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The Most Critical Account Planning Mistakes

It's a vitally important part of the sales process; don't fall foul of any of these five common pitfalls

Account planning is a crucial part of the sales process. Drawing up a single document that details a customer’s business situation, what their interests are, and consequently what new business opportunities this presents, is an incredibly powerful part of the sales team’s armory. Failing to have an accurate plan, at least for the most important clients, would be like trying to run a company without a set corporate strategy.

Sales teams that don’t make use of account planning are almost certainly leaving money on the table. But it’s not just about having a plan; poorly designed plans will actually add more of a burden to reps’ roles without providing the right returns on their time investment. Ineffective plans will also prove a frequent cause of tension between reps and their managers

The ideal account plan helps sales managers coach their sales teams and forecast how likely a client is to provide new business. It also gives sellers a valuable resource for strategy and information on a prospect or client. Avoiding five common account planning mistakes will help everyone make the most of this valuable activity.

  1. Set it and forget it: Your customers are not static and your account plans shouldn’t be either. The best account plans are living documents that are updated frequently as new insight is gathered and opportunities are identified.

  2. What CRM are we using again?: Building account planning into your customer relationship management (CRM) system is the best way to ensure that it will be part of your team’s daily workflow.

    Using a CRM greatly simplifies collaboration so you can be sure the plan is up to date and your team is all on the same page.

  3. For sales staff only: Your sellers may be the primary points of contact with your customers, but they are not the only ones with valuable insight. Successful account planning benefits from diverse perspectives.

    Consider building a cross-functional group of people from sales, marketing, product, R&D and other teams to create an account strategy that provides maximum value to the customer.

  4. Opportunity blindness: Your account plan should never be satisfied with the business you have. Instead, design it as a tool to identify opportunities for upsell and cross-sell.

    This will help grow your business and defend against threats posed by other suppliers. Additionally, excluding non-sales stakeholders from the account planning process will often result in missed opportunities and insights.

  5. Simply checking the box: Account planning should not be communicated by management as a checklist task, but rather a skill set that is developed and used as part of ongoing efforts to identify and pursue business. Consequently, effective coaching is an integral part of this development and should not be overlooked.

    Make sure sellers see account planning as a valuable part of their day-to-day role – and a competency that will make them better sellers – not just something they have to comply with to keep the boss happy.


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