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Q3/2012 Account Planning

A Fluent Moment

Did you know…

Good organizational skills are a key to good selling. When you are organized you are apt to be more prepared in all sales situations. Some of the tricks for good sales organization are:

  • Develop good habits
  • Maintain up-to-date client folders
  • Use simple automated tools
  • Learn to multi-task
  • Plan ahead for each week
  • Prioritize

Message from an
AFV Partner

Account planning happens every day – all the time – whether we know it or not. We think out our strategy for how we are going to close the tough deals; we think out a strategy for how we are going to afford the house that is just out of our financial reach; and we plan for how large a family we want. We do account planning in every stage and facet of our lives. The tough part, of course, is getting those plans down on paper.

Why take the time to write anything down? Putting your plans down on paper forces you to think of each step. It forces you to think through the process and ensures that you are organized. Account plans are part of the organizational process that helps make us the best that we can be. Being organized in the sales process, with the help of an account plan, will allow you to identify where you need help. Once you determine your area of need you can more accurately and effectively recruit the necessary resources to ensure success. Putting our thoughts and actions in writing requires a level of detail and commitment that many people, especially reactive salespeople, do not have. The good news is that it is within your power to develop these skills… and the development of new skills is what learning to be a consultative sales person is all about.

Walter Santiago

Walter Santiago
Managing Partner
A Fluent Vision, L.L.C.

Account Planning: Your map to sales success

How to develop an Account Plan

The Account Plan is your map. Do you really want to travel to a new place without one? Think of each customer as a new place—and the final close as your destination. Your goal is to arrive as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Account Planning may sound hard but it’s not—follow this format and before you know it you will be creating excellent plans on which you can depend.

An Account Plan will help you to focus and therefore shorten the sales cycle.

1.) Overall account summary

How is the organization structured? Utilize an org chart and annual report, if available, to gather important information that can be used in your plan. The key to good account planning is being able to “read” what isn’t obvious. An org-chart and annual report are great examples of this thought process.

  • Is the organization fat or thin?
  • How many departments or divisions are there?

The way the company breaks down into departments or divisions tell you something about how each area is valued. Org charts help you identify the “influencers” and the real decision makers. The annual report will give you a picture of the company’s current financial condition and core business objectives. (i.e. are they looking to expand? By what method?) If the company is not public, use your consultative skills to obtain this and other information that you need for your plan.

Whether public or private, here is some very specific information that you need to collect:

  • What are the business goals for the area you are trying to sell to?
  • Who are the decision makers and what is the decision-making process?
  • What are the purchasing criteria?
  • Why is this area a good target for your offering(s)?
  • If this is an existing account you wish to penetrate further, what is the relationship between your customer and the other departments in the company? What does the target department do for the company and what are their business objectives? Why do you feel they are a good target?

2.) Objectives for penetrating this account

Now that you know something about the company’s goals you need to establish your own goals for the account.

  • What are your short-term goals? (i.e. How are you going to break into this account; what is the compelling message?)
  • What are your long-term goals? (i.e. This initial sale is a way of entering the company and then selling them network design services.)

Make sure you can answer the question of why this is a good opportunity. True to form for salespeople, no objective is a good objective unless it is going to make us money. List each opportunity and the revenue potential. (Include timing!)

3.) Execution

  • What will it take to reach each of the stated goals – yours and the customers’?
  • What are the specific steps you need to take to reach them and by what dates?

4.) List internal resources you need to help you reach your goals

Part of your map should identify whose help you may need to reach the close. Who will you need and when? (i.e. Need to schedule pre-sales engineer to help with site survey within two weeks; need to coordinate corporate VP to meet with customer executive to discuss timetables for warehousing PC’s within this quarter.)

5.) What are the potential issues and objections that may prevent you from getting the business?

If you have really thought out a plan you can anticipate what objections you might face. Identify as best you can the issues that your management should be aware of to help you get the business. (i.e. competition is about to close the deal because they are getting manufacturer support; your company does not have a track record in providing the proposed services, etc.)

6.) Have manager, resources and sales rep sign off on each plan

Before sign off, make sure you have had all of the meetings necessary so that all internal team members agree on the plan (including technical support). Doing this upfront creates team buy-in and support for your plan.

Consultative Corner

What do you do with your Account Plan?

Here is where many people get caught short. They put in the time to create their account plan, get the proper sign offs, and then promptly file it in a drawer where it never sees the light of day. Don’t do it! Yes, developing the plan is useful. It helps you think through and identify the right sales approach for each customer. If you don’t use the account plan you are bound to lose your way and cost yourself precious time.

The Benefits of Account Planning

Overall, the Account Plan gives you the ability to understand, manage and shorten the sales cycle. It helps you get optimum account penetration.

Highlights of Account Planning

  • Know the prospect’s environment
  • Know the prospect’s business goals and plans before you begin
  • Understand realistically where your offering is a good fit
  • Mimic previous successful plans
  • Begin with departments you are familiar with
  • Make your milestones measurable
  • Get all appropriate internal people to sign-off on the plan (i.e. managers, tech staff)
  • Create a flexible, working document

Remember

Don’t leave behind sales opportunities for the competition. Having a thorough understanding of the account lets you uncover and pursue all the opportunities. An Account Plan provides critical information and a process to get you to the close.


A Fluent Vision

Whether your sales infrastructure needs to be built from scratch, re-engineered, or simply re-invigorated; AFV is the answer. AFV can help you create A Fluent Vision.

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