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The View from the Top | Strategic Account Planning (Pt.1)

The View from the Top | Strategic Account Planning (Pt.1) April 7, 20222 Comments

Strategic account planning is a win-win process for both customer and seller when properly executed. Account planning is mapping out essential details about a new prospect or existing relationships, ultimately leading to growth in value and revenue.   

We have held Strategic Account Planning sessions with some of our top clients. This exercise is eye-opening, and we gain knowledge each time ourselves. After going through our methodology with these clients, we came away with some key observations and best practices that we would like to share in a three-part series. These practices can be applied to any business hoping to retain and grow their most important customers.  

 Strategic account planning is a standard corporate activity. The sales team puts together their account plan, projecting how much business they expect to land over the next year, while companies look at the market to determine their budget.    

Have a broader perspective: 

Of course, this is a good activity that we would recommend, but we also recommend that the sales teams go further.  Account planning needs to be more strategic and less tactical.  The old adage of not “seeing the forest for the trees” definitely holds true to Account Planning. With a narrow perspective, you only see right in front of you. Instead, you need a bifocal perspective, meaning that you can see both short-term and farther out to get a long-term, broad scope of accounts.  

 Most salespeople do really well when looking at what’s right in front of them. They can easily describe the deals they are working on and what’s coming up in the next quarter or next year. However, they struggle when trying to make a long-range plan. Having a long-term view of your strategic accounts can be a game-changer.   

 The first best practice: 

 Shift focus from yourself and the products you’re trying to sell. Your focus should be on the customer. Gather all the variables to better understand them and their strategies. Research the company, have conversations with your contacts inside the account, and read whatever you can to understand their system. Find out where they want to go in their markets, how they want to better serve their customers, and where they are making investments for the future. You don’t want just a 12-month view of the situation but at least a 36-month view.     

Uncover the customers needs:

We like to imagine a pyramid metaphor related to the client’s essential objectives, with their goals at the top, their initiatives in the middle, and their projects at the bottom. For example, their three big corporate goals may be to grow revenue, improve sustainability, and reduce costs. There will be several initiatives required to achieve these goals. For example, they may plan to launch new projects, enter new markets, and double their sales force to grow revenue. Each initiative includes projects requiring solutions or products from vendors to be successful. If you only respond to the projects, you will be disadvantaged. Typically, the seller who ultimately wins is the supplier that links to the client’s initiatives and has been involved in creating and defining the client’s successful projects. Therefore, the sales team engaged in all three parts of the pyramid has a higher probability of winning the project than a team that only tries to find and win existing projects.  

 Often, your toughest competition is the status quo. Making a change is hard. It’s always easier for a company to do nothing and stay with their current vendor. But, if they make a change, they will most likely choose the company that provides products that meet their requirements and offers early insight during their decision process. In addition, the selected vendor probably helped influence their strategy and business justification to drive the change. It is tough to make such an impact if you’re just chasing known projects and short-term deals.     

 Companies will only do projects that connect back to their corporate strategy. Why is that so important to recognize? The client has a buying process, and it comes down to who can add value between the seller and vendor that wins the project. So, the ability to lead and connect all the way through is crucial, and you can only do that if you understand their strategy and have a strategic sales method of your own for the account.  

In part 2 we will explore Strategic Account Planning further.

 Another key aspect of Account Planning is having a strategy for creating relationships with key influencers inside your strategic accounts. We will elaborate on leveraging your existing relationships next week.   









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