Why you shouldn't do Account Plans. Unless.....


  1.  Don’t ask your team to create Account Plans just for the sake of it
  2. Used effectively, Account Plans help the entire organisation align around what’s needed to drive the most value for your customer and in turn, maximise the share of revenue
  3. Account Plans help companies uplevel from selling into the Midmarket to the Enterprise

Account Plans are the bane of typical Account Executives’ existence.  They require a lot of work, usually aren’t connected into any systems and after all that effort most managers never look at them, or if they do–it’s just once.  Reps are busy–they want to be in front of customers and there’s enough admin as it is.

If you’re a manager in a customer-facing function in the revenue organisation:  Sales, Account Management, Customer Success and you’ve asked your teams to do Account Plans, I suspect you’ve heard the above.  And I also will bet that you thought the same but did Account Plans because you “had” to do them.  

So, let me take a stand right now and say if you don’t have time to regularly review them, or are going to ask your teams to create something that will be a fossil in 3 months—don’t do account plans. Seriously.  You won’t be any worse off than just having a structured conversation.

However…..there is a way to do and use account plans that actually makes everyone better, and brings functions together in a coordinated and concerted manner that genuinely drives businessYes, there will be scepticism and even arguments at the beginning. (Been there).  But, I promise, this doesn’t have to be ‘admin’. 

‘If you want to move your business from serving mid-market customers to enterprise customers, you must have a forcing function to drive behavioural change. If appropriately adopted, account plans are the foundations of this change as they give clarity to the complexity and give you a central point to collaborate with your cross-functional team. I was lucky enough to go through this business transition, and if I had known the results it unlocked, I wouldn’t have pushed back as much as I did’ - James Baston-Pitt, Director of Growth EMEA, Alloy

Here’s the most important part. Schedule regular sessions to review the Account Plan.  Not just with the AE, but with all stakeholders.  Marketing, Customer Success, a representative from Product, SDRs.  This Account Plan is how your company plans to land/expand this obviously critical client to the maximum potential.  Everyone has a stake in this.  That’s how I got my reps to shift from thinking this was just admin, to something that they actually appreciated.  

For our top prospects or clients we’d schedule quarterly or biannual reviews, pulling everyone together to discuss next steps. Product understood what was working well or missing.  Customer Success could weigh in on early buying signals or areas of concern. And Marketing and Sales were able to align even beyond the ABM campaigns.

Every company will have their own template–there will be commonalities but you need to have a template that makes sense for your business.  I’ll walk through the shape of one here, please feel free to then add, subtract and refine as you see fit.

Let’s dig into what actually makes a great account plan.  No, it’s not cutting and pasting from the company’s website, or inserting screenshots from their financial pages. I’m not stupid, I can look at Wikipedia too.   It’s a step back, and viewing the company from all angles to truly understand the potential and how your organisation can bring the most value.  

Note–if you have a Plan that just gets you to the reps quota, it’s not a plan. Shoot high–what’s the absolute crazy value you can bring to the customer, and how do we get there.  This has to be thinking big.

Part 1:  Information about the Account.

This gives you a high level view

  • What divisions are there that might be relevant to sell/expand into. 
  • Do they purchase globally or regionally? 
  • Are there different functions you can sell into?  
  • What is the status of each of these?

Part 2: Industry information

Without knowing more about this industry, you’re looking at the account in a vacuum.  

  • What particular pressures are there facing this industry or vertical? 
  • Who are the leaders by revenue, or thought leaders that are viewed as particularly innovative or effective? 
  • What are the key industry events that you know could be particularly important to attend or speak at?

Part 3: Company Business Information

Here’s the meat of the Plan.  

  • How does the company make money? (that sounds like it should be obvious but it can be quite tricky to dig into all the ways and models).  
  • What kind of margins do they make?  
  • What is their financial performance?  On this question, I don’t want to see a cut/paste of their annual report.  I want to know how they’re doing compared to their peers, are there areas where we know they missed or are slipping—ways that we know are going to be highly motivating if we can align to these to make better.  
  • When is their fiscal year ending/when are budgets decided?  
  • Which are their key geographies now and where are they looking to expand?

And then: 

What are their key strategies, and business initiatives to meet these strategies.  Now we can figure out which challenges to these initiatives we can solve.

"A robust account plan sets the tone; for certainty, genuine consultative interest and meaningful dialogue at every interaction. The outcomes are tangible: positioning for Trusted Advisor, navigating high and wide into complex organisations, driving global alignment, and putting distance between you and the competition. Sales Leaders have to develop Enterprise habits across their people to consistently show how to own the process, instead of being owned". - Roy Jugessur, Chief Revenue Officer, Actual Experience Plc

Part 4: Organisational Chart

This part is hard but absolutely crucial. You need to know all the players in the game. And I promise you, at first pass there will be people that you miss.

  • Who is friendly to you, who prefers another vendor?
  • How are decisions made, and who makes them? 
  • Who is an influencer, a coach, a champion?  

Part 5:  Competition

If you don’t know who you’re competing against, it’s really hard to win. And sometimes ‘do nothing’ is the strongest competitor.  This is also why it’s so important in Part 1 to have a true view of the full company–you need to know if your competitors already have a foothold in other parts of the business. 

  • Which are the top competitors that are already embedded or that you’re up against?
  • What are their strengths/weaknesses?
  • What contracts do they already have in place and when do they renew?

Part 6: Existing Contract/Pipeline

This part lets you all understand what is currently in play.  

  • What percentage of the total possible do you already have?  
  • A clear list of current contracts, amounts, renewal dates.
  • What other deals do you have already in the pipeline that you’re actively working?

Part 7:  Channel Relationships

In the Enterprise space, Channel partnerships can be the make/break of a strong pipeline. For startups, you have X number of reps out there selling. Channel relationships instantly expand that, and get you into warm deals, faster and usually at a higher level.  

  • In this account, who do they already have relationships with (whether an official partner of yours or not)
  • What is that partner’s level of influence and who do they engage with?
  • What’s the scope of their solution?
  • How can they either help you, or are they competitive in some regards?

Part 8:  Account Strategy including action steps?

What do you need to do, and who needs to do it?  This is where the full team planning comes in. 

  • What marketing campaigns need to happen, and who do they target? 
  • Are there specific product requirements that need to be considered, and is it a rational idea to build these? (note–it very well may not be)
  • Who should the SDR team be focusing on?
  • What messaging needs to happen?
  • Are there executives that you could align? Anyone on your board or VC who might facilitate an introduction?

Part 9:  Customer Satisfaction

  • For those parts of the business that you are already working with, how are they doing?
  • Who is most impacted by your solution?
  • Have you quantified with them the impact?
  • Are there any challenges ongoing?
  • Any actions to address?

As you can see, this is a big piece of work.  And will very quickly go out of date and be a relic just dusted off for show-and-tell if you don’t actually use it.  So, if you’re just doing this to tick a box, don’t.  If you have more of a point solution that you sell once and there’s not really much upsell/cross-sell opportunity?  Probably not necessary.

But if you genuinely have a solution that can solve an Enterprise need, and can be used across an organisation in multiple functions/use cases, then Account Plans and strategy sessions will be a game changer and get everyone on the same page.  Literally.

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