Account plans are critical for most businesses and yet many account managers avoid them – why? I find it’s generally due to lack of training and/or lack of time. But these obstacles can be overcome. I recently conducted a training course on developing account plans and wanted to share some of my key insights.
To begin, what is an account plan? It’s a written document designed to help the account management team effectively prepare and stay focused on the client’s business objectives and goals and to ensure they achieve the planned results. It also creates a consistent experience for the client, and ultimately identifies how the team can make a positive impact on the client’s business. An account management team generally creates a plan for each client and updates the plan as they gather new information or as the client’s objectives and goals change.
The purpose of the account plan is to:
- Allow the account team to use a prescriptive approach
- Focus the account team’s actions
- Allow for easy knowledge transfer as team members change
- Align the internal account team’s understanding
- Provide the client with
- Knowledge-driven recommendations
- Predictable actions / spending
- Recommendations aligned with their business goals
The contents of the account plan may vary but in the end the plan needs to contain the information the account team feels it needs to effectively manage, retain and grow the account. I recommend that each account manager strive to collect the following information on their client:
Anything related to the overall company, what they do, products/services offered and what markets they serve. Include any information on their size, growth, goals and capabilities. Much of this information can be found on their website or U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing for public companies.
This should include information gathered on the market(s) served. A definition of the market, potential segments and associated market needs. This is where I recommend documenting the primary trade publications and tradeshows serving the market(s).
LinkedIn is a great source to develop a list of key contacts within a company. Document basic information such as name, title and contact information. Include personal information such as likes/dislikes, current relationship with you and your company, and goals for what you want this relationship to be.
In this section document any previous business history with you, what they have bought, and/or what they have declined to buy and why. If your company has a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system this can be a great resource for historical information.
A few other points to keep in mind when building an account plan:
- The account manager needs to own the plan. In order to do this they need to understand the purpose of the plan and how it can be used to help them do their job. The account manager must see value in the plan to make it work.
- When creating a new plan simply capture what you know, then identify and fill in any information gaps.
- The plan format needs to be whatever works best for the account team. I’ve seen account plans done in Word, PowerPoint and even in a set of flip charts.
Lastly, there are many resources online that can help – just search “strategic account plans” and you will find a number of templates and examples to help you get started.
Happy Account Planning!
Getting started is often the greatest challenge and BrandDirections can help by offering account planning training and support. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] or 920.886.7727.