Ingredients for a perfect account plan
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Posted by: Lucid Content Team
Think about everything that goes into sourcing, nurturing, and securing a new account. From creative, data-driven marketing campaigns to lengthy sales processes and contract negotiations, a lot of ingredients and cross-functional efforts come together to get a new customer to make a purchase or sign on the dotted line.
Just as you wouldn’t leave out the final ingredients of your favorite recipe, you shouldn’t leave the success of hard-earned accounts to chance. A strategic account plan can help better position sales and customer success reps to take on new accounts and forge stronger relationships with existing ones.
Let’s take a look at the key elements of a strategic account plan.
Qualities of a strong sales account plan
There are many stages to the lifestyle of any account—and that cycle starts well before they’re a customer. From sales discovery calls to onboarding to renewal, account managers and sales reps have many opportunities to hone in on customer pain points and needs, deliver value, and secure upsells and renewals.
In fact, an Altify study shows that 74% of sellers increase win rates with account planning, while 72% say account planning increases their understanding of their customers’ business and helps build customer advocacy.
There’s a lot to be won with solid account planning, and these elements can help you achieve consistency and success.
The lifecycle of an account might be complex, but a sales account plan doesn’t have to be. Sales reps, account managers, and customers alike thrive on simple, actionable goals.
Set clear milestones that are easy to document and accomplish. Achievable checkpoints will provide opportunities for quick wins, and keep your new customers focused and engaged as they get familiar with your product. These milestones can include the questions you ask at specific touchpoints or the cadence of emails you need to send to keep the account moving along. A simple approach can also be applied to customer success teams once the account is closed.
While every customer has different needs, their experience with your sales process should be consistent and unified. Consistency requires clear, repeatable processes. It’s important to stay flexible and adapt to your customer’s needs, but a sales rep or account manager should never have to guess their next move.
Every step of the process should also align to larger, strategic business goals. The value an account manager promises to prospects should align with the experience they have once they’re using your product.
The best goals and plans are clear and actionable. Create a living, breathing document that clearly outlines every step of your account plan, from the first cold outreach to the final steps of contract negotiation. Once your reps are following a clear, repeatable plan, it’s important to monitor and track the plan’s performance over time to maximize ROI and secure more adoption.
A good account plan should also allow room for flexibility and coaching. Every step of the sales process is an opportunity for your sales reps and account managers to learn and improve. These coaching opportunities can also reveal shortcomings in your account plan and provide an opportunity to optimize your plan going forward.
What are the absolute must-have checkpoints in your sales process? What processes must reps follow to meet their pipeline?
Because a rep’s or account manager’s compensation is so clearly tied to quotas and specific outcomes, it’s important to set clear expectations, benchmarks, and imperatives. Set your essentials, and state them clearly: Here’s what you need to do to hit your goal.
Make your account plan visible and collaborative. Allow reps and account managers to share tactics and best practices, and be open to adopting them into your existing account plans. Transparency ensures all levels of the sales organization are walking in lockstep toward the same goals.
Critical components of an account plan
Now that we’ve discussed the characteristics of a good account plan, let’s dive into specifics. It’s important to keep track of certain information that everyone in the sales organization—and later, the customer success team—can reference to ensure ongoing strategic alignment and account success.
The most successful sales teams and account managers have a clear understanding of their customer’s value proposition, background and history, brand narrative, and business goals. They ask value-driven, actionable questions to better understand what the industry landscape is, where the company is headed, and what challenges they’ll face along the way.
On a tactical level, it’s important to document basic account details, including any current account spend and how much budget the customer has available to meet its goals. Think of this part of the plan as a “wiki” on the company. Be sure to include these basic company details in your account plan:
- Company mission statement and vision
- Company background and history
- Number of employees
- Annual revenue
- Target markets
It’s tough to create a plan for success without understanding all the players you’re dealing with. Along with your main points of contact, it’s important to be aware of other key stakeholders and decision-makers—and hopefully create relationships with them.
Create an account map to understand where everyone sits in the organization. A stakeholder analysis can also help you proactively identify any implementation roadblocks. Then, create a plan to engage with the people who will help drive product adoption and success throughout the entire organization.
Implementation is arguably the most important stage of the sales process. As a result, it also requires the most cross-functional collaboration between the sales, buying, and implementation teams and clear buy-in on each step of the process with your new customer account.
An implementation path will show everyone responsible on the account the clear roadmap to get things off the ground successfully. Solutions like Lucidchart can help you create dynamic roadmaps to close deals faster and set them up for success.
Current and future state
To understand where you’re going, you must also understand where you’ve been. No account plan is complete without a clear understanding of what challenges the customer is currently facing and how your product or solution will solve those pain points.
It’s especially important to document this information before you hand a new account over to the customer success team, so they have a clear roadmap for success.
Customer success plan
Account plans should exist and be useful far beyond the initial sale. What are the customer success team’s goals and KPIs? And more importantly, how do you ensure those goals align with the goals and KPIs established with your new customer during the sales process?
A clear customer success plan should include actionable, measurable steps to achieve your customer’s goals and business objectives.
Executive briefing document (EBD)
Once you’ve created a comprehensive account plan, it’s time to loop in your executive stakeholders or report on your progress. An executive briefing document can serve two purposes: you can use it to download an executive acting as a sponsor on the details of the account, or fill them in on an account’s status for better forecasting.
When working with an executive sponsor, it’s important to communicate all relevant account details well before they connect with the customer: Why are we meeting, who are we meeting with, what do they care about, and why? Similarly, an EBD can assure executive teams that sales teams are working consistently and effectively to move deals forward and onboard new customers in a way that will drive renewals and long-term, recurring revenue.
Great account planning isn’t an easy task, but it is well worth the effort. Take a look at how Lucidchart can help sales teams create consistent account plans that are easily accessible to everyone working on the deal—and minimize account churn over time.
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