Account planning is an umbrella term used to describe a set strategy typically designed to close or upsell business within the sales teams’ target accounts. Account planning in Salesforce involves micro and macro objectives where different team members on your side will have specific sets of responsibilities. It also covers the companies you’re competing with for the deal, details about their decision-making process, and other notes that will shape your strategy. Account planning is a process that moves all the way down the funnel; from BDR’s prospecting and setting meetings, AE’s providing value and pushing the deal along, marketers providing sellers the optimal content (as well as paid social to surround key stakeholders), to customer success responsible for making an upsell ask at the right time). As you can see, an effective account planning process usually will require both buy-in and collaboration from the entire team. Once you’ve discovered an effective process, though, then it’s off to the races.
Account planning in theory should simplify the sales process of your selling org. Though it seems complicated, effective account plans keep both your reps, leaders, and anyone involved in the sales cycle in lockstep throughout the deal. We believe that where your account plans are stored and can be accessed by your team plays a tantamount role in the success of your account planning initiative. Critical account information such as key stakeholders, business objectives, and their challenges and more make good plans advantageous for the selling team. Account planning software keeps all of your data inside your CRM, as well as leveraging tasks and existing CRM data.
We believe the account planning process starts once your top accounts are identified. Marketing strategy, BDR and sales outreach, and talking points/value propositions should all be understood (to a useful degree) by your entire team. When your team moves together in motion into an account, your business looks coordinated, strategic, and for lack of a better term, like you actually care about your prospect. It’s important to trust your selling process as much as you trust the product you’re selling. Account planning ensures both of your bases are covered in this instance. We also recommend building account plans for your most important customers. Think about what separates your top 5-10% of customers from the rest, and build a plan to map key stakeholders, identify where you can have opportunities for expansion, and document their challenges, goals, and objectives.
Account plans can be as simple or complicated as your team wants to make them, as we understand that each industry is different and priorities shift from vertical to vertical. At Prolifiq, we like to understand customer metrics like employee size, annual revenue, tech stack, pain points around Salesforce use, and the key stakeholders we should be targeting. Components of an effective account plan that span across most all businesses include (as mentioned); a map of stakeholders sellers should be connecting with, identified verticals (if the account is large enough) within the account and which ones could best use your product, competitors to said account, and what their timeline of purchasing products in your industry (for us, it’s technology). Account planning in Salesforce gives your team the ability to collaborate on these pillars within your CRM. Strategic account management inputs should revolve around what your team needs to operate.
Before beginning to plan for an account, it is important to ensure that you and your team are aligned on the goals you’d like to accomplish with your account planning initiative. Is it tied to pipeline creation, closed revenue goals, or account expansion? Once you’ve established success metrics, it’s time to understand the role and responsibilities of each team member. Where will data be stored and updated throughout the execution of your plan? Is there a projected timeline you’re trying to hit? Combining these pre-planning elements with the list of metrics included in the question above will give your team a fantastic starting point to begin your account planning journey. An account planning tool never hurts either.
Account planning is a process that brings customer-facing teams together in order to achieve a common goal, growth. B2B companies who sell into larger, enterprise accounts need to have an account plan for two reasons. Your current customers will always be the easiest path to quick wins and additional revenue, and aligning customer support, marketing, and sales around how to capture that additional revenue is a critical part of building your strategy. Another need for account planning or account planning tool is to have a comprehensive approach to winning larger deals. Most B2B sales cycles involve multiple stakeholders, business units, and conflicting priorities. Having a process where you document who needs to be engaged, what they’re measured on, and how you will help them hit their goals is important to consistent success.
Bringing account planning into Salesforce typically involves changing your process. A lot of B2B sales professionals do their planning for target or existing accounts in slide decks, spreadsheets, whiteboards, and more. This leads to account planning being a once-a-year effort or once-per-quarter effort instead of an ongoing part of their sales strategy. Taking the documented plans for existing accounts and bringing them into Salesforce can be done through account planning tools, which enable you to build stakeholder maps and full plans inside of your CRM. These strategic account plans typically get used in the account object, but can also be modified or cloned to serve a similar purpose in the opportunity object as well.
Account planning tools are built to help teams get closer to their key accounts while giving teams the chance to get closer to key stakeholders in your biggest opportunities as well. The tool helps sales teams understand who is who within the account, visualize the buying path, and helps provide visibility into other business units your team can find quick wins. This provides a template for the team to drive a repeatable process to deliver value to every customer. The best account plan will have the stakeholders labeled by their influence, support, and overall engagement throughout your sales cycle or partnership.