Some truths are universal across sales, regardless of the industry. Chief among them? You want to spend your time analyzing data to make better sales, not entering it. You want to use data at your fingertips to get actionable insights. You want this process to be easy, informative, and illuminating. You want to know where opportunities exist and who the decision-makers are to have the best chance of making a sale.
To make this happen, you must engage in strategic account planning to get your sales right. As such, there are some strategic account planning best practices that you must adhere to, particularly in terms of developing an account plan and ensuring that data entry is as efficient as possible within the Salesforce platform.
An account plan is a comprehensive digital file that contains a variety of information, including:
- Basic contact information about the client in question, including contact information, a record of contacts, goals, and order history.
- Notes from team members based on their interaction and research.
- Estimates how much revenue can be generated from the client and the odds of success.
- Next steps for this client.
- Specific details about how to retain this client or improve their revenue.
It is important to remember that strategic account planning isn’t a database. It is a forward-looking document that ensures you know who to contact, what someone may be interested in, and how you can understand and fulfill customer needs. It is customer-centered, has action steps, and holds team members accountable for ensuring that you retain this client and improve your relationship with them.
Strategic account planning best practices also ensure that the development of a strategic account planning document doesn’t occur in isolation. A plan must connect to the broader company picture, altering company-wide revenue estimates and assigning responsibilities to members throughout your company. It also considers a slew of external factors, like price changes and supply chain disruptions, to ensure that you engage in appropriate forward-thinking to better fulfill client needs.
Every strategic account plan will contain slightly different information. However, account planning best practices usually mean that all account plans will contain at least the following information:
- Internal goals for the client. What do you want to do for this client? Do you want to retain and improve your relationship? Increase revenue? Find new products for them?
- An assignment of duties. Who is the lead team member on this client? Who else is involved?
- A record of contacts that allows you to glean insight into what this client may be interested in.
- Identification of expansion opportunities.
- A comprehensive overview of the client’s business and business model, even if the information recorded doesn’t directly assist in helping you learn what a client is interested in. However, this background information may prove highly useful at a later date.
You may know what an account plan is, but if you don’t understand why it matters, you’re not going to do it. Fortunately, there’s no question about why an account plan and account planning best practices matter deeply. As such, potential reasons include the following:
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses and sales teams make is failing to miss the bigger picture. You can get so obsessed with narrow revenue metrics that you may miss the need to consider broader client-side concerns, like changes in operations or external factors altering their business.
Account planning best practices require that your business take a broader view. In doing so, you may be able to understand client motivations better and find new opportunities to allow you to fill their needs. You can also get a better grasp of a customer’s organizational model. This, in turn, may help you identify new contacts that can increase your sales opportunities.
Related to the above — proper use of strategic account planning means taking a step backward and getting a deeper picture. A comprehensive strategic account plan means you monitor a client or prospect’s progress, identify the direction of their business and try to anticipate their needs and struggle. From there, you can create an overview of possible opportunities to increase your relationship with them, potentially selling them new products or services.
Remember, this is only possible by developing a solid strategic account plan. It can be difficult to anticipate a business’s needs if you don’t have the necessary overview of who they are and what they offer.
There is a big difference between strategic account planning that exists in the mind of a salesperson and a strategic account plan that has been written and developed from the perspective of multiple team members. Account planning best practices demand that a strategic account plan be developed with a broader perspective involving numerous internal stakeholders. Doing so can give you a wider perspective than just your own. It can also ensure that you can identify action items assigned to the right person.
When done correctly, strategic account planning allows for the connection of an account plan with the broader business environment. You can incorporate an account plan with your overall business goals and analytics. From there, you can use newer technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), to conduct a deeper analysis of what products and services a business might need. This allows you to go deeper than whatever steps you may have conducted on your own.
New tools are being developed regularly, allowing you to pull in new technology and services. However, it is only with a digital account plan — that you can adequately utilize these services.
No matter how good you are at strategic account planning or adhering to account planning best practices, you may lack the information or insight to develop the right plan. By creating an account plan, you can identify gaps in your business. From there, you can make broader decisions: Can you hire internally to fulfill these needs? Can outside vendors help you improve your account planning process or fill other business needs?
As you can see, strategic account planning and making sense of data demand expertise, experience, and familiarity with sales, technology, and AI. Unfortunately, many businesses may lack this information and knowledge. Fortunately, at Next Quarter, we’re here to help. We were founded with the intent to close the gap between technology, account planning, and sales. As a Salesforce native platform, our customers never need to leave their Salesforce environment to create account plans. Everything stays within the CRM and is protected within Salesforce security.