Account Planning With Salesforce
By Shannan Hearne, Summit Technologies LLC Marketing Specialist and Salesforce Certified Consultant
Proper account planning ensures that sales teams maximize revenue opportunities, create team alignment, clarify sales rep goals internally, and understand customer needs. Account plans are key to building strong customer relationships so sales teams can crush their goals deal after deal. And with a successful and thorough account plan in place for your most strategic accounts, you can align your focus to become your customer’s trusted partner, solving problems instead of selling products.
Account planning is a process of building strategic plans to improve value-driven relationships with key customers that can help in long-term development and retention, thereby maximizing the revenue potential. Account planning maps out all the important details about a new prospect or an existing client, including information like their decision-making processes, the companies they compete with, and an organization wide strategy to win, retain, and grow their business.
Account planning in Salesforce is a measurable, repeatable process to ensure that every touch with a client grows the relationship thereby growing the revenue potential.
Account planning in Salesforce with the intuitive and strategic customized approach of Summit Technologies grows client relationships while enabling every member of the team to grow, too, so that deals are closed faster and with a higher level of customer satisfaction making everyone’s job a little bit easier.
When you build a solid account planning management template that suits your business’s targets, goals, and needs you can define your accounts’ journeys with milestones and goals to close business faster. Summit Technologies will work with you to whiteboard your existing processes, customize your Salesforce tools to enhance your existing ways of working, and craft an account planning management template that evolves as your business evolves.
An account plan brings together information about your customer, your competitors and your sales strategy to nurture existing business in a simple document to ensure each customer is set up for success. Account plans help businesses accurately see the full picture of their customer, often missed in the structured fields of a CRM alone, by including a variety of information like annual revenue, key decision makers, sales timelines, and goals for both the buyer and seller.
An account plan gets the entire account team on the same page, literally. It makes it easier to execute on account strategy, it smooths transitions when the account changes hands pre- and post-sale, and it can help onboard subject matter experts, like engineers, who might join mid-deal and need to get up to speed fast. Your account plan maps out the way you will grow your relationship with your client but it also clearly marks milestones so anyone at any time can jump in or out of the customer relationship and provide a smooth transition that is seamless to your client.
Sadly, the general reality of account plans involves working hard to create them in Q1 and then largely ignoring them for the rest of the year. The problem is that most account plans are static documents, rather than dynamic, evolving account plans that remain relevant all year long. Living account plans work because account information stays up to date, making it easier for sales teams to create actionable strategies to earn the sale. With living account plans, sales teams are better able to deliver tangible benefits, eliminate surprises, and predict the ability to hit quarterly goals.
Account planning encourages salespeople to develop a deeper understanding of each customer’s individual needs, motivations, and business situations. A well designed account plan takes your 2D visualization of an account viewed in a customer relationship management platform like Salesforce to a 3D living, breathing, evolving story of who the customer is and what he or she needs from your company.
In turn, this empowers sales managers to find new ways to increase revenue from existing accounts. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc may have revolutionized the upsell by training counter staff to ask, “Would you like fries with that?”, but more importantly he revolutionized growing a business by focusing on a simple menu with quality and quick service. Your account plan is the blueprint that lets you repeat one successful client relationship over and over again by focusing on quality and speed.
Ray’s franchise model worked for McDonald’s because people liked getting the same burger and fries whether they were in Anchorage or Yuma. Your clients like doing business with you repeatedly because they like getting the same quality of service and delivery with every interaction whether it is the chat bot on your web site, an agent on the phone, or interacting with your app.
An account plan puts into place a tool to ensure a quality experience - no matter who delivers it - every single time. In this sense, the blueprint or road map of your account plan is a very high stakes investment in your business’s success.
Instead of looking at sales only on a deal to deal or quarter to quarter basis, successful sales teams are focusing on high-value accounts and account planning can help you do this efficiently.
And as with all high-stakes endeavors, research and preparation increase your chance for success. For instance, sales reps should be in tune with recent organizational changes among their clients. A customer’s new round of funding may make them more receptive to the products and services you offer that can help them reach their next growth milestone faster. Likewise an influx of funding through a government program or other vertical impacting event can highlight an important point in time to focus on one segment of your client base. Or, with more businesses turning to remote work, clients may have new strategies and use cases that allow you to sell into new teams and business units.
Discovering details like these allows you to present proposals that have a higher likelihood of acceptance because they show that you are invested in the success of their business. You know their business. You are prepared to help them with their business.
Armed with a detailed account plan, a sales rep can ask more focused questions, like, “What results have you seen from expanding into X market?” or “We’ve noticed that your competitors have focused more on selling into Y industry. Have you considered moving into that space as well?”
At that point, your reps can move the conversation into what product or service you’re currently offering and how it can help achieve their goals. What was once a sales pitch is now a conversation focused on problem solving, leading to increased trust and a deeper client relationship. Summit Technologies has been building just such relationships with our clients since we opened our doors in 2016.
One aspect of account planning that is especially useful in your Salesforce ecosystem is communication. With the power of Einstein and marketing automation with Salesforce Marketing Cloud and/or Pardot you can capture all past communication interactions and plan for your forward communication strategy. This is very important to improve your overall communication strategic initiatives and maximize ROI.
Salesforce’s artificial intelligence tools (Einstein) overlay a well developed account plan and automate with predictive analytics many customer interactions allowing your sales team to focus on those key moments of contact that matter the most.
Another useful reward to account planning with Salesforce is a more insightful method of account segmentation. Armed with the information from your account plan you can identify and use analytics and Salesforce artificial intelligence to find and target key accounts. Analyze both potential and current value of accounts to key customers and target them accordingly.
Should you create an account plan for every account you engage with?
The short answer is yes — if you have the resources for it. However, if this is the first time your organization is conducting formal account planning, start by identifying your key customers for the new year. It makes the most sense to use account planning for your largest, most complex, and most valuable customers.
As you identify the powerhouse MVPs who can be a large percentage of your annual revenue, keep an eye on the opportunity to grow in the future with Account Based Marketing (ABM) enhanced with the data you compile and analyze on your existing accounts. An account plan - and the historical data it generates - prepares you to do more business in the future with a simple and repeatable process.
Quip - a real-time collaborative suite of documents and spreadsheets - can be an MVP product in your account planning arsenal. Quip makes it simple to add account plans to every Salesforce account and opportunity record. Quip is embedded in your Salesforce org and helps transform many business processes and documentation challenges into productivity wins.
Once you have identified which customers need account plans, start by gathering client information. Before you work with a client, you need to understand who they are, what their goals and needs are, and what opportunities would be a good match for their needs. While every company is different, start with the following questions to map your account strategy.
• What are the company’s goals?
• How are they currently executing their goals?
• Who are the key decision makers?
• How will your customer measure success with the product or service that you’re selling?
While some of these questions can be answered by doing a quick Google search, don’t be afraid to reach out to the prospect directly for answers. Asking questions doesn’t just give you more data, it shows your prospects and clients that you have a real and genuine interest in what success looks like for them and how you can help them attain it.
The more information you have in an account plan, the more your extended team can use it to understand priorities, collect feedback, and make informed decisions. Plus, if the account ever gets transitioned to a new sales rep or gets passed off to a success manager, your teammates will have a full understanding of the customer’s history.
With a solid account management plan in place you can define account management KPIs and have Salesforce help measure them with custom reports and dashboards. Don’t forget this critical step in measuring the progress of your accounts over time and to make changes along the way as you analyze historical data and update account plans over time.
Whether you are implementing or re-implementing Salesforce, Summit Technologies can assist you in adding account planning as another tool to get the most out of your Salesforce strategy.