On the surface, strategic account planning seems simple. You have access. You have the relationships. And the customer has a vested interest in meeting with you to ensure they receive the value they expect – what could go wrong?
Two problems stand in your way: inefficient resource allocation and a lack of buyer confidence.
Effective account planning never happens by accident. You must be deliberate and methodical in your approach – and when you get it right, the benefits speak for themselves:
● Sellers who regularly use strategic account plans are 2x more likely to identify significant growth opportunities. (Gartner)
● Research shows that sales professionals who actively use account plans are far more likely to build buyer confidence, resulting in low-regret deals.
Yet, how do you efficiently identify high-potential opportunities and create a focused plan for execution, time and priority management? In this post, I’ll share a proven playbook that’s worked for me – from my first field sales job as an account manager to today.
Remember: The overarching goal of account expansion is not merely to grow the account by any means necessary, but to improve it – adding impactful value to the organization and creating a lasting partnership. With this in mind, step one is research.
Account intelligence is your best friend. You’ll need to develop workflows for uncovering a target account’s organizational structure, business goals and challenges, and their plans for growth broken down by individual business units. The good news is that there are SaaS tools in the market that make this process efficient and intuitive.
On the other hand, if you’re doing the research the old-fashioned way, uncover the information that enables you to answer these questions:
● What markets are they operating in, and what drives those markets?
● Are those markets growing, contracting or holding steady?
● Are there industry trends, opportunities or threats to their business?
● What are the profitability trends over the past several years, and have mergers, acquisitions or divestitures impacted these?
● Who are the key stakeholders, and which of these would be interested in your offering?
Ideally, you should know this information for any target account. To drive account expansion and customer value, it’s imperative to develop an advanced understanding of the above.
From here, perform a white-space analysis – it can be as high-level or as granular as needed. The idea is to create a visual representation of the areas where you haven’t sold your products to create opportunities and increase the revenue you’ll earn from the account. A simple Excel spreadsheet can be all you need to get started. The next step is to map stakeholders and relationships across the organization to identify the executives who will likely be involved in a decision to purchase and install your products and services.
Apply the same exercise to help keep track of the competition. Where is the competition installed, and is there an opportunity to educate prospects on the contrasting elements of your offerings? Ultimately, you must find a way to successfully differentiate while adding incremental value.
Prospecting inside of existing accounts is still prospecting. Once you’ve identified the individuals you’ll need to gain access to, focus on earning that first meeting with value-added interruptions and targeted content.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to put your pre-existing relationships to work for you. Who can your current contacts introduce you to or invite to your next call? Maybe your contact is even willing to share their successes in working with you with their colleagues. Consider partnering with your clients to offer a short webinar to their peers across the company.
Now, this isn’t a sale pitch. It’s a value-add on issues that the audience is currently facing. Once they identify you as a valuable resource, you’ll have the opportunity to develop rapport and determine if you can add value to them and their business area.
And never forget the power of your network – decision-makers change jobs regularly. There might be someone outside of the company but in your network who is willing to broker a warm introduction.
Despite the frenzy of many sales orgs to go after new customers, high-growth organizations always see the value of customer retention and expansion. When sales professionals focus on improving the accounts they work with and adding value at every turn, you’ll enjoy the benefits of expansion sales and create customers for life.
For more selling advice, check out:
- My latest book, The Power of Value Selling: The Gold Standard to Drive Revenue and Create Customers for Life. Available for pre-order now!
- “Build Deeper Connections” in The International Journal of Sales Transformation
- “Transform Your LinkedIn Profile Into a Lead Generation Machine with Ryan Caswell” a recent episode of The B2B Revenue Executive Experience podcast.
As always, Sell with Value,