Using Technology to Streamline Strategic Account Planning

The last 24 months have shown that robust account planning can make or break a sales organization. You better believe that 2022 will drive that lesson home. As large Salesforce teams start the new year, account planning has gone from a nicety to a critical requirement.

Best practices sometimes seem like jumping through needless hoops to satisfy a nitpicking manager or algorithm, but in 2022 there will be additional urgency. While account planning can add to your prep time, it helps you close faster. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

So what is the secret account planning tool that will sharpen your ax?

Whether you call it “account planning,” “key account management,” or “strategic account planning,” there is a simpler umbrella term that’s been around for ages: customer service. Account planning starts with your customer’s needs — first, second, and always. 

In 2022, your primary sales goal shouldn’t be to sell to customers but to help them understand their challenges and focus on achieving their goals (hopefully, but maybe not always, with your products). Their success is your success. In the early days, account planning templates were static Excel sheets or PowerPoint that helped sales reps and leaders figure out what to do.

Real-time account planning: There’s a reason we exchanged paper maps for GPS

Static quarterly sales presentations make it difficult for executive suite decision-makers and revenue operations leaders to plot their sales pipeline and standardize information distribution across the enterprise. When you’re managing 25+ salespeople on Salesforce, asking your sales team to update quarterly spreadsheets to detail their progress wastes their talent and your time. If you’re using Salesforce, the data is already there. A map is all you need to get your sales team to the promised land. Here’s the BIG secret: You already have the map.

You’re leaving money on the table: The secret value of account planning

The Pareto principle states that “80% of the value comes from 20% of inputs.” This statistic also applies to your customer accounts, with top customers’ renewals, cross-sales, and growth, typically making up the more significant chunk of revenue for most organizations. 

Unfortunately, most businesses focus on developing their products, not their customers. Research from Gartner shows that “only 28% of sales leaders say that account management channels regularly meet cross-selling and account growth targets.” The problem isn’t that your sales team isn’t selling; it’s that they’re focusing on the wrong things. Great salespeople listen more than they talk.  

That’s the secret to account planning best practices. It is codified active listening for salespeople. Even better, account planning tools actually automate active listening so that your revenue operations team can listen to all their customers at scale.

What everyone gets wrong about account planning

A lot of salespeople get this next part wrong. For example, a Gartner survey of 750 B2B customer stakeholders found that “while high levels of customer service increase the likelihood of customer retention, they have no statistical or meaningful impact on growth.”

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, a customer retained is a customer earned. Unfortunately, given a choice between current client service-oriented activities or growth, account managers often decide to chase new leads. While the hunt for new leads is exciting, you are six times more likely to sell to a current customer than a new one.

Being nimble is the name of the game. You need to expect current customers’ pain points before they hurt them. With account planning software, you can see how your existing customers or leads are affected by industry trends. For example, a customer may need help in their new role if they just got a promotion. Sales staff must be proactive, not reactive.

Such an attentive approach helps retention and sets the stage for future growth. Therefore, you need a tool with such account planning best practices as its foundation. 

Pulling everything together in one tool

In 2023, your large sales team needs the missing tools that will make Salesforce pay off for the entire organization. Next Quarter’s products are like a secret Salesforce warp engine that empowers revenue operations and finance departments to go to places they only dreamt of before. 

Next Quarter helps sales teams create value with existing customers and discover new opportunities with our insights-driven account planning solutions. It is a fully customizable product that lets you tailor your plan and features AI-based real-time insights to help you anticipate your customers’ needs before they do. 

Our comprehensive solutions are built by people who lived through the pain and frustration of the yearly sales ritual. The software’s AI applies machine learning to your specific organization to deliver actionable insights unique to your company and market. Our proven solutions automate the best account planning experience for sales professionals. We offer fully immersive tutorials to give you the expert guidance and best practices you need.

Contact us today, and we’ll show you how to make 2023 your most profitable year.