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 business. Yes, 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
Part 2: Industry information
Without knowing more about this industry, you’re looking at the account in a vacuum.
Part 3: Company Business Information
Here’s the meat of the Plan.
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.
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.
Part 6: Existing Contract/Pipeline
This part lets you all understand what is currently in play.
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.
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.
Part 9: Customer Satisfaction
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.