All sales reps dream of landing the big one – that big, expensive deal with a marquee account that makes their number this year and sets them up for success for years to come. As recognition of the potential value of large, named, strategic or global accounts, many sales organizations have teams dedicated to these accounts. But all too often, the focus is only on the acquisition component – that first big win – without a consistent process for retention and growth that includes collaboration between sales, marketing, product, customer success and other functional groups.
A critical success factor and first step toward a comprehensive approach is joint development of strategic account plans. Joint account planning has a number of benefits, including:
We recommend that the entire sales account team (e.g. account executive, account manager, regional sales, sales engineer, product specialists) and marketing (e.g. account-based marketing) participate in the creation of the account plan. Other functions with a role in strategic account management – channel sales, product, customer success – may also be involved, more commonly in the review and approval of the account plan.
The most important outcome of the account planning process is the action plan – a sequence of steps that must be taken or activities that must be performed to achieve the goals. The action plan must have three elements:
Each functional group may have a corresponding plan. For example, marketing may have a plan that describes buyer personas, buyer needs and messaging, as well as specific marketing support, tactics and actions.
All interested and involved parties, including sales and marketing executives, should review and approve account plans. The account plan review is a formal event (e.g. meeting) during which the sales account owner presents an overview of the plan, with emphasis on the action plan. The review meeting ensures stakeholder alignment and agreement on required resources, timing and execution of action items. When possible and practical, share a modified version (e.g. with internal information redacted) of the account plan with key stakeholders within the account. Customer reviews must be done in a controlled fashion – often as part of a quarterly business review – to solicit confirmation, feedback and clarification.
A best-in-class strategic account plan leads to a deeper understanding of the customer’s business, a roadmap for coordinating activities across functional groups, and an executable plan for a long-term relationship that maximizes account revenue.
Steve Silver is a Senior Research Director of Sales Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Steve brings with him more than 20 years of executive-level experience spanning sales operations, sales and product marketing. Follow Steve on Twitter @jstevensilver.