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How to Develop an Account Planning Strategy
By Danny Wong
To maximize revenue from existing customers, businesses can leverage account planning. Among small businesses, one of the best B2B sales strategies involves a regular review of the accounts in your client roster that require a more personalized sales approach.
Many entrepreneurs and sales managers apply the same process for converting leads into paying customers and maintaining contract renewals. Absent an account planning strategy, however, companies potentially leave lots of money on the table. When teams use account plans, they develop a deeper understanding of their clients’ needs and pain points. This enables them to better tailor their sales pitches to maximize their chances of conversion and to easily increase the final contract value with cross-sells and upsells.
For many sales teams, account management planning and execution facilitates top-line revenue growth without necessarily increasing the number of prospects they pitch.
Below we explore the question “What is account planning?” Then we delve into aspects of a successful account planning strategy, and consider the pros and cons of account management planning.
What is account planning?
Generally, customer accounts are complex. Traditional sales processes, however, attempt to bucket customers based on common criteria such as industry, number of employees, overall sales, and other data points. This tends to simplify a company’s understanding of its clients. While repurposing the same sales pitch among prospects that share similar business profiles may work in turning them into opportunities won, sellers may still miss important details that could help them generate more revenue from the same account.
This is where account planning comes into play. Account planning encourages salespeople to develop a deeper understanding of each customer’s individual needs, motivations, and business situations. In turn, this empowers sales managers to find new ways to increase revenue from existing accounts. For instance, business owners should be in tune with recent organizational changes among their clients. A customer’s office expansion or fresh round of funding may make them more receptive to the products and services you offer that can help them reach their next growth milestone faster. Details like these allow you to present proposals that have a higher likelihood of acceptance.
When businesses look at the specific challenges their clients face or the potential opportunities ahead for their customers, then they can provide solutions that are mutually beneficial for all parties.
8 Important Steps to Account Planning
Small business owners can copy and customize any of the dozens of available account planning templates online; however, a first look at them can be overwhelming. Before you use an account planning template, it’s important you understand the key elements within.
Here are eight tasks all sales teams need to consider to complete their account planning strategy:
1. Identify your existing accounts. First, list all your current customers. Add any details you have about them regarding their purchasing habits and company profile.
2. Caculate potential revenue and success rate. Figure out how much more these clients may spend and the likelihood that you’ll be able to convert the new sale. You can use this information to prioritize which accounts to pursue first.
3. Determine the points of contact and decision makers. Have a detailed understanding of the persons you have to accommodate throughout the sales process. That way you know who to address at each stage, especially since new stakeholders may be involved in each subsequent purchase order or service agreement.
4. Understand their needs and motivations. Ask questions about each stakeholder’s goals, as well as the recent pain points they’ve experienced and the challenges they anticipate. Learn how they define success in their particular roles so you can offer the perfect product or service that can help them accomplish that. Also, investigate recent organizational developments that you can leverage to your advantage, such as budget shifts or leadership changes.
5. Compare what they want against your available product and service offerings. In such complex sales processes, it’s important that business owners adapt their pitches to focus on the solutions that are among the highest priorities for prospects. The more insight you have on your buyer’s goals, the easier it is to speak directly to their needs with a personalized proposal and help them influence a positive purchasing decision among decision makers on their side.
6. Evaluate the competitive landscape and risks. You should also analyze and observe external pressures your clients may be facing, such as increased competition and loss of market share. The more you know about the elements helping or hurting your customers, the easier it becomes to use that information to your advantage to trigger urgency in purchasing your proposed solutions.
7. Define current customer concerns. Discover each buyer’s biggest reservations about your product or service. Whether it’s price, compatibility, training, or something else entirely, it’s crucial that you know any reasons they would say no so you can find ways to make a more compelling business case.
8. Address buyer reservations and close the sale. Use data and illustrate win-win scenarios that can help customers recognize the additional benefits your company has to offer. Help your client understand how purchasing a new solution or premium upgrade can help them achieve more of their organizational goals.
The Pros and Cons of Account Management Planning
Among small businesses, one of the best ways to strategically grow revenue and protect existing sales is through account management planning. Two of the major advantages include:
An opportunity to cross-sell and upsell additional products and services. With account planning, sales reps know exactly which product lines or service offerings to pitch current clients.
A better way of retaining clients and securing contract renewals. Strategic account management can also be useful in preserving current customer relationships and minimizing churn. With it, sales reps prioritize personalized offers and propose only mutually beneficial solutions.
Account management planning can be used as a proactive strategy in generating more sales from existing customers and keeping your hard-earned clients.
Of course, like any strategy, account planning does have its downsides, which may include the following:
It is a resource-intensive process. To gather an in-depth understanding of buyer needs, competitive pressures, and more information requires constant research and regular relationship nurturing. This naturally limits your team’s ability to prospect for and pitch new customers entirely.
The overall costs may outweigh the revenue gained or preserved. Between the resources spent on targeting an existing buyer and the opportunity cost in forgoing new client acquisition, companies may spend more in their attempt to cross-sell and upsell current accounts than the money they might make on the resulting deal. Therefore, it’s important that owners prioritize accounts based on the biggest revenue opportunities with the highest chances of success.
Indeed, there are some risks for businesses when they implement account planning. Fortunately, they can easily offset their investment in resources and time by focusing their sales team’s efforts on accounts that are most likely to ink new deals based on personalized cross-sells and upsells.
Account-based sales and account management planning require a different skill set and approach compared to traditional B2B sales models. However, in doing so, small businesses capitalize on already receptive audiences that are happier to spend money on your products and services.