advisor is included in every step of the decision making process. While Vendors, says Martin, aren’t considered until nearly the end of the decision making process.
Winning more business from current customers happens when those customers know sales reps care about their customers’ goals and initiatives more than making a sale. Account executives and sales reps become trusted advisors when the customer knows they can be trusted to provide unbiased advice and guidance.
Account planning means figuring out how to maximize current accounts. The only way to do that is to do what you did in the first place to get the sale: solve a problem for a customer. When sales reps put their customers’ needs at the center of account planning, both the salesperson and the customer benefit. In most cases, account planning should be done WITH your customer, says Martin. Doing account planning together and reviewing the customer’s needs forges a bond of problem-solving and partnership. Sitting down with the customer to plan for production needs in the coming year, discuss their plans for growth, and hear their organizational goals are key to building a customer-centric relationship. Much of these conversations will consist of the account executive listening to the customer to understand their needs and goals. This attention to the customers’ needs creates a relationship where the sales executive is a problem solver and ultimately an advisor rather that someone looking for a quick sale.
Companies can use employee productivity software to record insights into their accounts in order to offer customers products and solutions when the right time arises. Using sales productivity tools for account planning to keep track of current deals and anticipated needs increases sales productivity.
It should come as no surprise that Salesforce uses its own CRM business productivity software to track accounts and opportunities. To do account planning, however, Salesforce reached out to their partner, the TAS Group, to build a custom app for employee productivity software. This account planning tool is available on the Salesforce AppExchange.
Martin gives sales productivity software examples by showing how the app works within Salesforce. It is a custom object for existing accounts which allows account executives to do strategic account planning. Reps can create a growth plan by pulling data from current accounts. The account planning app lists accounts’ usage or orders by product. From this view, account executives can see white space, or areas where a customer is not using a product your company offers.
In these sales productivity software examples, Martin stresses that looking at the white space helps account executives plan to help their customers. One sales productivity software definition emphasizes the importance of seeing data in ways where sales reps and account executives can take meaningful action. Account planning with Salesforce shows the account data organized differently allowing account executives to see opportunities for future revenue growth with current customers.
The first step in initiating account planning is to give your account planning initiative a name, Martin advises. He explains that funding from organizational leadership is more likely when a well-planned initiative is defined with a name. Martin identifies eight stages for Salesforce’s Elevate account planning initiative:
- Assess the Big Picture. Using the productivity software definition in the account planning app, account executives can look for opportunities. There is a function in the app to import opportunities from Salesforce account data as well as a view that shows customer orders versus your company’s offerings.
- Prioritize for Focus. Choose which accounts to target, depending on your company’s focus. Some companies take a top-down approach and start with account planning for their biggest accounts, while other companies choose to strategize with smaller accounts first. Several small accounts are usually organized in a portfolio.
- Define the Starting Point (Whitespace). Using the account planning app with Salesforce imports data and arranges it in a view that shows areas where the customer is not utilizing a product or service but could. This stage is where the account plan is formulated.
- Assess Levels of Relationships. Assessing the relationships within the customer’s organization as well as the relationships members of your organization have with the customer is the next step in account planning. Being able to leverage relationships increases the likelihood of a deal. The average number of decision makers for a deal is 5.4. Understanding relationships within the customer’s organization offers guidance in how to pursue opportunities among the numerous decision makers.
- Connect the Dots, Map Relationships. Account planning in Salesforce allows political maps to be created to chart organizational relationships and assign tasks and tactical actions.The political map tells the story of the relationships within the organization. Many deals fail because relationships are single-threaded, meaning that the sales rep has only one relationship within their customer’s organization. Based on concepts of social selling, your team needs to make a collaborative effort in building relationships with the customer’s team.
- Synthesize Business Insights for the Customer. Gather insights about your customer and share those impressions with your customer. “Be able to come in there and give some good advice,” says Martin, who emphasizes your company may not be able to provide the solution but you can help align them with the right partner. By understanding your customer’s needs and putting their goals ahead of a sale, you become a strategic partner rather than a vendor.
- Track Objectives and Actions. Account plans are entered into the system. A sales productivity definition states that any initiative to increase revenue should be measured for results. Data points can be captured in the account management program and split among team members in a collaborative effort to keep data up-to-date. Lightning interface makes tasks easy to assign and track with Salesforce.
- Adopt a Cadence of Regular Account Planning. Account planning “should be part of the DNA of the organization,” explains Martin. Coaching should be a regular occurrence and sales managers can add comments directly in the account plans. Salesforce dashboards can track account planning.
How do you apply account planning to your organization? Martin recommend the following tasks and time allocations:
- Self-paced training - 2 hours
- Account research - 2 hours
- Initial plan build - 2 hours
- Team planning session - 4-6
- Coaching and peer review - 1 hour
- Present plan to leaders 30 minutes
- Maintenance Measurement
Martin acknowledges that sales professional don’t usually like to sit in meetings or participate in activities that take them away from selling time. However, stresses Martin, account planning allows reps to use their time more productively by finding opportunities outside the sales pipeline. The team planning session, says Martin, is “where the magic happens.” He recommends having a neutral party from sales enablement help reps see more opportunities for potential sales. “When you get smart people in a room and get them to slow down to create a plan like this, typically, you get great things that come out of this,” says Martin.
Account planning allows sales executives to plan for growth by identifying opportunities not included in the traditional sales pipeline. Utilizing business productivity software to identify white space, becoming a trusted advisor, and understanding organizational relationships allows businesses to find potential revenue that may have otherwise been overlooked.