account planningWe all know that sales and marketing struggle to live in a connected universe. It’s a hot topic these days, usually focused on leads (their quantity, quality, follow-through). But Sales isn’t only looking to marketing for more leads! They need help finding and converting opportunities through later stages of buying. The disconnect has now moved from the question of leads to, “How can marketing work better with Sales in account planning?” Here’s a good place to start:


It all starts here. Marketing can do a lot to open doors for Sales with the right campaigns, but marketers aren’t mind readers; therefore, COLLABORATION is key. Without it, Marketing is left to their own devices and their campaigns are merely a shot in the dark, doing little to support sales productivity or to build trust amongst the teams.

Around November/December, sales starts looking at their long list of named accounts to figure out how to make their number next year, where they should focus and invest, and where they need to build and nurture relationships. It usually begins with accounts that have in-flight opportunity – the ones that need to be closed this year and into the first/second quarter of next year – and moves on from there. Guess what? Marketing can help sales accelerate and win these opportunities (and build relationships!) by developing campaigns tailored to those specific accounts…but only if they are included in the account planning process!

Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast! Marketing needs a high level of visibility into these accounts in order to craft their messaging and campaigns in a way that will generate interest. So, the collaboration must be more than sales simply saying, “Hey marketing, here’s a list of my target accounts.” There is much more information needed.


Together, marketing and sales need to figure out where in a given territory they should be focusing their efforts, and on which product(s) they should be focusing. Do you want marketing to create collateral promoting product “ABC” when your primary targets are potential candidates for product “XYZ?” Probably not.

white space map

A white space map can help both teams visually identify the current penetration levels of a product/service in each account. In this diagram, the white boxes indicate zero penetration and the black boxes indicate full penetration of a product or service for that particular customer. Gaining visibility into these white spaces is the first step needed for marketing to design highly targeted campaigns that will help sales penetrate these customers.

It’s a good place to start, but there’s still more information from sales that marketing can leverage…


Your customers aren’t going to buy a product just because they don’t have it. It’s wishful thinking. After identifying the white spaces, Sales and Marketing need to determine which accounts are most likely to spend more money on your products. Which have the highest potential? Using segmentation scorecards, the teams can develop a list of attributes that will help identify which customers have the highest potential/propensity to buy. These attributes will include: how much the customer has spent, how much of that spend are you getting, how closely do they match the ideal customer profile, their satisfaction level, if they are growing or in decline…

This type of exercise where marketing and sales examine the accounts together, then leverage that information in the account plan, is a great process for truly recognizing where BOTH TEAMS should be focusing their efforts. Again, it doesn’t stop here.


What do these attributes really tell you? The most effective way to utilize the information from a segmentation scorecards is to visually map it out using an account prioritization grid. This type of grid visually plots the accounts into four quadrants/categories, clearly identifying the accounts with the greatest potential so both teams know where to focus their time and effort. For marketing, this means creating campaigns based on three of the quadrants:

account planning

  • High Potential Value/High Current Revenue – Campaigns focused on expanding into new buying centers and new products
  • High Potential Value/ Low Current Revenue – Campaigns focused on getting current products more robustly into these particular customers
  • Low Potential Value/ High Current Revenue – Nurture campaigns that provide content and best practices to drive satisfaction and promoter scores

The customers with low potential value and low current value simply need to be “managed,” at least at this time. Without this type of insight and involvement in the account planning process, Marketing’s efforts might otherwise be geared towards capturing the attention of this less-desirable segment of customers.


Now that sales and marketing have thoroughly examined and prioritized accounts, it’s time for both teams to execute. Marketing is now fully equipped with the information needed to fine tune their own account plans – ones that go after the accounts and opportunities mutually decided upon with the sales team. Good ones will focus on things like goals, personas, the buyer’s journey, customer lifecycle stages, etc. But again, this isn’t possible without sales first inviting them into the account planning process.

Long story short: the goal is for sales and marketing to create a connected universe where both can agree on what they’re going to do, with whom, and when. That way, marketing can apply its resources to the types of accounts that sales has in its go-to-market strategy, so that their portfolio of accounts has proper support from both teams. Otherwise, the marketing and sales divide will continue.

Read more: 12 Steps To Account Planning