So ummm what is account planning…? Or 8 Steps to Successful Selling

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April 22, 2014
So ummm what is account planning…? Or 8 Steps to Successful Selling

When it comes to success, there are no shortcuts. – Bo Bennett, author of Year To Success Hi and welcome back.

Two weeks back in OZ and I am off to Russia, can’t wait, this is a picture of my last time in Russia, this time I am doing a series of workshops in Russia for Samsung on sales processes and how to close strategic deals. I have taken a side trip to St. Petersburg and am loving it. An amazing city! I’ll be posting some photos later. at1

One of the things that really sticks with me is the phrase “Strategic Account Planning”, do people actually know what that means? Really?

Firstly, lets try to understand the phrase strategic account planning. Most companies have strategic accounts. They almost all conduct account planning. But, does what they do really qualify as strategic planning? For a plan to be strategic, it needs to be related to action, not just a collection of out-of-date static facts sitting on a shelf and dusted off once a quarter. Yet, the latter is more the rule than the exception in the real world.

Some salespeople can’t even find their account plan on their laptop, and when they do open it, it generally contains two items.

  • Word doc of the account overview sheets.
  • PowerPoint deck with partially completed organisation charts, bullets about the customer’s goals, a brief summary of past activities, and a list of fourteen steps the account team planned to undertake with the account.

Does this sound like your strategic account plan?

Then you should consider developing an account plan. From here on in this discussion we will consider that an account plan is strategic as it will relate to action not inaction, that focuses on profitable clients, products and services. Developing and executing a sales account plan can and does bring significant revenue rewards.

Here are 8 steps you should include in your sales account plan to ensure your success. at2

  • Identify your sales channels, divisions and types. Review your past two years of sales, sorting by area and distinct sales group. Distinct sales groups could include:

o   Product line or product category

o   Geographic sales area or sales region or country

o   Customer type – for example, commercial, government, retail

o   Divisions – for example, manufactured goods, distributed goods.

  • Identify the top 20% to 25% of your current clients for each channel. Sort each distinct sales group by total sales and identify your top clients in terms of profit margin and revenue.
  • Create a unique sales account plan for each of your top clients, based on their sales history or future sales potential. A basic sales account plan should:

o   Identify the sales team responsible for your client

o   Show historical sales information for that client

o   Estimate next year’s revenues from that client

o   Identify business development opportunities within the client

o   Create strategies to preserve current sales and generate new revenue from the client

o   Detail the steps and timing of your plan to realise the revenue goals for that client.

  • Identify target clients that you want to win in the current year: every business needs to add new clients to thrive. Create a profile for your ideal client. Identify target clients for each sales area that you want to win in the current year.
  • Create sales account plans for each target client. Once you have identified target clients, create a sales account plan for each of them. A new business sales account plan should:

o   Identify the sales team responsible for the target client.

o   Estimate historical purchasing the target client makes from your competitors.

o   Find out how they make buying decisions.

o   Find out who makes the buying decisions and who influences the buying decisions.

o   Find out what the time horizon is for the decision and what is driving the timing.

o   Find out what the financial drivers are for the decisions – i.e. cost savings, increase in productivity, revenue growth, etc.

o   Create a “buying decision” organisation chart of the target client.

  • Calculate your sales goals: one of the final tests of your sales account plan is to add up all of the revenues from your current client and target client sales account plans. Do the collective sales account plan goals cover your sales goals? You need to have a multiple of three to five times your target covered by prospective opportunities. If you have enough cover, then you can execute the plans. If not, then review the sales account plans again and make revisions to your strategies to get more sales or revise the sales goals to match the sales account plans.
  • Execute the sales account plans and review your sales account plan weekly and confirm that you and your team are completing the action items on a timely basis and getting the expected results.
  • Mitigate the single point of failure in your sales account plan. A good sales account plan is a well thought out strategy that is client focused and creative. Some of the most successful sales account plans involve discussions and planning sessions with the client and also brainstorming with your staff, presenting questions such as; “What would you do to steal your client if they belonged to your competitor?


Sales account planning requires time, dedication and focus. The rewards for a good sales account plan are increased market share, revenue and profits. Til’ the next time…. Andrew

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