The Importance of Account Planning
Author: collin stewart
Every sales rep and account manager knows the term “land and expand.” It makes sense. Every business knows that the cost of onboarding a new client is far higher than the cost of keeping an existing one – that’s why increasing LTV is key for any high-growth company. And yet, we talk about sales strategy till the cows come home, but we put little focus on how to win more of the “shared wallet,” as Greg puts it, in an existing account.
Most company’s revenue comes from the top 20-30% of their clients – a percentage that translates into roughly 100 accounts or less for the average SaaS business. Well, if that’s where the money is, go get it!
We asked Greg to teach us how.
GREG’S FUNDAMENTALS OF ACCOUNT PLANNING
- The right accounts
- A clear cadence
- The right actions
- The right tools
1- In Greg’s experience, reps and account managers are pointed in the wrong direction over 50% of the time. They may know who their top 100 accounts are by looking at the numbers, but they don’t know whether there is more opportunity within a count, be it for upselling, cross-selling, further penetration. As a result, they often focus on too many accounts.
But if you’re smiling and dialing 100-200 accounts, that’s good, old-fashioned SDR work, baby. A great account manager picks just 5-10 accounts that are going to make or break their year and put their focus into building a killer plan. The further they spread themselves, the less effective they’ll be.
2- Develop a clear Cadence. Your weekly or biweekly 1 on 1 with your sales manager shouldn’t just be about pipeline review. Use the time to get coaching and talk about ambition. Talk about the opportunities you’re just beginning to work and the ones you haven’t even started to work but hope to someday.
Talk about the new features or products your company is rolling out, whom they might benefit, and how you could start a conversation. Revisit key accounts every 3-6 months to refresh ideas and plays.
3- Come up with some way to create interest within the target account. Plant ideas in your prospects’ minds about where you can be valuable so that you’re top of mind when they are in a buying mode. Break down silos, work together as a revenue organization, and create a smooth buyer journey together. Lean on your account manager colleagues and managers to share best practices on sales plays.
Lean on specialists to help you talk about new products and features. Have the marketing team design a drip campaign to help you win.
4- Get off spreadsheets and google docs and into your CRM. Don’t complicate things. Eliminate waste.
HOW MANY ACCOUNTS PER REP?
To determine the ideal number of accounts per rep for your company, you first have to start with desired output, then work backwards. How big does their pipeline need to be and what’s the target close rate to get to the revenue number they need to deliver per quarter? Then think about what your business can support from an investment perspective. How many closes at what commission can the company afford?
From there, create tiers in the list of accounts. A lot of companies worry what if they lower the number of accounts a rep is targeting the reps will revolt and they won’t hit their numbers, but the opposite is true. Take Bain & Company, for example.
They started with 25 reps each with 2 states in their territory, then doubled their reps and cut their territories to 1 state each, then doubled their reps again and halved their territories. They kept hitting targets because digging deeper into an account yields more value.
HOW TO PRIORITIZE ACCOUNTS
First, you need to identify where the largest potential is. This is a function of the size of the account and the likelihood that you can win additional business within it. These are your top accounts. On the other end of the spectrum are your smaller accounts with little to no chance of closing.
You don’t want to spend much time on these. You can plot each of your accounts on a grid with the x-axis being the size of accounts, smallest to largest, and the y-axis being likelihood of closing, least to most. The small cluster of dots in the top right corner of this grid are the ones you should focus on.
THE PERFECT ACCOUNT PLAN
Here’s Greg’s outline for an account plan, and the questions an account manager needs to ask to get there:
- Relationship Plays
- Sales Plays
What are the needs of the stakeholders? What are their priorities over the next 6-24 months? What are their objectives, both financial and qualitative? What does success look like for them at the end of the year, irrespective of your product?
Are there any changes in the company that I should be aware of? Should I make a contingency plan or can I capitalize on them? Is an executive moving, are they thinking about a new platform that could push us out?
Account managers should refresh themselves on the above questions once a year.
What’s your relative shared wallet? What are they spending on other solutions to get the same job done? Are you already 90-100% of what they’re spending to solve this issue or is there room to expand where they’re using direct/indirect competitors?
What’s the competitive landscape? Who’s growing in share, who’s losing in share? Can you use this information to outflank the competition?
Why would they want to buy from you? Which of your solutions are the best fit?
Who are the people that matter in the account? Who has decision rights? Are they a promoter or a detractor? Who do you already know, and who do you need to run relationship plays with?
BEST IN CLASS
Best-in-class account reps get this data into their CRMs so they can leverage it time and time again. Best in class sales leaders mine the data from the CRM so the whole team can leverage it. You want to make it easy for your whole sales team to create and adopt new plays every 3-6 months.
So you’re ready to implement this account planning methodology. What can you do to support your reps? Greg says, go back to basics. Revisit the 4 tenets, or Greg’s Fundamentals as we called them earlier in this article, and make it easy for your team. That way, you’ll create accountability, get buy-in, and truly perfect the land & expand model key to hypergrowth.
It can be tough to identify the activities a top-selling account rep is performing that make them smash their quota quarter after month quarter. As a sales leader, you’re left scratching your head, looking at their pipeline and the metrics in your CRM, trying to determine how their conversion on just 5 key accounts could be 10x what another rep is doing with 25 accounts.
But that’s just it. Greg’s account planning methodology helps us pare down an account manager’s list of accounts to the biggest and most likely to close, and lays out the step by step of how to plan the attack.
More on the land and expand model: Swimming upstream: how Proposify went from selling self serve deals to working with enterprise clients with CEO Kyle Racki
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