Building an Account Plan in Salesforce
It is more costly to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Your existing clients are a major source of revenue. Ideally they are a predictable and reliable source of revenue. Strategic account planning is the key to keeping these revenue streams in your Salesforce pipeline and nurture them for future growth.
The more information you have in an account plan, the more your extended sales, services, and marketing teams 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.
Your Salesforce CRM (customer relationship management) tool is great for workflows and automations and a hundred tweaks that make doing business easier. But at its very heart, your Salesforce CRM is your data warehouse for all things client related. Building an account plan in Salesforce is an additional method of getting the most out of your Salesforce platform.
Your account plan will store critical data about a prospect or client that sales and service teams need to know before they ever make a phone call or send an email. Your account plan sets you ahead of your competition and serves as a road map for closing your deals. A well thought out, detail oriented account plan can ensure that your Salesforce data covers everything required to service an account.
You will want to include an Executive Summary, Account Segmentation, Key Business Initiatives, Relationship Map, Customer Landscape, Opportunity Analysis, and Customer Growth Strategy. These are key components of your Salesforce Account Plan. But they are not written in stone. For every business there are additional milestones and benchmarks that you need to accommodate. Summit Technologies LLC will help you design an account plan blueprint that meets all your needs. Let’s look deeper at the basics a good account plan should cover.
It’s crucial that everyone who works on an account has a high level understanding of the customer. Start the account plan with an executive summary that captures the following basic information:
Company Profile (Year Founded, Annual Revenue, Number of Employees, Industry)
Customer Plan and Goals (ex. ACV = $1–3M, Become a strategic partner)
Upcoming Meetings, Recent Updates, or Red Flags that the whole team should be aware of
Account Financials (this should include business units, geographic regions, etc.
My boss is fond of saying “TLDR”. Too long, didn’t read. Think of your Executive Summary as the Cliff Notes of your account plan. Remember this is the high level view. The remaining items get into the details.
Your sales and marketing teams need to understand how you are segmenting or bucketing accounts. This critical detail determines what campaigns and initiatives each account is included in. And that drives the strategic actions in your plan. Lead scoring and grading may impact account segments as well. Analytics, KPIs, and ROIs are even more useful when they can be rolled up into these same segments and buckets for future reporting.
Key Business Initiatives
Use this space to outline your customer’s strategic initiatives, ongoing plans and priorities. Based on the research you’ve done so far, summarize what their key values are, and how they’re measuring them. Consider how the history of the account, financial outlook, industry, or geography has shaped their values and priorities.
If you’re unsure where to start, consider these questions:
How does the customer measure success? What are the main KPIs?
What are their short-term and long-term goals and initiatives?
What are their current key projects and what are the timelines?
What expectations do they have of your products and services? How do they map to their larger mission or strategic goals?
Relationship Map and Customer Landscape
Always remember: Companies don’t buy products and services; people do!
Politics often play a role in buying decisions, so it’s important that you identify your champions so that you can build meaningful relationships with the right people. And identify the outliers who will be blockers as you journey down your account plan. Map out key players, decision makers, influencers, and detractors, especially with your largest and most strategic accounts. As you map out these relationships, your entire team will benefit from a relationship map embedded in your account plan. A relationship map is also a way to identify where in the buyer’s organization relationships should be built. This is a crucial first step as you begin to expand your footprint in each account after the initial sale.
Mapping out the org helps salespeople explore detailed information about the contacts of the accounts who control budget, influence each other, have previous history with your competitors, etc.
When you identify the major players that will be involved with an account’s management - sales enablement, leadership, sales ops, revenue ops, etc you can determine the roles each member of your team plays in the relationships you build with your client. Identify how your internal stakeholders collaborate with each other using tools like Salesforce Slack or Salesforce Chatter and you can spend more time generating new business and less time in endless meetings.
This virtual open text, if you will, analysis helps to uncover hidden opportunities and gaps between the needs of the client with respect to the products or services you offer and leads directly into your opportunity analysis.
This section might also include a Customer Scorecard, Relationship History, and Recent Communications. The account engagement fields in your Salesforce CRM are the perfect place to store this data.
Sales people are busy. Do not assume that any one person on the team has a complete understanding or memory of every deal that has taken place. Include in your account plan a list of closed, in-flight, and upcoming deals so that everyone on the extended selling team has a comprehensive view of deal movement.
For Salesforce users, we recommend that you embed a Salesforce List in this section so that teammates without a Sales Cloud license can still see updates from your CRM. Salesforce Lists contain live data and update automatically, so that you can save time on updating key details like amount, close date, and opportunity stage. When Summit Technologies customizes your Salesforce setup, we take all these details into account.
To compliment the data living in your CRM, also conduct an analysis on new areas where you can build business. Here are some suggestions on sections to add:
Conduct a whitespace analysis to visualize new areas in the account that your reps can sell into
Map customer initiatives back to your products or services to help ensure a full pipeline. A customer journey map using a KanBan board can be great for this type of exercise.
Build a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) chart and identify any risks or barriers that your reps or product team can begin tackling before they derail a deal
Map out a loss analysis. If you failed to close on an opportunity, list out the reasons so that your team doesn’t make the same mistakes again.
Customer Growth Strategy
Finally, once you’ve listed your customer’s objectives, priorities, relationships, and buying history, take time to identify which products or services will help your customer realize their goals. This section should cover both high-level and tactical initiatives which will help grow your business, but also make sure to identify limitations or blockers.
Questions you might want to ask include:
Will this account transition to a new sales rep at any point?
What events should your customer attend?
What service level agreements do you have in place or need to implement?
Is your customer engaged with your marketing or technical teams?
What are the revenue goals for this account for the next few years?
Are there any cross-sell or up-sell opportunities?
How dependent or loyal is your customer?
We all know your business won’t grow unless you’re delivering on the promises that you’ve made with your customer. Make sure to outline predictable trends that will strengthen your relationship and build trust. Don’t let these crucial details fall through the cracks and make sure to capture them in a living account plan that anyone on the extended selling team can access.
Your Account Plan format serves as a critical blueprint for everyone in your organization. The map clearly states the direction, opportunities, and priorities for each account. This overlay gives you a direct link to the customer information everyone needs at their fingertips to better serve customers and create a collaborative environment for the entire team to build better customer experiences.
Summit Technologies is a Columbus, Ohio based Salesforce Consulting Partner consisting of a talented and creative team of Salesforce certified Consultants, Developers, Analysts and Project Managers. We specialize in building innovative solutions for our clients within the Salesforce family of products including Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, CPQ, Experience Cloud, Nonprofit Cloud, Education Cloud, Pardot, Field Services and Salesforce Communities. Summit Technologies strategic services solutions bring custom Salesforce technology to work for your business.