Account planning is important, it’s fundamental to growing our value and positioning with our key customers. It helps us align resources and activities with the customers that represent the most potential and opportunity.

We are approaching the end of the year, everyone is involved in “account planning.” It’s odd, but virtually every organization does the same thing. It seems that account planning is an annual or semi-annual exercise.

We dust off last year’s PowerPoint. We update the data in the account plan, showing the customer financial and business performance, discussing their industry positioning and performance, discussing their strategies and priorities. We draw this information from their annual reports, analyst reports, public presentations. Sometimes, very rarely, we may actually talk to customers in our accounts about how we might sell more (as opposed to what their priorities and plans for the coming year may be.).

We then look at our own performance in the account over the past year. What we’ve sold, where we’ve grown, perhaps the results of the latest customer satisfaction strategy.

We may do an organization map, mapping our positioning/relationships, those of the competitors. We may identify new people we want to meet, new divisions we want to explore in the coming year.

If we’ve adopted an Account Based Marketing strategy, we will be talking about the marketing and demand gen programs we will be conducting in the account. Inevitably, these are just adapted from the standard demand gen programs marketing was conducting any way.

We may set a goal for account growth, which somehow is always aligned with what we expect as quota for the following year.

We present these plans, usually there is some discussion. It might be around how to sell some of our new products into the account, it may be about where we can get some growth, it may be about problems we might have with the account.

We finish the review, everyone satisfied we’ve done the account plan, we file it away for next year’s exercise, then go back to our day jobs.

Too often, we get account planning wrong! We also make it much more complicated than it need be!

So what should we be doing? How should we be doing our account planning? How do we make it more impactful and meaningful?

Some thoughts:

We make account planning far more complicated than it need be. We make account planning about completing the forms/templates/reports that represent the “account plan.” Account planning has very little to do with the forms and templates.

We have a mindset that account management/planning is a “farming” activity. We focus on the business we have, maintaining it, renewing it. While that’s important, account planning is really about growing the account. It’s about finding new opportunities, new customers, “new logos” within the account.

At the most fundamental level, account planning is a structured prospecting process.

We don’t think about our prospecting plans just once a year. Prospecting is something we do continuously. We look at and execute our prospecting programs weekly. We block time to execute structured prospecting programs every week,sometimes every day.

Our account plans should focus on on prospecting, on how we identify more opportunities to create value with our customers, growing our relationship and business volumes.

  • We establish our prospecting goals–week by week, month by month.
  • We establish our prospecting programs and campaigns–who are we going to reach, through what channels with what frequency, what are our goals in those conversations?

Account planning/execution is a dynamic process, it’s constantly changing, presenting us with new opportunities/challenges. We have to update our plans and strategies to reflect these. This means, through the year, we constantly revisit our prospecting programs, strategies, goals with the account, updating them based on past results and new opportunities we may have.

Yes, there is more that we can do as part of our account planning process. But if we aren’t doing the fundamentals, then how effective will all the other stuff be? What will those “plans” do to build the value and relationships we create with our customers?

Perhaps we should get back to basics with account planning. Once we master those, then we can move forward.

What’s your prospecting plan for your account?