Don’t Let your Account Plan Sit on the Shelf This Year!

2009 is finally behind us.  We’ve shifted our sales resources to improve productivity, reorganized our sales teams and completed our account plans for 2010.  And initial sentiment on the street indicates that we’re in for a better year.  But like many of our New Years resolutions, I’m wondering if all of our good intentions and plans to improve sales productivity that were put in place in 2009 will continue into the new year should business improve?  I recently completed a post on Maintaining the Momentum for Sales Productivity Improvements in 2010, so let me get a bit more specific here: account planning.

Account planning was identified as a top 5 priority in IDC’s 2009 Sales Barometer study. (contact me to participate in our 2010 Barometer study which is currently in the field) For the purposes of this discussion, account planning is defined as:

  • Developing a strategy to optimize the long-term relationship, revenue, and profitability with strategic and key accounts — for the vendor and the client. This strategy and plan is developed between the sales reps and their managers and, in some cases, in collaboration with the customer.

Key account planning challenges include: process development, process adoption (especially by first line sales managers), increased collaboration with customers, establishing a cadence across the organization for account planning and connecting account planning to other processes across the customer creation process.

I’m current interviewing sales teams regarding their best practices in this area so please do contact me if you’d like to participate.  Key success factors(KSFs) are certainly becoming evident in this research; however, one specific area comes to mind as we enter the new year.  After spending weeks if not months developing or updating the annual account plan, how are your sales teams intending to update this plan and actually use it as part of their quarterly, monthly and/or weekly activities?  Practices implemented by best practice leaders include:

  • Leveraging the account plan throughout the year to solicit additional resources
  • Incorporating the plans are part of account update calls/meetings
  • Ensuring that the plans are action-oriented (i.e., maintaining their strategic elements while also including more tactical elements)
  • Updating the plan throughout the year to ensure that it is truly a “living” document

More to come in this area since I’m only just starting to compile some of our key insights from best practice leaders.

Have you come across any KSFs within your organization for leveraging account plans throughout the year?  Please feel free to comment below, or participate in our account planning best practice research.

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