An extremely important aspect of account management is the strategic aspect, the plans of dealing with various accounts.
I recently discovered through research just how much of an impact real account planning can have on company success. 93 percent of all world-class sales organizations have long-term objectives with regard to their key accounts. In businesses as a whole, though, over 60 percent do not even engage in account planning.
Interestingly, with the advent of SaaS businesses, the focus has turned almost exclusively to methods for reducing churn rates (the rate at which customers drop off), instead of real account planning. This is so true that Pipeliner CRM is one of very few CRM solutions that empower real account management, without an additional module.
Real account planning is a systematic framework for mapping out how you’re going to continuously care for your best clients and their revenue possibilities for the future.
Such planning must include research and a decent amount of prediction. For example, a year ago your key accounts might have been airlines. As of January 2020, everything looked good—but shortly thereafter Covid-19 came along and crashed the potential revenue from airlines.
Account Planning Basics
There are already variables that are part of account management, and these variables dictate how accounts are organized and prioritized. Every company has its own criteria for what makes an account a high-priority account, factors such as size, revenue, length of time that account has been an account for your company, and potential for the future. That categorization, of course, is where account planning begins—account planning cannot be done without it.
Another fundamental of account planning lies in the understanding of where revenue is coming from. At the beginning of the year, you look at where revenue came from last year, and where it is coming from this year. For account planning purposes, we’re talking about the revenue that comes from sales to existing customers. To assist in figuring this out, you’d have to estimate your churn rate, by perhaps calculating it over the last 2 or 3 years, so that you could modify your predicted revenue from existing accounts. You basically need to establish sales from existing customers minus the churn rate.
Another factor is how existing accounts figure into “net new sales.” While this category basically means new customer acquisition, it also needs to include cross-selling and up-selling to existing accounts. Note that this could even include winning new customers, and then cross- or up-selling to them within the same year.
Yet another factor is net growth from existing accounts, such as that from price increases.
Where Do I Stand?
As you start, you need to know exactly where you stand with each of your existing accounts. You need to answer questions for each account such as:
- Does that account truly have growth potential?
- How much revenue did that account produce last year?
- Can that account be enlarged?
Note that salespeople need to answer such questions right in CRM where others can view this information—it’s not enough for it to exist only within the salesperson’s mind. Such transparency is the only thing that makes it possible to integrate account strategies and reach the company goal.
Each account management sales rep should conduct the planning for each of their accounts. From figuring out where things stand for each account, the rep should then look forward to the actions they should take for each of those accounts. In my opinion, too many companies do not really establish company goals that connect accounts with the reps. Creating a future for each account does take a good amount of creative energy, and the result should be a road map to take you there.
Included in this planning should be high customer satisfaction. You cannot possibly hope to grow an account that isn’t satisfied—for if they’re not satisfied, they won’t be very willing to bring you more business.
In planning, it helps to work back from the goal. For example, if you want to increase a particular account by 10 to 15 percent this year, how exactly are you going to do that? Based on what data?
Once the data has been established, you then need to break it down into reality. You might have had this account for a couple of years, and they’re doing well. Perhaps they have received a fresh injection of capital and they’re growing.
Of course, now that you have this information, you can’t just call them up and say, “Hey, you guys! You’ve got money! How much of that do you want to spend with me?”
This is where a strategy comes in, and from that strategy, you need to develop a proactive action plan. Examine the challenges this customer is facing, and which of these your product or service will address and help.
You could then engage the customer by informing them that you, with your product and service, could be helpful in particular areas. You very well might see ways to help them that they themselves haven’t even realized—that would be ideal.
As you can see, this kind of interaction with the client involves far more than getting them to reach out to you for, as an example, more licenses. You can bring them not only a special offer, but a road map to truly assist them in their growth.
A special kind of account planning comes into play when you’re dealing with a company that has multiple branches. Often you’re dealing with one particular branch, and you as a company have decided that you want to reach out to others.
First, you should utilize the branch you are already doing business with as an advocate for you, with other branches. Even with that advocacy, though, these other branches won’t automatically accept your product or service. You’ll still have to treat them as their own entities. A new branch, which in many ways is a new customer, may not have the same faith in your product or service as their sister branch, and they must be convinced.
With multi-branch companies, and with all companies—real account planning is the only way for a company to reach true success.