In Part 1, we discussed the GoToCustomer account management foundation. Today, we build on that and discuss GoToCustomer Account Planning.
Account planning – what’s crossing your mind?
Maybe “another boring Q1 exercise”, “another complicated, useless template, doesn’t help me at all!”, “nobody will ever inspect my account plan, apparently it’s not important”, or “another reason for a headache, why all these details?”. If you are a sales manager, you might ask “How can I manage my portfolio of accounts more effectively and how can I better coach my team to achieve our sales objectives?”. Finally, sales leaders might ask “What’s the ROI of account planning, what’s the pipeline impact?”. And the list goes on and on…
You get the picture! If you want to change and to innovate account planning in order to make that a really valuable endeavor, you will have to master a number of challenges, and not everybody will like you for what you are doing. But you will also have fun and great results, if you are working with your most ambitious account teams and your best sales managers. People, who are always motivated to unlearn and to relearn, to create more value, to achieve better results, to drive change.
What’s the purpose of account planning?
“It’s not the plan that is important, it’s the planning.”
Exactly. It’s not this single account plan we create in December or in January …until next year. Account planning is an iterative, strategic ongoing systematic process to create more value for customers, account teams, sales managers.
Account planning has clear goals: Providing a blueprint for execution. Creating revenue growth, creating new business with new accounts and new business with existing accounts. Furthermore, systematic account planning provides an effective framework to increase sales productivity, account performance and profitability, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Especially for strategic accounts: It’s about creating and co-creating win-win situations based on collaboration, which is why our account vision is a shared vision, visualized with a yin-yang symbol.
What does it mean, outside-in GoToCustomer account planning?
It’s our perspective that matters, it’s our perspective that makes all the difference. Which is why a GoToCustomer account planning approach is designed backwards from the GoToCustomer four Ps – Problem, Pattern, Path and Proof. Design points are the customer’s challenges, problems, business drivers and strategic initiatives, from a B2B2C perspective to create more value, to help them to drive their desired outcomes. GoToCustomer account planning builds on the stakeholders’ different patterns to solve problems, has a clear focus on building a shared vision of success across the customer organization, shows a transformation path from the current state to the future state and is focused on proof instead of price: What’s the value we can create for our customers? The value determines the price, not the other way around. GoToCustomer account planning doesn’t push from the inside to the outside, it works outside-in instead.
How we define “cross-selling” – that makes all the difference!
What is cross-selling? Having a GoToMarket perspective in mind, cross-selling is about identifying complementary products, solutions and offerings within the own portfolio, to be sold additionally to the customers, as packages, bundles, solutions, whatsoever. Many of you might be aware of so-called white-spot analysis. Don’t get me wrong – we need a white spot analysis. But it’s only one perspective to be analyzed, amongst others as for instance relevant budgets, relationships, power maps, coverage, gaps, competitor analysis and current contracts. A white spot analysis alone doesn’t deliver any new business opportunities – because the customer’s perspective is missing at this point. White spot analysis are focused on the first GoToMarket P – Product. We are missing the first GoToCustomer P – Problem. Modeling the customer’s problems and challenges based on their industry trends, business drivers and strategic initiatives – that’s the process which makes all the difference, which drives real customer-centricity.
Relationships matter – Relevant relationships enable successful cross-selling within accounts
Enabling cross-selling within an account is key to success in every GoToCustomer account planning approach. The difference is, that GoToCustomer approaches acknowledge that we cannot sell or cross-sell anything within an account, if we don’t have appropriate relationships. Relationships matter. Relevant relationships matter even more. They are our door openers. If we miss them, we have to build them. Relationships and the value perception of our current business define our account growth strategies. The level and the quality of our account relationships define what we can address in an effective way right now and which relationships we have to build to be able to address our additional ideas. Different growth strategies and a buyer reference model help to structure this issue.
What’s the core of a GoToCustomer oriented account planning process?
Being creative and innovative! Creating a portfolio of new business ideas! Based on an outside-in account profile (outside-in account profile, power maps and strategy maps, industry data, CMI data and current financials) and a current state analysis (relevant budgets, challenged with benchmark data, current contracts and renewals, opportunities, competitor analysis, white spot portfolio mapping), it’s about creating new business ideas: For each of the prioritized customer challenges and problems (based on their strategic initiatives, industry trends and business drivers), the following questions have to be answered and analyzed:
- WHAT is the problem, the challenges exactly? What has to be fixed and how do we measure success (business and technology)
- WHY is this a problem/challenge right now?
- WHO is the executive owner, who are all the impacted stakeholders?
- WHEN has the problem to be fixed, the challenge to be mastered? Be careful to look at business and technology, the time lines might be different
- WHERE is the customer along his customer’s journey? Do they know about the problem/challenge? Do they know the impact? Are they already designing a solution?
- HOW do they want to move forward? Are their next steps well known? How can we chime in most effectively?
Account planning is also about figuring out what you don’t know. Whatever you don’t know at this point is no problem – let’s create an activity within your overall account activity management and track it.
Whenever you model your account leads as mentioned above, define your next activities/account lead for the first two sales milestones:
What has to be done to gain appropriate access?
What has to be done to have successful meetings with the impacted stakeholders?
After that, you will know exactly, whether you have an opportunity or not.
GoToCustomer account planning:
- is a team sport rather than an individual race
- is sharing rather than hoarding
- is more collaborative than competitive
- is focused on value creation, often from intangible things, to create tangible results
- is customer-centric, relationship focused,
- is based on a yin-yang account vision
“It’s not about the plan, it’s about planning.”
In Part 3, we will discuss account management execution and the role of sales management – and we will close this series…