Are you a B2B account manager or sales executive who is serious about account-based sales or account-based marketing (ABM)? 

If the answer is “Yes,” chances are you understand your customers want partners, not vendors.

To win new business and grow key accounts, account managers and sales executives must become thoroughly invested in their customer’s challenges, goals, and competitive landscape.

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

By using a strategic account plan to target your top key accounts, you can align your focus to become your customer’s trusted partner, solving problems instead of selling products.

This strategic account plan template will help you:

Strategic Account Plan Template Layout

Section 1: Business Overview

The most effective account managers and sales teams understand their customer’s narrative. They ask value-focused questions to get to the root of their customer’s business objectives, internal and external challenges, and industry landscape. 

This questioning and learning must be an ongoing exercise, as objectives and goals are ever changing, and customers often reposition their value in the face of new technology or market shifts.

In this section, summarize the following:

  • Define customer’s vision/strategy
  • Outline the vital numbers
    • Year founded
    • Annual revenue
    • Number of employees
  • Industry
  • Target markets

Section 2: Key Business Initiatives

As former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss outlines in his book Never Split the Difference, all successful negotiations begin with listening. To develop a value-based action plan, one must discover what their customer values most. 

By focusing on your customers’ value expectations, you create opportunities to grow customer relationships that are more strategic in nature, which safeguards against competition while increasing customer loyalty.

Ask questions that will reveal your customer’s:

  • Short-/medium-/long-term priorities
  • Key projects
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Section 3: Customer Relationship Landscape

When it comes to understanding your customer relationship landscape, Mike Broomfield, Managing Director of Intellegentia, says, “When working on complex deals with multiple decision makers, it’s difficult sometimes to see the ‘wood for the trees’ unless you have a clear view and understanding of the org chart and who the players are.”

This is also true for expanding key accounts. The decision-maker role may change depending on product, budget, and influence. 

To create a robust customer relationship landscape, ask the following questions: 

Your customer relationship landscape should include:

  • Relationship history
  • Relationship map (org chart)
  • Whitespace map
  • Project status
  • Customer value scorecard
  • Net promoter score (NPS)

Section 4: Customer Products and Revenues

Today’s customer desires a strategic partner to deliver value across their organization. In this section, list and describe where you are currently adding value, analyze the ROI of that value, and identify gaps in the value chain.

Include the following information:

  • Whitespace analysis
  • Current sales performance
  • Current margin performance
  • Wins or loses over last 12 months

Section 5: Competitor Analysis

Performing a competitive analysis for your customer may not seem to provide high value to your sales team, but remember: Your goal is to move from a transactional relationship to a strategic partnership. Only when you understand your customer’s challengers can you help them differentiate their own products and services.

List your customer’s:

  • Competitors
  • Competitors’ strengths
  • Competitors’ weaknesses

Section 6: Buying Process and Selling Points

Businesses don’t buy products or services; people do. Expand on your org chart from Section three to include personal motivations and decision criteria, and plot your value-based selling points to specific members of your customer’s organization.

The goal of a trusted advisor should not be to fit a product into an empty slot; rather, your focus should be to understand how your key selling points match each decision-maker’s goal. 

Identify each of the following:

  • Evaluation criteria
  • Key decision criteria
  • Key selling points

Section 7: Relationship Goals and Strategy

Before an account manager can progress the customer relationship, one must first establish their relationship baseline. Set your starting position. Be open and honest about your current relationship status. 

Using the org chart from Section three and the motivations from Section six, determine which relationship target has the greatest opportunity for engagement, focusing on those who can provide the most productive outcomes for the customer’s business and your own.

Expand your relationship landscape to include:

Section 8: Sales Opportunities, Targets, and Risks

Once you’ve documented your customer’s objectives, motivations, and key relationships, determine the products/services that will help them attain their goals. List revenue goals and identify blockers (both internal and external) to shared-value realization. 

In this section, it can be easy to gloss over the final bullet -- operational restrictions -- however, this exercise can illuminate friction in service/product delivery and reveal opportunity for automation and processes that can impact your entire book of business.

List and define:

Section 9: Action Plan

Although there may be many value-add opportunities, narrow your focus to a small subset. Move the needle one position at a time. 

Determine which team members will own which task, what resources will be required to achieve these tasks, and agree upon accountability measures.

Ensure your action plan contains:  

  • Top five objectives
  • Map critical resources
  • Assign tasks and key owners

Section 10: Plan Review

Discuss value co-creation with your customer. Ensure you have defined and prioritized value opportunities correctly, and work with them to provide relevant materials or resources to secure buy-in.

Engage the customer in a collaborative role to establish:  

  • Review process, timeline, and next steps

After seeing everything that goes into creating an effective account plan, you may be thinking, Wow, that seems like a lot of work! 

Account-based selling and account-based marketing takes time, but the rewards are massive. According to a recent TOPO report, account-based selling can result in a 75% increase in average contract value (ACV) and a 150% increase in the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer. 

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder sales teams across the world are adopting this effective, value-based approach. Don’t get left behind. Download the account planning templates and get started today!

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Originally published Jul 7, 2019 1:51:00 PM, updated July 07 2019

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Sales Process