Emissary’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Seleste Lunsford, joins with Jacobo Crespo, Director of Sales Performance, BMC; Kevin Jordan, Director of Sales Performance, Databricks; and Matt Hawk, PhD, Director of Sales Enablement at Databook for a panel discussion around creating a successful sales account plan.
Account planning is something that salespeople all love and love to hate. But don’t just “check the box” on those forms. They are an important part of the sales process, and we discuss ways to design an account planning program that actually works.
Account planning starts way before the actual plan, and that’s the whole organizational process of it. It’s an organizational discipline, as opposed to an obsession with the plan or the artifact.
Here are just a few of the takeaways from our discussion:
Have a Roadmap
Account planning is to get you thinking; to define or revise the vision; and to establish the strategy for the year: what are we going to do, and how are we going to do it.
Determine where you want to invest your time. Otherwise, if you don’t know what the steps are, what needs to happen, you can find yourself being pulled into directions that don’t advance you to the deal. If you build out your plan beforehand, you can accelerate much quicker down the road, and focus on the doing.
It Takes a Team to Create a Sales Account Plan
It takes a team effort. Account planning requires a lot of time, preparation, coordination, and brainstorming – and making sure that everybody is aligned. It’s worth investing the time to identify the key individuals and make sure that their voices are heard.
Having cross-functional disciplines involved helps move it from an individual exercise to an organizational alignment. This also means the entire leadership team, so not just the key managers, but also the technical managers and customer success leaders.
Sales managers have to be involved in the creation of the account plan to begin with, so that the selling motion is included and that they understand the plan and what it looks like for their sellers to be successful.
The account manager is like the orchestra conductor, they should be in charge of making sure that all the instruments are playing the same tune, at the same time, and that everyone’s speaking the same language.
Empathy and Trust
Account planning is more than just facts and data. One of the things we don’t talk very much about in sales is empathy and trust.
When you show up to a meeting with a deep understanding of the customer that opens the gateway to influence and trust.
The way that you make big enterprise deals is you get all this data and then you take it and create empathy and understanding with your customer; because when people feel understood then all kinds of magical possibilities open up.
Create a Value-Based Plan
A plan should include all of the traditional items, like org charts, influence maps, and so on.
But the business value pieces also need to be incorporated: analyzing where the actual pain points are, and being able to connect those dots all the time to the bigger picture.
The challenge in previous years, before there were sales intelligence tools, was you had to ask the client these questions. But today, if you’re asking for these things in a meeting, it’s a waste of a meeting from the client’s point of view because it creates no value to them if you’re asking them to talk about it.
Find the white space of what they are trying to do, what can you offer to them. It’s not about what you want to sell, it’s about where the customer wants to go and how you think you can help them.
If you’re not comfortable showing it to your customer it tells you a couple things: it’s not deep or rich enough. It may be too internally focused, or it’s too much about what you want to sell and not enough about how you’re going to partner with this customer.
Validation of the Plan
Validate all your assumptions, all the research that you do. To have an executive who has been there to be able to say: this is what we’re doing, this is who makes the decision. This can validate in one hour what normally takes 50 hours of digging.
Measure and Iterate Regularly
Measure and review regularly – it’s a living, breathing document. Quarterly reviews aren’t an inspection of performance, but a review of executing the roadmap. Iterate when you see common trends or gain learnings.
It should include KPIs and metrics: what is the best actionable format for you to review and measure?
Watch the full webinar for additional insights and best practices on creating a successful sales account plan:
Get the Right Account Planning Intelligence Fast with the Inside Track
Formal opportunity and account planning methodologies can be vital to winning, keeping, and growing more business with clients. Having a detailed, nuanced view of your buyers’ goals, preferences, and business needs makes the difference between an effective account plan and one that leaves sellers to feel their way through the deal without much guidance. However, it can take immense amounts of work and time to get to that level of understanding.
That’s why you need an experienced champion, like an Emissary Advisor, on your team. Emissary Advisors have recently left technology leadership roles at the accounts you’re targeting. They know the people you need to talk to and what those people want to hear from you. They’ll help you identify the motivations behind each step in the process, trace the power dynamics of the buying committee, craft a meaningful message, and communicate it successfully.
With account planning informed by the intelligence and buyer insight of Emissary Advisors, you’ll have the right strategy to capture attention and build momentum toward a successful retail deal.